Local Start-up Offers Students Crash Course in Sustainable Business

Atayne intern Tom Henshall ’15

Atayne 2013 summer intern Tom Henshall ’15

Since moving his company, Atayne, from Virginia to his hometown of Brunswick a few years back, Jeremy Litchfield ’99 has hired a number of Bowdoin students as interns. Because his business is small — it’s just Litchfield and Rebecca Darr, his wife, working out of their home — the interns are thrown immediately into the myriad day-to-day operations of the eco-friendly company. Atayne sells sportswear apparel made from #1 plastic, primarily from recycled plastic bottles.

Throughout the academic year, the company hires one to three Bowdoin interns. This summer, for the first time, Atayne has hired an intern who is being financially supported by one of the grants from Bowdoin’s funded internship program.

Tom Henshall ’15 has a grant from the Robert S. Goodfriend Summer Internship Fund, which encourages students to gain business skills. It is just one of several donor-funded grants, overseen by Bowdoin Career Planning, that are competitively awarded to students to help them pursue otherwise unremunerated summertime work.

Jeremy Litchfield ’99 at the Maine Employers Career Fair at Bowdoin

Jeremy Litchfield ’99 at the 2013 Maine Employers Career Fair at Bowdoin

Litchfield says Bowdoin’s funded internship program is helpful to him. “As a small fast-growing company, our funds are limited,” he explained. “So for the most part our internships are unpaid. I hate that that is the case, because there are a lot of students who don’t have the option of taking unpaid internships. I didn’t have that option as a student. I worked a number of minimum wage jobs during the summers.”

Litchfield says he gives interns a great deal of autonomy and responsibility, assigning them tasks from sales and marketing to promoting the brand at public events, such as road races. “The interns do a number of things most won’t see two, three years into a career,” he said. “They see and learn things at an advanced level.”

In his first week in the internship, Henshall began by researching competitive companies. “I’m figuring out what we can do to give Atayne a competitive edge,” Henshall said. He’s also updated Atayne’s social media sites, worked on the company’s web page and done quality-control checks on merchandise.

Henshall, who is a history major, said he was attracted to Atayne because he aspires to start his own business one day. Last summer he got infected with the entrepreneurial bug when, bored and having not much to do except get obsessed over the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, he started up a t-shirt company. Based on his friend’s penchants for certain players or teams, Henshall made them stylized t-shirts that reflected their team hopes.

Even this early into his summer internship, Henshall said he’s already thinking differently about sustainability and business. “I talk with Jeremy and Rebecca about what we can do to eliminate waste,” he said, describing, for example, the implementation of cradle-to-cradle recycling in which the final products are created for repeated reuse or to biologically degrade. In this way no product ends up in a landfill. “Any business I make would mirror those themes. That model appeals to me now,” Henshall said.

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