For some, a great thought may occur while gazing at the stars. Trevor Tarnowski ’20 and Hector Miron ’18 found their best idea by looking at their feet.
Two years ago, Tarnowski and Miron took an entrepreneurship course with Professor John Dobson that required students to launch a campus business. Today, they are the owners of Shunu (pronounced “shoe new”), a company that cleans and restores shoes. They remove pesky scuff marks, bleach out grass stains, and return the luster to everything from knock-around sneakers to party stilettos.
“Initially, we had the same idea because we had routinely cleaned our own shoes, so we decided to team up,” Tarnowski recalls. “Fortunately, the business became so popular that we were obliged to continue even after the semester ended.”
Tarnowski, a geography major with an innovation and entrepreneurship minor, plans to pursue his MBA at Clark after graduating. He notes that having a wide variety of interests is not out of place at Clark.
“There is no ‘normal’ activity at Clark,” says Tarnowski, an Orlando, Fla., native. “Rather than claiming ownership for a single discipline, sport, or activity, Clark is a place where any passion is able to flourish.”
Below, Tarnowski discusses Shunu and how Clark has prepared him to continue running the company once he graduates in the spring.
What is a typical day like running Shunu?
All of our customer interaction and marketing take place on Instagram and Facebook. When we receive a service request, Hector or I will either meet up with the client on Clark’s campus for free or drive to them for pick-up and drop-off for an additional fee. We then take the shoes, hand-wash them with an arsenal of brushes and cleaning products carefully selected depending on the shoe’s material, air dry them, and return them to the client within two days of receiving them.
We also enjoy going to garage sales or thrift stores and fixing up shoes that are filthy but in otherwise good condition to sell. Initially, our customers were solely Clarkies, but we soon attracted business from the broader Worcester community. Now, we do business with clients all throughout Massachusetts, and I have even done some work for people back in Florida.
Have you interacted with any Clark alumni as part of this experience?
Adi Tibrewal (MBA ’05) reached out to us following an article that was written about Shunu by Buzz Media and shared on the Clark Facebook page. He was impressed with our story and invited us to the Bull Mansion in Worcester, which he co-founded. We are very appreciative of Adi for offering to help us refine elements of the company such as our business plan.
Suzanne Wood (’11, MS/ESP ’12) was our adviser for Clark’s Ureka competition in 2018. She gave us valuable feedback on our idea and business plan — her advice was invaluable in helping us consider things such as our options for growth.
How has Clark prepared you to run this business outside the classroom?
Professor Dobson’s class was a great introduction to hands-on business management. When we were in his class, he was in the process of publishing a textbook for the course. Upon its publication, he invited me to his office to talk about how Shunu was doing and to give me a copy of the book, which I thought was a special affirmation of the passion and care of Clark professors.
Professor David Jordan’s class reshaped my view of entrepreneurship by unlocking a whole new field of opportunities through social entrepreneurship. It was fascinating to learn from his experiences and realize that you can be both financially successful and socially impactful at the same time.
How might this experience help you with your post-college goals?
I have been interested in entrepreneurship since elementary school, and since then I have had countless business ideas. Shunu is the first of these dreams to actually materialize, and I am excited to continue working on it post-graduation. I am very happy to be able to remain a Clark student for an extra year while earning my MBA through Clark’s fifth-year program. Hector has also remained in Worcester after graduation, which will allow us more time to refine and develop our business in Massachusetts. I aim to pursue entrepreneurial ventures alongside whatever career path I take, which will hopefully be something related to international business or new media.