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The entrepreneurial spirit has always been at the heart of our family, which is one of many reasons why our nonprofit organization, the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation, made the decision in 2017 to support the University of Miami’s annual Business Plan Competition, whose mission it is to help budding entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real businesses.

A recent alum of the University of Miami Business School, Dominic Natalizio wanted to create a sustainable solution for men’s clothing after coming up empty-handed looking for an all-purpose shirt for every occasion that didn’t add to the waste perpetuated by the fast-fashion industry. His solution? MANTRA, an eco-friendly clothing company for men that gives young professionals a stylish and sustainable option for work or play.

With this idea in mind, Dominic decided to enter the 2019 Business Plan Competition, where he was given the guidance needed to turn his dream into a reality.

“It helped me get a step ahead,” reflected Dominic on his experience creating MANTRA with the help of a University-assigned mentor, who helped guide him through each step. “Having help and support is so important when you’re starting something new, and the lack of support can keep people from acting on their ideas, because it’s uncharted waters.”

The competition involved three rounds of evaluation: First, Dominic had to submit a written business plan, then he had to present his ideas to the judges in person, and then sit through a final round where they evaluated all the potential businesses based on viability.

Dominic encourages anyone who has an idea to apply: “Even if you feel like you don’t have a groundbreaking idea, just put something on paper and go through the process of turning a concept into a business,” he said. “You’ll learn so much in that process.”

A year after Dominic was awarded the grand prize in the alumni track, MANTRA is alive and well, offering sustainable clothing that not only conserves resources but also helps to prevent pollution. MANTRA’s clothing is made from recycled plastic water bottles, and every shirt made represents nine water bottles that didn’t end up in a landfill.

As a foundation dedicated to supporting sustainability, it’s truly an honor to have had a hand in making MANTRA a reality. If we want to create a brighter future for our children, we must put effort into pivoting traditionally wasteful business practices and initiatives to focus on conservation.

Currently, about 18 billion pounds of plastic waste is moved into oceans each year from coastal regions. But it’s not just plastic that’s the problem. The fashion industry is notoriously wasteful when it comes to other natural resources as well. In fact, it takes more than 700 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt. The world needs more businesses like MANTRA that work to combat this by conserving water and energy in the production process.

It’s inspiring to see young people like Dominic take up the charge: These are the leaders of our future, and their efforts today will continue to give back for generations to come.