SAAS Alums Launch New Business

SAAS Alums Launch New Business

January 12, 2018 – Three SAAS alumni from the Class of 2016, George Eitel, Julien Lewin, and Andrew Westhoff, recently launched their own business. The idea for the new company, Manatee Aquatic, originated in their SAAS Innovations class. The three recently sat down and answered a few questions about their business venture.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves? We are Andrew Westhoff, George Eitel, and Julien Lewin, three Seattle Academy graduates from the Class of 2016 who have successfully established a small business in the greater Seattle area. As awesome as this may sound, our business was only possible due to what we learned in the innovations course offered at Seattle Academy! One of the greatest advantages we have today is the invaluable connection to SAAS faculty and parents who have supported our maturing as active learners, community members, and now evolving businessmen.

How did your business kick off? Two of us were enrolled in Business Innovations at Seattle Academy, a course dedicated to educating young adults as to how to develop novel ideas, workflows, methodologies, services, and products. As the trimester came to an end, we were faced with decisions around creating a plausible business model for our final project. We collaborated on fleshing-out solutions to everyday problems and came upon a common summertime nuisance – perfect! The problem we identified was that of aquatic seaweed below lakefront docks. The seaweed that we were most focused on was eurasian milfoil because of it’s invasiveness and rapid growth pattern. This seaweed makes for unpleasant swimming and boating difficulties. In short, our solution was to cover the aquatic plant with large (10×50 foot), UV-blocking tarps internally weighted down by iron rebar. At the end of the trimester, we presented our seemingly far-fetched idea to five judges as well as our class and hoped for the best!

How did Seattle Academy help you in your business plans? Business Innovations was one of the strongest and most applicable classes we took at SAAS. The instructors cultivated our interest in business and laid the groundwork for a solid understanding of the process. Through well-thought-out teaching and an energetic classroom dynamic, Business Innovations allowed us to demonstrate creative thinking by generating our own business concept. We kept in touch with one judge and our Business Innovations mentor, and in so doing we explored different avenues to solve this problem. During the summer following our senior year, our team realized our potential. Using the valuable skills we acquired in Business Innovations including advertising and cost structuring, the three of us committed to transforming this idea into a functioning business. After contacting potential clients and reviewing material covered in the class, Manatee Aquatic was born! We practice the most ecologically friendly methods of seaweed removal on the market. One judge and many Seattle Academy parents guided us in our approach to clinching our first clients and completing our first jobs. Although college was right around the corner and summer was coming to an end, we were confident that our business would continue to grow because of its concrete foundation, intelligent design, and strategic networking.

What Are Your Next Steps? With the combination of the necessary business tools learned in class–especially The Lean Startup, written by Eric Ries–and our real-life experiences, we were able to come up with a successful business model. The various science, entrepreneurial, and business frameworks learned at SAAS have given us an edge amongst our competitors. We look forward to another successful summer, and are currently crafting new business models which will allow our company to expand and improve via efficient practices and robust marketing. We are excited to see how far this business will go, and seek out support among our friends, family, prior clients, new contacts, and you! We kindly ask that you check out our website, and share our story and business platform with those that you connect with at work and beyond.

Congratulations to George, Julien, and Andrew. We wish you the best of luck with Manatee Aquatic.

Above (left-to-right): George Eitel, Julien Lewin, and Andrew Westhoff