Catholic Studies major Christian Zeron '16 was the first place winner of the Stillman School of Business' Pirates Pitch 2016 for his startup company Theo and Harris and was named the "Audience Choice" for the most popular finalist business idea. Pirates Pitch is the Stillman School's version of Shark Tank. "Christian is an outstanding young man, and he is a credit to the Catholic Studies program and to Seton Hall," said Susan A. Scherreik, founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Department of Management at the Stillman School.
Christian, who is in constant contact with Catholic Studies and a generous mentor to our Catholic Studies majors andminors, had this to say about his degree in Catholic Studies and how Catholic Studies courses helped him think creatively and critically and build a highly successful company -- which will "crack," as Christian says, $1 million in sales by the end of 2017.
We asked Christian, "Where did your Catholic Studies degree lead you?"
"The retail market is a house of cards. From one angle, it seems thick, solid and invincible. There are no flimsy levels, no spaces of obvious entry that give room to real market penetration. But from another angle, the spaces, opportunities to capitalize are innumerable. The overwhelming majority of players in the retail space, at both small and large scale, see the market from that first vantage point. They scratch their heads and throw their budgets at others to solve their sales conundrums. I know this because I eat, sleep, and breathe retail. I both direct an e-commerce shop and discuss the state of the consumer behavior with industry veterans on a daily basis.
My company, Theo & Harris, will crack $1M in sales this year, our second full operational calendar. And when I look at the 'why' behind my company's success, I come to two distinct answers. First, as Gary Vaynerchuck calls it, the dirt. It's the daily, unrelenting grind that the Theo & Harris team churns out creating content, sourcing inventory and serving clients. Second, my department, the clouds. It's the macro, Birdseye view that analyzes both our competitors and consumers and, in turn, directs the 'dirt' work to meaningful ends.
And at the foundation of my ability to play in the clouds is my Catholic Studies degree. Without it, I'd be staring at the same house of cards as all of my colleagues - finding no, or very few, paths to market capture. But with it, I have the alternative vantage point - the ability to walk around the table and see the gaping holes our competitors do not and play the thoughtful long game. While neither Tertullian nor St. Augustine of Hippo taught me how to run an effective online marketplace in the 21st century, the questions, ideas and problems they posed trained me to. They trained me to maximize my critical thinking ability, to pull from every corner of my brain and weigh solutions to historically monumental ethical dilemmas. Then, when I was tasked to evaluate issues in operating an online marketplace, the required thinking was simple in comparison. Whether or not to take flight in times of persecution, for example, puts the difficulty of managing social media trends in perspective. If we can wrestle to understand the significance of Euneo in Purgatorio without being spoon fed, mailing lists are a joyride.
In the world of Catholic Studies, I'm an average student at best. But the analytical training I've endured just to complete my major has made all of the difference in my industry -- one filled with individuals entirely foreign to any methods of thought we Catholic Studies students are all too used to."