October 17, 2013

Fisher alumni open businesses in Ohio State's retail district


Watch video: Fisher Builds Entrepreneurs

Retailers in Ohio State’s South Campus Gateway district include two successful entrepreneurs, Zach Weprin, co-founder of sushi restaurant Fusian, and Nate Demars, founder of men’s clothing store Pursuit, both of whom developed their business acumen at Fisher. Two other Fisher graduates are also integral parts of both teams.

David Hilo, at Fusian, provides the culinary expertise at the fast casual sushi restaurant.

Shay-Jahen Merritte is the man behind the display racks and other design elements at Pursuit, which markets professional attire to college students and emerging professionals.

David Hilo

David Hilo was working in Spain developing restaurant experience when he reconnected with his old Ohio State roommate, Zach Weprin, who was about to open the first Fusian restaurant in Cincinnati with his business partners.

Following graduation from Ohio State, Hilo, who earned a BSBA in 2009, landed a position at a marketing firm in Chicago. Yet, he was lured  by a cousin’s venture into the restaurant business.
“I realized I had a passion for cooking and working in restaurants. It seemed liked I spent more time at my cousin’s restaurant than at my marketing job,” he said.

So while continuing to work at the marketing firm, as well as moonlighting at his cousin’s restaurant, Hilo enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College where he earned a culinary certificate. By the time Hilo returned to the States and joined the Fusian team in Cincinnati, the restaurant’s cuisine and concept were already developed. What the entrepreneurs needed from Hilo was his expertise in restaurant operations and food preparation.

Hilo’s responsibilities included managing culinary operations, such as preparation, improving efficiencies and training front counter staff in food preparation. When Weprin and his partners decided to open a third restaurant near Ohio State, Hilo was more than willing to return to Columbus.

“It was a dream come true coming back to Ohio State,” Hilo said.

Shay-Jahen Merritté

Shay-Jahen Merritté, co-founder and chief creative officer at Pursuit, did not consider himself an entrepreneur while a Fisher MBA student. Instead, his focus was on design strategy at Fisher, where he was a graduate assistant for the Innovation Initiative and president of the student organization Innovation Fisher

“Nate Demars and I got to know each other in a negotiation class,” he said. “Because Fisher has an open culture that fosters teamwork without being too competitive, I think Nate felt it was O.K. to share his ideas with me and wanted my help for design and branding.”

“I thought Fisher was a great place where people with a creative background can network with more traditional business students.”

Merritté helped to create the clean, minimalist design of the brand, from logo to store layout. He also drives the retailer’s social media strategy and fashion inventory. His affinity for bowties and purple are the personal touches he brought to the store’s concept.