Justin Rose didn’t consider himself an aspiring entrepreneur when he studied in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. It took a study abroad experience to Paris for the 2019 Marketing graduate to realize the thirst he had for a career of his own making.
“It was actually the college’s Business in Paris study abroad program during the spring semester of 2019 that opened my eyes to other career opportunities,” the Olney, Md., native said. “While at Clemson, I was on a Marketing career path, but when I got outside the bubble globally, it broadened my scope of what else was possible.”
That international experience became the launch pad for Squash Club D.C., his online business that brings natural wines to the doorsteps of his Washington, D.C.-area customers.
In the first six months of Squash Club D.C.’s existence, the fledgling purveyor of more than 75 domestic and international natural wines has generated $75,000 in sales, all during a pandemic.
While in Paris, Justin studied marketing and finance at the IESEG School of Management, one of the top business schools in France. It was there he learned of the French market for natural wine production, which sparked his curiosity once he graduated from Clemson.
Only organically grown grapes are used in natural wines and there is no filtering of the wine, nor are there any additives. Nothing is added, nor removed from the natural wine product, which gets to how Squash Club D.C., got its name. Natural wines are, quite simply, squashed grapes and little more.
“My goal in launching Squash Club D.C., is to bring the natural wine movement right to your doorstep. We want to help people understand the amazing farming, cultivation and winemaking processes that go into creating the refreshing and natural flavors of these wines.”
When Justin returned to the Upstate in late spring of 2019, he searched out natural wines in the area and they were scarce.
“I was so impressed with what I learned about low-intervention wines and thought there might be a niche to fill, even in the Washington, D.C.-area, where I live now,” Justin said. “I started selling online and added the door-to-door delivery service to differentiate the business and create an option for wine consumers who didn’t want shop retail during the pandemic.”
Launching the business during a pandemic has presented its challenges, so Justin’s marketing acumen has been put to the test. He spreads the Squash Club D.C. brand through a newsletter and on Instagram and LinkedIn social media channels.
“I was working in commercial real estate and decided it wasn’t a fit for me, so I decided to go all in on Squash Club,” said Justin, whose parents Edward ’94 and Lisa ’92 are also Clemson alums. “The decision to launch this business was a risk during the pandemic, but I thrive on solving problems, and it makes me work harder. Furthermore, I don’t want to put my future in someone else’s hands. To me, the highs feel higher if a success is of your own making.”
Gaby Peschiera, the college’s assistant director of Global Engagement, said intercultural experiences like Justin’s can be life changing.
“Justin’s experience in the Business in Paris program and how he relates it to a new career path embodies the importance of engaging in diverse experiences during college,” Peschiera said. “Paired with the exceptional education that Clemson provides, a global experience can increase core competency skills, such as self-awareness and adaptability, which in turn prepares students for success in their future careers.”
Though Justin wasn’t engaged in any formal entrepreneurial training while at Clemson, he said the academic experience and sense of community at Clemson was instrumental in where he’s at in life today.
“I’ve never felt part of a tighter or more supportive community than during my time at Clemson. It helped my personal growth and definitely gave me the confidence to take on the risk involving an endeavor like Squash Club,” Justin added. “I would encourage students who have an idea to try it while they’re young, when the risks are less than later in life. I would also encourage students to expand their reach beyond traditional classroom learning. For me, it opened my eyes to opportunities I may not have otherwise experienced.”
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