On our way to a vacation in Vermont last summer, we took a detour near Middlebury to visit Sivan Cotel ’05, then chief operating officer and chief almost-everything-else at WhistlePig Farm, which produces aged rye whiskey (page 28). It was a hot day. Cotel and a handful of colleagues were working in a converted milking parlor, cooled a bit—but not a whole lot—by fans.
The visit was a good reminder that not all entrepreneurs work in comfort with ample funding from angel investors. Low overhead and a lot of gumption are likely to be essential for any hope of success. The heat didn’t slacken Sivan’s enthusiasm in the least, and he has evidently been bit hard by the entrepreneurial bug. This one-time employee of J.P. Morgan and his wife have recently set out to create their own business, Stonecutter Spirits, based in Vermont and focused on best aging practices and barrel-finishing techniques.
Entrepreneurship takes many forms. Mary Roach ’81 had no plans to be a writer while she was at Wesleyan and didn’t start writing as a paid occupation until she worked at the public affairs office of the San Francisco Zoo (page 30). In 2000 she set out to write her first book, Stiff. It may not be accurate to claim that she created the form of science writing with humor, but she has certainly raised it to a high art. Her latest book, Gulp, brings humor and exquisite writing to a subject usually reserved for antacid commercials—the digestive tract—and has won praise from reviewers across the country.
Who would have thought that the words “vegan” and “clothing” could be put together to create a business? That’s exactly what Alok Appadurai ’00, a former fourth-grade teacher, has done with Fed By Threads, which manufactures clothing without using any animal products.
Can the entrepreneurial spirit make you a happier person? Ask Nataly Kogan ’98, who left a high-octane career peppered with names like McKinsey and Microsoft to found a social networking site and mobile app called Happier. It’s premised on the idea that even the worst days contain small happy moments and that by focusing on these moments and capturing them—in words or a picture—anyone can be happier. And sharing happiness, she has found, is contagious.
“Boldness, rigor, and practical idealism”—we use those words to describe what Wesleyan is all about. When I read about the entrepreneurial spirit of these alumni and so many others, it seems to me that those words take flight in their interesting and imaginative work.
—William Holder ’75, editor,