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At 26, "my businesses are my life"

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Articles - July/August 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012

 

BY JON BELL

0712 Dispatches YoungInnovator
McMenamin has started two companies: Anything Coral and Yield Pots.

He runs a successful business growing and selling exotic coral from around the world. He gets fabric from China and has it sewn into cloth flowerpots at a factory in the Philippines, which he then imports and sells nationwide. And yet 26-year-old Ian McMenamin failed his international distribution class at the University of Oregon three times.

“My real effort was with my businesses outside,” says the recent graduate of the UO’s business program and an inveterate entrepreneur. “My businesses are my life.”

Raised in affluent Marin County, Calif., McMenamin was 13 when he started working at a pet store that had an amazing saltwater fish tank. Well-heeled customers would roll up in fancy cars to buy exotic — and expensive — coral.

“I fell in love with the tanks and with that lifestyle,” McMenamin says. “I knew that’s what I wanted.”

It took some time, but eventually McMenamin was not only selling coral, but was learning to grow it himself. When it came time to look for a business school, McMenamin headed to Eugene in part for its lower overhead costs and cheaper water to grow his coral. Today, with his company Anything Coral, McMenamin grows all his own coral in 15 8-foot tanks in the basement of an apartment building. Coral prices range from $5 to several thousand dollars per piece, and he has wholesale distribution hubs in four U.S. cities.

McMenamin’s latest endeavor is a cloth flowerpot company called Yield Pots. Backed by a private investor, McMenamin found traders to work with in the Philippines who helped him source materials and find workers to sew the pots, which have become popular with nurseries and hydroponic growers. He did an initial run of 20,000 pots and a second of 80,000. The pots are now in 60 stores across the country, and McMenamin is working on a third run of 160,000 units. He’s also got another gardening product in the works.

If it all seems like a little too much work to fit into a single day, that’s because it almost is. McMenamin says he’s always working and only sleeps about five hours a night. But that’s just how he likes it.

“I hustle as hard as I can,” he says, “because I don’t ever want to look back and think about a time in my life when I was slacking.”

 

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