Although many economic forecasters are pointing to signs that indicate a recession is on the horizon, they have yet to convince 1989 Wharton School graduate Geoffrey Walsh. Walsh expects that his fledgling company, which produces watches with art works on the faces, will do "pretty well" this year. It is a modest claim for a firm which has projected that its revenues will top $1.5 million dollars this year alone. Starting in 1989 with a watch picturing Vice President Dan Quayle on the face, Walsh quickly learned that people, especially college students, were interested in having their watches display more than just the time of day. "I never expected after graduation from Wharton that I would run a watch company," Walsh said. He said that the idea for the watches, which feature works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Dali, Renoir and Van Gogh on the faces, came out of his senior thesis. "We were producing five Monet paintings [on the watches]," he said. "The market gave us feedback about what was popular." One of Walsh's watches features an African elephant painted by noted wildlife artist Betsey Fowler, wife of Jim Fowler, who hosted the television program Wild Kingdom. Walsh said that half of the profits from the sale of this watch will go to help save the endangered African animals. He said the start-up money came from outside sources, adding that he obtained capital "very creatively." "The key was me," he said. "The company is an extension of my personality." Walsh said that he thought the watches, which cost about $65, are educational in addition to being fashionable. "This gives the average person who can't afford to go to Europe a chance to experience this art," he said. "It allows them to appreciate the art." Walsh said that the watches themselves are not the main reason he started the company. The experience of running a business, he said, has been his most valuable lesson from the project. "It's giving me the opportunity to use what I learned in Wharton," Walsh said. "You learn your marketplace and then you promote the product." Walsh said he thinks the company has potential for growth. Currently he is looking to expand into the jewelry and accessory market. But Walsh also said his company may soon be on the auction block. He is interested in pursuing a career in trade-show management and possibly purchasing a trade journal. Walsh's professors were impressed with his interest in entrepreurship. "He was excellent in the classes I taught" said Myles Bass, a management lecturer in Wharton. "He was very aggressive and had good critical reasoning ability." Walsh also received encouragement to market the project. "We talked about the kind of competition in the watch business," said Byron Dresner, director of the Wharton undergraduate division who knew Walsh when he was a student. "I explained to him the 160-hour work week and that it would involve a tremendous amount of social sacrifice," Bass said. "He was very motivated and very interested in being an entrepreneur," Bass said. "He held some pretty good summer jobs but had decided that he wanted to work for himself." Bass said that Walsh has returned to the school to share what he has learned about the business world with current Wharton students. "He has spoken to a couple of classes," Bass said. "He has always been willing to help other people."Comments powered by Disqus
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