By Chris Buck
When Jason Wellemeyer arrived at Babson College in fall 2004 and Tyler Low joined him a year later, they shared two major goals. The first was to continue playing lacrosse, a sport they loved and had been passionate about since childhood, and the second was to graduate and run a successful business. If those two goals were to converge at any point, then so much the better.
Today, Wellemeyer and Low have achieved those dreams and more as their company PrimeTime Lacrosse has blossomed into a powerhouse in the Northeast. Thanks to their business success, they were recently voted third out of 25 finalists in Bloomberg Businessweek’s annual search for America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs age 25 and under.
The presence of a company with Babson roots on Bloomberg Businessweek’s elite list is nothing new. The Massachusetts-based institution of 1,958 students has an undergraduate program that has been ranked No. 1 in the nation in entrepreneurship by U.S. News & World Report 14 straight times, as well as a graduate program that has been ranked No. 1 in the same category for 17 consecutive years. With such a rich tradition, it is no surprise that Babson has had 19 businesses selected in the six years of the Top 25 Under 25 annual search.
Chris Buck is sports information director at Babson College.
“It’s incredibly exciting to lead a group of students and alumni that champion innovation and embrace change,” said Babson President Leonard A. Schlesinger. “We continue to be at the forefront of preparing graduates to build better businesses while building a better world.”
Babson’s student-athletes certainly have been no stranger to business success. Of the 14 companies that have achieved finalist status in Bloomberg Businessweek’s competition since 2007, student-athletes have founded or cofounded four of them. Men’s tennis alumnus Amit Nar was honored shortly after his graduation for his company, A Better Night’s Sleep, which specialized in testing and treating patients with sleep disorders. Last year, Babson’s athletics alumni placed two companies in the top three in the competition’s final vote. The winner of the 2009 search was Emergent, a renewable energy consulting group co-founded by former alpine skier and men’s lacrosse player Chris Jacobs, while the third-place finisher was specialty paint-maker IdeaPaint, whose founders included former skiers Morgen Newman and Jeff Avallon.
What sets Wellemeyer and Low apart from their fellow Babson alumni is that their business venture has direct ties to the sport they love. The duo, both four-year members of the Beavers’ lacrosse squad, first launched PrimeTime Lacrosse as an informal pick-up league for about 75 middle school children in summer 2007. The next year, they directed two weeks of overnight camp for the same age group, once again bringing in about 75 children per week.
PrimeTime Lacrosse truly took off in the summer of 2009. At this point, both Wellemeyer and Low had graduated but were still dabbling in side jobs to maintain a steady income. However, that changed during the next few months, thanks to a merger with a Franklin, Mass.-based business called VIP Lacrosse and a sponsorship agreement with lacrosse giant Brine/Warrior. Suddenly, PrimeTime Lacrosse featured two overnight camps, three day camps and numerous leagues in the Franklin area for high school players.
Today, PrimeTime Lacrosse serves more than 2,500 lacrosse players through camps, leagues, tournaments and its primary focus − a collection of 12 select teams that range in age from under 11 to high school seniors. Those teams, called the PrimeTime Power Penguins, compete in two separate sessions during the year, with four teams playing in fall/winter and eight more competing in the summer. The company projects its revenue to jump from $270,000 in 2009 to $650,000 in 2010.
Not surprisingly, Wellemeyer and Low credit both their academic and athletics experiences at Babson with helping them take their company to such tremendous heights so quickly. “Babson really has a great infrastructure for teaching you to set priorities, manage your time effectively and stay ahead of your academic workload,” says Wellemeyer, who serves as PrimeTime’s director of business operations. “That is especially important when you’re a student-athlete, as you’re forced to balance everything else with your commitment to your team.”
Babson’s unique environment also has paid dividends for its two alumni, who hardly batted an eye when they hosted a grueling 50-team tournament at Babson this past summer. “We hardly slept for those few days, and it was amazing how many different hats we had to wear during that time,” said Low, who serves as the company’s director of business development. “We would literally go from updating the website to balancing the books to dealing with injuries, all seamlessly and on three hours of sleep or less.
“Luckily, Babson prepared us to deal with situations like that. As a student, we were getting up at 6 or 7 a.m. to go to class, heading to various activities like practice or games in the afternoon and then meeting for group projects until midnight or later. I don’t know of any other school that is quite like Babson in that respect.”
Wellemeyer and Low also are quick to point out that one of the biggest advantages of a Babson education is that it applies to virtually any business idea. “The truth is very little would change in how we run things if this were real estate, a computer company, or any other business,” explains Low. “The core aspects that Babson taught us, like professionalism, customer service, marketing − those apply in virtually every circumstance.”
So what’s next for Babson’s lacrosse alumni and their thriving company?
“We’re taking a very cautious approach,” Wellemeyer said. “At some point, we would like to expand outside the region, but not at the cost of providing a great experience. Our primary focus now is being more efficient and continuing to improve the quality of our services.
“Ultimately, we want a 6-year-old kid to come to us for their lacrosse training needs, and for them to never have a reason to go anywhere else until they graduate from high school. To do that, we need to provide them with the best possible experience.”
As Bloomberg Businessweek can attest, they’re off to a great start.