Alumni Speak at Business Leadership Conference

Several alumni of East Carolina University were among the speakers and panelists at the second annual Business Leadership Conference held April 12-23 and organized by the College of Business.

During a session titled From ECU Student to CEO and CFO Leadership, four College of Business alumni spoke about their experience in leadership and how ECU students can prepare themselves for successful careers.

“Show up, on time, and be ready to go,” said Thomas Arthur (’71), president and CEO of ASAP Capital. “Whoever you work for is going to notice it and appreciate it.”

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Pocketful of Ingenuity

Photo1Where do you put your phone while running or working out? It’s a dilemma many active people face that one East Carolina University graduate is working to solve.

Brian Cole ’12 came up with the idea for a special pocket while on campus. “I’d always enjoy running around campus and was a regular at the Rec Center. It seemed every time I ran or worked out, I was always concerned about where to store my smartphone. With men’s shorts especially, the phone tends to shake around. Plus with all the music and fitness apps now, you want to be able to access your phone easily, but still have it be secure when you’re not using it.”

It seemed like all athletic shorts had the same ineffective pocket, so he decided to make a better one.

“I actually sewed the first prototype at my apartment complex during my senior year,” Cole said. “I went to Kohl’s and Michael’s in Greenville and bought some basic shorts and elastic. I quickly realized sewing is not my specialty, so I reached out to industry experts to perfect my design. It took 15 prototypes, but the final product is pretty special.”

This “Secure-Stretch Pocket” is the centerpiece of Cole’s new apparel company, called Falco Sportswear, which he launched earlier this month.

FalcoPocket

Instead of being built into the side seam like traditional pockets, the Secure-Stretch Pocket is built into the waistband. The opening of the pocket is sealed by an elastic band that opens easily and retracts automatically and stays snug against the waist. Right now the pocket can be found on men’s training shorts available at falcosportswear.com.

“Sales have been pretty good so far,” he says. “But the main goal right now is getting the word out and getting eyes on our product.”

Rather than individual sales, Cole’s priority at this point is getting the shorts in the hands of athletes and industry experts, who can generate press through blog entries and product reviews in running and training publications.

Cole was able to produce a few hundred pairs of shorts with some money he had saved. All the shorts are made in the US, which makes prices a bit high for individual sales, but Cole is working on getting the cost down and looking to see if sporting goods retailers would be able to purchase and carry the shorts.

“Our focus is on innovation,” Cole said. “We have to be able to provide something different. We can’t compete with big companies like Under Armour or Nike. For us, it’s not about a logo or brand prestige. We need to be authentic to our original purpose and provide a unique solution to meet the needs of athletes.”

Right now, Cole is the only employee at his company, but he is quick to credit his family and friends, including other ECU graduates, for giving him lots of help and support.

In the long-term, Cole hopes to expand his line of apparel to women and across various sports.

Cole credits ECU with preparing him for this venture. He earned his degree in construction management with a minor in business. After graduation, he started working on construction sites in Washington, DC, where he is originally from. But he found he enjoyed designing and creating things himself rather than managing others who do so. So he decided to pursue his project full-time.

“ECU has so many resources for students,” Cole said. “I went to the career center, and the curriculum encourages involvement in activities and supports guest speakers. ECU lays a great foundation for life after college. It puts you in the right mindset to be ready post-college and make it a smooth transition.”

By Jackie Drake

Alumni Spotlight: Paul Alar ’78

Paul AlarBy Jennifer Brezina

Paul Alar ’78 has led the way as a top investor for 30 years, focusing primarily on various alternative investment strategies. He founded his own Atlanta-based fund, West Mountain Partners LP, in 2002, which was soon recognized as the number one Emerging Manager Fund of Funds by InvestHedge magazine. By 2013, West Mountain Partners had become the best performing fund of funds in the world according to the Barclay Managed Funds Report.

Alar says the success he’s had as an investor is the immediate ability to “see through” a manager’s pitch and determine whether he or she truly understands a strategy or is simply reading from a script. He credits ECU with helping him to hone that skill, which stems from his exposure to a broad swath of students from different areas of the country and different economic backgrounds. He earned his bachelor of science in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the ECU College of Business.

Before launching West Mountain Partners 12 years ago, Alar managed risk arbitrage portfolios for institutional and private clients at Bear Stearns, developed hedging strategies for Oppenheimer’s Alternative Asset Group, and introduced domestic private placement insurance to Deutsche Bank as a strategy for making hedge fund investments more tax efficient.

In addition to investing, Alar is passionate about running, which is what brought him to ECU in the first place. Growing up in New Jersey, he says he wanted to move to the south for its warm climate. His cross country coach, who was also his guidance counselor, suggested East Carolina.

“ECU offered an outstanding cross-section of students, which I found stimulating,” Alar explained. “I use this term loosely, but ‘anyone’ can get a good formal education, at almost any college, if they apply themselves. ECU’s advantage in my view was being able to assimilate one’s self to a truly diverse student body. This was ‘real world’ training and can’t be duplicated.”

Alar says he also enjoyed becoming a member of TKE fraternity and all of the related Greek activities.

Today, Alar lives in Smyrna, GA with his wife, Donna ’78, who also graduated from the College of Business. Their son John attends Rhodes College in Memphis, where he runs track and field; Mark is a freshman at Texas Christian University.

In his free time, Alar serves as the community coach in track and field at Whitefield Academy. During his 10 years of coaching, he has had three State Champions who have won 12 individual State Championships.

Alumni Open Men’s Clothing Store

By Sara Strickroot

Andrew Denton ’13 and Thomas Alligood ’13 are co-owners of Campus Corner, a high-end men’s clothing store located in downtown Greenville.

The co-owners wanted to be close to campus and be a part of the new redevelopment of downtown Greenville. According to Denton, the store attracts a good mix of students, alumni, and Greenville residents.

One of the biggest challenges the co-owners face with their business is online sale competition. “Online sales are big now for shoppers and not as many people go into stores to shop as often now,” says Denton. “We are overcoming this by starting an e-commerce website.”

Denton and Alligood were roommates at ECU where Denton majored in business and Alligood majored in industrial technology. They are currently members of Pirate Club.

“Growing up a Pirate fan and attending East Carolina sporting events made it an easy decision to attend East Carolina,” says Denton. “I love the Pirates, the education I received, and the people I met while attending ECU.”

Campus Corner owners

Andrew Denton (left) and Thomas Alligood inside their store.