KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2023 – In any baseball game, the pitcher is the center of the action, driving the rhythm of the game. University of Rhode Island senior pitcher Quincy Clark, of South Orange, New Jersey, is comfortable being at the center of it all but has used his time at URI to expand the roles he plays, including off the field.
Clark took a class with Launch Lab innovation coach Jim McGwin ’80 in the fall and connected with URI’s Innovation Labs. Through the Launch Lab, he launched the idea for Athletes Off The Field, a program to showcase the creativity and entrepreneurial endeavors of URI student-athletes. Clark invited other URI athletes to showcase pieces in the lab and use the Makerspace to screen print clothes in the program which successfully launched this spring.
Fashion was a familiar field for him as he had used COVID-19’s enforced down time to start a flourishing resale clothing business, Campus Thrifts. The business not only provided a creative outlet but let Clark hone his skills as a business owner.
Initially, Thrifts was an outlet, a form of creative play and expression.
“I wanted to treat it like a brand, not just a reselling business,” he says.
Clark began by marketing to the Rhode Island college student market with videos and photo shoots in Providence and other city settings, even the boardwalk at Asbury Park. He and his partner launched their business in 2021 and made $800 on their first day. Profits have continued to roll in and Clark made close to $15,000 in less than a year.
As a pitcher, Clark is used to working under pressure and relishes the chance to call his own shots. “I like to have free rein and to control what I’m doing. The business has definitely been a creative outlet,” he says. “I’ve had fun coming up with ideas for videos and photos.”
In a small business, skills are learned out of necessity. So Clark picked up graphics on his own and found that “playing businessman” was fun to him. He fell in love with graphics and used Youtube to pick up the skills he needed, even staging fun pop-ups on campus.
“My goal was to have our Instagram account be pleasing and aesthetic,” he says. He’s keeping an eye on the brand’s image, the marketing, and also the bottom line. The brand sells mostly to New England and New Jersey but has also had customers from as far away as Europe and California.
He also started having in-person events and pop-up shops, setting up in Washington Square Park in New York in December 2021. “That was chilly,” he says, “but I play baseball in New England. We’re used to cold weather!”
A new field of play
Clark enjoys the camaraderie of sports but is finding that creative communities can provide a similar home for teamwork and community. Inspiration can come from anywhere and Clark is realizing that he likes to be the playmaker. He’s also started creating logos and merchandise for other clients such as the Hopeless Romantic Society.
In the fall, Clark took ‘INE249 / Lean Startup’ and began to consider what role creativity could play in his future career. After creating the first event featuring the talents and innovation of student-athletes, he is now working on planning a larger event next fall at Keaney Gym.
According to Lab Coordinator Bryan Smith, “Quincy has been in the lab almost every day this year working on his projects. It’s been amazing watching his growth in real-time.”
“Quincy, like many student-athletes, has many talents and interests off the field,” says McGwin, on site in the lab regularly as an instructor and coach. “It’s important for student-athletes to have opportunities to explore and develop their interests outside of their sports. This can help them become well-rounded individuals and prepare them for a successful future. Quincy is a great example of someone who is doing just that.”
McGwin teaches a business course at URI and brings to the lab over 40 years of international industry experience including senior positions at KPMG, Brown & Sharpe and several successful startups including UltraCision, a medical device company that was acquired by Johnson & Johnson. He also was the founder and president of Collaboration Catalyst Corp. McGwin holds a U.S. patent and assisted with development of the Supply Chain Operations Reference Model. He calls Clark a natural entrepreneur.
A public relations major, Clark will graduate from URI in May, then wanderlust will take him to Europe for the summer to travel and think about his next steps. He’ll pack up his idea- and sketch-filled notebook, hoping to find his next creative community beyond Kingston.
URI’s Launch Lab has offered a helpful community to get Clark this far and he hopes to see this kind of connection and idea-sharing continue at the University. He wants to see the Launch Lab increase creativity at URI.
The connections he’s made in the Launch Lab have been invaluable, Clark says, and the ample dose of vitamin D in its sunny corner spot was an added bonus. “There’s few excuses to not visit a place with this much direct sunlight on campus,” he laughs.
Launch Lab Director Keith Ranaldi says Clark has added value to URI’s Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Athletes Off the Field is a microcosm for how a student can grow their identity, explore, and apply what are, at times, withheld passions,” he says. Ranaldi says students like Clark represent the kind of community his team wants to build in the Innovation Labs.
Smith says that the Launch Lab has an open-door policy; students can visit any time looking for help with an idea, regardless of major, athlete or not. They accept drop-ins, or students can make an appointment on its website: “We meet everyone where they are, as an all-access point to entrepreneurship.”
Housed in the Carothers Library and Learning Commons, the URI Innovation Labs aim to offer support for college-level entrepreneurship. Ranaldi hopes to make the Launch Lab a hub for interdisciplinary project-based, real-world learning, where students can transition concepts and creativity into reality. INNOVATE@URI is a strategic initiative designed to meet the increasing demand for real-world applications and opportunities for students, faculty, and the community. To learn more, visit https://web.uri.edu/innovate/ or stop by.