Riley Benner’ 20
Summer Assistant, Prebusiness Office
Founder, Phoenix Haberdashery
“I wanted to take subjects that I truly enjoy like philosophy and political science, but still gain the technical skills to be successful following graduation. That is exactly what Holy Cross has offered me: the ability to pair a liberal arts education with a professional business understanding.”
1) Why did you choose Holy Cross?
At the time I was applying to schools I was looking for a small college with a Jesuit identity. There was no better fit than HC. I wanted to learn more about the business world, but I didn’t want my whole schedule taken up by accounting, economics, and management classes. I wanted to take subjects that I truly enjoy, like philosophy and political science, but still gain the technical skills to be successful following graduation. That is exactly what Holy Cross has offered me: the ability to pair a liberal arts education with a professional business understanding.
2) What has been your favorite aspect of Holy Cross?
Hands down… the people. You hear that the Holy Cross network is incredible. They aren’t lying. The Prebusiness Office has been especially supportive with my startup. Every member of the HC community – professors, staff, alumni, and even students – truly want to see their fellow crusaders succeed.
3) Tell me more about your startup.
Junior year of high school I started a company called Phoenix Haberdashery, a high-end mens’ accessory brand known for its line of reversible, double-sided neckties. All of our employees are refugees who came to America to escape violence and tyranny. For most of them working with us was their first job, which is why we use the Phoenix to represent the brand- it symbolizes rebirth and new opportunities. Each tie purchased will tell the story of the sewer who made it, a powerful way to show our customers that not only was their tie handmade and carefully constructed, but it was done by someone with an incredible story. Keep up with these stories on Instagram.
4) How have you been involved with the Entrepreneurial Studies & Prebusiness Office?
When I decided halfway through the second semester of my freshmen year to resume my company, I knew that the first place to go would be the Office of Entrepreneurial Studies. I met with Professor Chu and two other faculty to learn about (and later receive) the Ignite Fund, a grant that allows students to gain capital and jumpstart their ideas. Professor Chu also invited me to an alumni networking event in Boston for entrepreneurs. I went, pitched my idea, and met several alumni who have been incredibly helpful in Phoenix Haberdashery’s early development. I decided to stay in Worcester over the summer and was hired to work in the Prebusiness Office. While here, I’ve been learning about business administration and getting tips on how to successfully scale my startup.
— — —
If you want to learn more about the Entrepreneurial Studies & Prebusiness Office, check out our website and follow us on Instagram. Thank you Riley, for sharing your story – we look forward to seeing your business grow!