Taking Care of Business

Why wait to launch a business or nonprofit? These three students ran their own companies while attending the Sawyer Business School, plowing what they were learning in class back into their work.
Noah Jones standing next to a wall-size sign for the Suffolk University Center for Entrepreneurship
Using what he’s learned as an entrepreneurship major has enabled Noah Jones—a self-admitted nerd who launched Clockwork Gaming as a young teen—to scale up his company to impressive new levels of success.

He’s Got Game(s): Noah Jones, BSBA ’24

Before coming to Suffolk University, Noah Jones, Class of 2024, was really good at the game-designing side of his Roblox business. He just wasn’t as experienced with the business side of his Roblox business.

But in his four years as an entrepreneurship major in the Sawyer Business School, Jones has been able to take what he’s learned in his classes and from the people he’s met along the way to scale Clockwork Gaming to impressive new levels of success.

“My entrepreneurship classes put ideas into my brain,” Jones says. “My marketing classes helped me get the company into more markets.”

A self-admitted nerd, Jones was only 13 when he realized that he could take his burgeoning game-design skills and convert them into a successful money-making venture. So he founded Clockwork Gaming in 2016. Eight years later the company has grown into a thriving, full-time business with teams of programmers, modelers, and artists around the globe—and revenues in the six figures. The company has created more than 30 games, some of which have reached concurrent player counts of more than 30,000 people. “We’ve done well,” Jones acknowledges.

For those who don’t know the difference between robots and Roblox, the latter is an online game-creation system that lets users craft and interact inside virtual environments—everything from car races to war games to spaceships. Roblox also allows players to buy, sell, and create virtual items that can be used to decorate their virtual characters. Along with Minecraft, Roblox is one of the most popular “sandbox games,” which let users create and control a game’s narrative.

Jones credits many faculty members and alumni for helping him grow the business, including Professor Chaim Letwin, who introduced Jones to alumni like Greg Balestrieri, BSBA ’09, and Joe Melville, BSBA ’08, co-founders of Candy.com and Green Rabbit, a cold-chain logistics provider. Through their connections, they’ve helped Jones explore potential new business relationships. “I didn’t have the brand contacts until I came to Suffolk,” says Jones. “Now I’m able to explore incredible new directions for the company.”

After graduation Jones is looking forward to focusing on Clockwork Gaming full time and growing the company even further. He also wants to mentor future Suffolk entrepreneurs the way alumni and faculty mentored him, something Letwin says is a huge asset for the program. “Noah is an innovative and tenacious entrepreneur,” says Letwin. “But what truly sets him apart is his generosity in sharing his expertise and passion for entrepreneurship with our community.”

Annette Sachs and her sister, Claudia, sit on large bags filled with coffee beans, next to three of their suppliers: Carol Zbinden, Cecilia Genis, and Kathia Zamora.
With her two sisters, Annette Sachs (center) founded Café Tres Monas, a Costa Rican company that buys coffee from women producers, then roasts and sells it. “Our main goal,” says the business analytics and ISOM major, “is to support women in an industry that is still male-dominated.” From left: Café Tres Monas suppliers Carol Zbinden and Cecilia Genis, Annette with her sister Claudia Sachs, and supplier Kathia Zamora.

A Taste for Coffee (and for Tech): Annette Sachs, BSBA ’24

Good Costa Rican coffee is really good.

That’s just one reason why Costa Rican native Annette Sachs, Class of 2024, decided to start a coffee company. She, along with her two sisters, tapped into their family connections to the local coffee industry and, in 2020, launched Café Tres Monas, which focuses on buying coffee from women producers, roasting it, and selling it to high-end customers within the country.

“Our main goal is to support women in an industry that is still male dominated and help these women differentiate themselves,” says Sachs, who’s majoring in business analytics and information systems & operations management (ISOM). Sachs says they give 10% of the money they make to the Women Coffee Alliance, which aims to educate other women who want to get into the industry.

Sachs actually started at the Sawyer Business School as a marketing major, which gave her insight into social media and keyword strategies when they launched the company during the pandemic. “The Business School has helped me learn how to talk to people and how to sell the product,” she says.

She then switched to ISOM her junior year, which has proved particularly useful now that the company is more established. “ISOM taught me to dig into the numbers and figure out the kinds of markets that we need to focus on,” Sachs says. “It’s also been helpful to figure out how to price our coffee so we can make a profit.”

During her senior year, Sachs received a prestigious Rosenberg Student Training Employment Program (STEP) Scholarship, which supports on-campus student technology apprenticeships. As a student employee in Suffolk’s Office of Media Services (OMS), she did production and post-production on the Suffolk University Oral History project for the Moakley Archives and helped with the award-winning Ramplify podcast for the Center for Career Equity, Development & Success—picking up new skills that she will use to make promotional videos for Café Tres Monas.

Evident throughout all of her work, says OMS Director Jeff Rhind, is “Annette’s outstanding work ethic. She’s the kind of student who seizes the opportunity to learn all she can, and that will really pave the way for her future success.”

Sachs and her sisters—all of whom currently live in the United States—are able to run the company remotely with the help of their family. After graduation, Sachs, who’s half-German, is going even farther afield to work in the Munich tech industry. But she says she’ll miss Boston and the support that she got from members of the Suffolk community. “I really like the fact that the University is always there for you,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’m just another student. I feel like I’m Annette and I’m important to them.”

Close-up shot of Jake Cavanaugh standing in a Suffolk hallway
After he lost his sister, Nancy, to suicide, Jake Cavanaugh and his mother started The NAN Project to help young people struggling with anxiety and depression find the support and services they need. His MPA courses have, he says, helped him grow the nonprofit to a full-time staff of 12 who reach over 12,000 students a year in schools across Massachusetts.

A Brother’s Love: Jake Cavanaugh, MPA ’24

As executive director of The NAN Project, Jake Cavanaugh thinks about his sister every day.

That’s because the “Nan” in the nonprofit’s name is his younger sister Nancy, who took her own life in 2012. A smart, vibrant young woman who was studying to become a social worker, Nan also struggled with severe anxiety, depression, and OCD—a struggle she hid from all but her close friends and family, her brother recalls.

Cavanaugh and his mother, Ellen Dalton, started The NAN Project in 2016 to help young people like Nan find the support and services they need. Using a peer-to-peer model, the organization—which now has a full-time staff of 12—reaches between 12,000 and 15,000 students a year in schools across Massachusetts, providing education, prevention, and intervention strategies.

Cavanaugh, who had previously managed a market research firm in China and worked as a political organizer in Florida, had no background running a nonprofit, raising money, or evaluating an organization’s success when he launched The NAN Project. “I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he says with a smile. So during the pandemic when the world moved online, he earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit management at the Sawyer Business School. He then decided to come back to Suffolk for his Master’s in Public Administration (MPA). The experience, he says, has proved invaluable.

“With every class I was taking, I’d bring something I’d learned into work the next day,” Cavanaugh says. “It was stuff that was immediately applicable to the programs I was running and the fundraising I was doing at The NAN Project.” He also enjoyed being able to network with fellow students in the nonprofit sector.

Cavanaugh also credits his performance management and adaptive leadership classes for encouraging him become a better leader and manager and for helping him better evaluate The NAN Project. He was even able to use the organization as the basis for a final project in his alternative revenue strategies course.

Cavanaugh hopes to expand the nonprofit into other states over the next few years. But there are politics involved, even with the increased focus on teens’ mental health since the pandemic.

“Anything that has the words ‘social, emotional learning’ is weighted,” he says. “There’s a much greater emphasis on parents’ rights in some parts of the country, meaning that parents should control all the information their children are getting and that the schools should stay out of it.”

Still, Cavanaugh is sure that he and The NAN Project will figure it out. “Without compromising our mission, we want to make sure that kids are still getting the mental health support and understanding they need.”


Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs

Ben Hall
Office of Public Affairs