One thousand, two hundred and sixty-two. Robert Davis and Abbas Haider have a vivid recollection of that figure. It’s the number of bulletproof undershirts included in their first big order for Aspetto, the business started by the 2012 University of Mary Washington graduates.
“We had to count each one of them and box them up,” said Haider, whose downtown Fredericksburg retail store provides high-end anti-ballistic clothing as well as fashionable men’s suits and accessories. “We had to rent a warehouse to house those shirts because we didn’t have the space.”
Davis and Haider have come a long way since they gave birth to the Aspetto business model in a University of Mary Washington marketing class. They now sell globally to military, government buyers and celebrities, and they were recently named to Forbes’ prestigious ‘30 Under 30’ list of the country’s top young entrepreneurs.
“We are so proud of you,” said UMW President Troy Paino, who joined Speaker William Howell and Delegate Mark Cole for a tour of the business. Davis and Haider, who conceded they did not know each other before being paired for the marketing class project, engaged in lively banter with their guests, recounting obstacles they have overcome in growing the business, from pulling all-nighters to driving 18-wheelers. While they have plans to expand Aspetto, they said they are committed to remaining in Fredericksburg near their alma mater.
That the partners based their business in Virginia provides a boost to Growth4Va. “Abbas Haider and Robert Davis exemplify the initiative’s four tenets,” said Paino, about the commonwealth’s bipartisan campaign for economic growth. The strategies include: making Virginia the top state for talent, ensuring the state is known for innovation and entrepreneurship, preparing students for great jobs, and making Virginia’s colleges affordable and accessible.
Launched by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, Growth4VA promotes reform and reinvestment in Virginia’s top-ranked higher education system. Supported by Virginia’s business community, the University is partnering with the commonwealth’s higher education institutions to help grow the state’s economy, expand educational and job opportunities for all Virginians and regain Virginia’s No. 1 ranking for business.
A liberal arts institution that focuses on technology and immersive learning, UMW wholeheartedly endorses Growth4VA, said Paino.
The University has been recognized for low student debt and value. LendEDU, an online marketplace for student loan refinancing, has rated UMW among the nation’s best for low debt and for value. In a ranking of 1,161 colleges and universities, LendEDU rated UMW 35th among public colleges and 82nd among colleges overall for the lowest student loan debt per borrower.
UMW’s partnership with Growth4VA is designed to expand the impact of the university’s innovative, cost-saving programs and to open new opportunities for collaboration with leaders across the commonwealth.
Haider and Davis are the embodiment of UMW’s commitment, Paino said, to “help secure Virginia’s reputation as a national leader in innovation and talent.”