Q&A with Sean Edwards and Ross Kunmann
Seniors Sean Edwards and Ross Kunmann recently launched the U.S. division of the world’s leading producer of fish oil, LYSI, at a reception in the Conway Innovation Center. Edwards and Kunmann are both members of the Wall Fellows program. The project is a special outcome of Coastal’s ongoing partnership with Icelandic alumni. Edwards and Kunmann developed the business plan for their new firm as a result of an applied internship abroad program.
Q: What are you majoring in?
Ross: Entrepreneurial management.
Q: How has Coastal Carolina contributed to your success as young entrepreneurs?
Sean: Coastal laid the foundation through international partnerships and organizations with those in Iceland and abroad. Without CCU’s commitment to international affairs, this business venture would not be possible.
Ross: The professors and mentors we have met with for advising have made a world of difference. We have the energy and determination; combining that with the knowledge and experience in the Wall College and across the University gives us a unique advantage.
Q: Both of you are graduating in 2018. What are your plans after graduation?
Both: We both plan to continue growing LYSI U.S. until it is the No. 1 supplier of marine lipids to the U.S. market, just as it is globally.
Q: What do you love about Coastal?
Sean: I have enjoyed the access I have had to business executives through the Wall Fellows program. One of the best ways to develop business acumen is through learning about successes and failures of those who you would love to emulate, and CCU has given me multiple chances to meet with executives who have a diverse portfolio of professional backgrounds and skills.
Ross: I love the support across the board. I have had so many people tell me how proud they are or ways they think we could improve. It is an environment conducive to growth and the Wall Fellows program takes that to the next level.
Q: What advice do you have for current/future students?
Sean: The next five years can have a huge impact on your life. Whether your goal is to make money, feed the homeless, or fight for human rights and social justice, begin working toward your goals now. Life gives you no participation trophies, so the strides you make toward bettering yourself and the world around you are solely your responsibility.
Ross: Achieving your goals and dreams begins every day of your life. You need to prepare today for whatever opportunity may present itself tomorrow. You have to build your skills and knowledge as tools for when the time comes. Lastly, you have to be willing to take that leap of faith. Nothing you have handed to you will change your life, you have to reach out and grab it.
Q: If you could do anything over again at your time at Coastal, what would it be?
Sean: I would spend more time with my professors in their office hours. CCU is special in that most of our professors are not purely academic, thus giving way to their inevitable experience within the “real world” of what they are teaching. I would recommend that everyone should take a little time to meet with their professors, not merely about classwork, but advice for the future – you never know what you may learn!
Q: What is the biggest challenge you faced in launching LYSI?
Sean: My biggest challenge was to overcome the fear of failure and not let my youth be an intimidation factor. In order to be taken seriously as a young professional, you must be willing to know your market better than anyone else and develop skills that set you apart from others. The actual marketplace is much different from the classroom, and we are now competing in a market with top-level executives that have more than 50 years of industry experience. However, I learned in this process that the old ways of marketing and sales are not always the best ways, and focusing on product quality, customer relationships and innovation will win in the long run.
Ross: My biggest challenge has been completing the tasks of every department. I am the CFO, the garbage man and everything in between. The legal and FDA compliance research I have done has saved me a lot of money, and I traded saving time for gaining knowledge. There is no easy job and it has been a journey to learn each task that needs to be completed for us to successfully launch and continue our growth.