Beehive Mountain Equipment founders Andrew Nguyen ’18, left, Margherita Tommasini ’18, and Jonathan Harmor ’18 are creating outdoor products that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.Beehive Mountain Equipment founders Andrew Nguyen ’18, left, Margherita Tommasini ’18, and Jonathan Harmor ’18 are creating outdoor products that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21

Beehive founders Jonathan Harmor ’18, Andrew Nguyen ’18, and Margherita Tommasini ’18 aim to tackle detrimental trends in outdoor recreation and provide equipment options other than the fossil-fuel based, single-use gear so commonly used today.

Working together in COA’s Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery, the students have developed the Beehive Mountain Equipment Peak Bag, a sustainable food storage solution designed to meet the performance and practical needs of the outdoors. The most recent iteration of the Peak Bag is crafted from organic cotton coated with locally-sourced beeswax and featuring block prints from local artists. It is entirely reusable, washable, and resistant to water, making it ideal for storing gorp, dry goods, sandwiches, and the like.

“We have so many different talents that we bring to the table and I think that's really what shapes the creation of this company,” said Beehive Mountain Equipment co-founder Jonathan Harmor ’18.“We have so many different talents that we bring to the table and I think that's really what shapes the creation of this company,” said Beehive Mountain Equipment co-founder Jonathan Harmor ’18. Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21“We want to take action on the fact that most outdoor practices and gear are currently detrimental to the natural world we try to enjoy,” said Tommasini. “We have taken a natural approach to solving this problem, combining ancient, local traditions and natural materials to make high-performance gear. The Peak Bag is important because it represents a redemption. It is our best attempt, as of now, to bridge the hypocrisies of the current ways people experience the outdoors.”

Creating a project within the Diana Davis Hatchery gives students a host of incredible opportunities, according to COA Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business and Hatchery founder Jay Friedlander. The ten-week course offers students a unique opportunity to devote all of their time to starting their own enterprises for academic credit; with a full three credits for the term, students take no other courses while in the Hatchery. They are also supported with a variety of resources including office space, mentors and seed funding.

“What makes our program really unique is that you can create what you want to build for credit,” Friedlander said. “In most institutions where you have a venture incubator you do it as a co-curricular activity, which is another way to say you do it despite your education. By making it for credit, you can align your passions and your interests and your education, and that allows you to sink all of your time and energy into the project.”

In many ways, the Hatchery acts as a meeting ground for the COA human-ecological experience. This year student projects ranged from crafting a photography website and blog to starting a food access business using surplus production in agriculture, kicking off a potluck pizza company, starting a weaving and shirt production business straight from a student’s loom, and brewing hand-crafted Kombucha.

The College of the Atlantic students behind Beehive Mountain Equipment are focused on launching their business in Maine while supporting local artists and apiaries.The College of the Atlantic students behind Beehive Mountain Equipment are focused on launching their business in Maine while supporting local artists and apiaries. Credit: Junesoo Shin ’21

“The Hatchery builds on a long history at COA of merging thought and action to create a robust educational experience. It is space for students to take things they have been dreaming about throughout their education, whether that’s being an artist, an activist, starting a food company or some sort of community development project, and to actually make it happen,” Friedlander said.

Beehive founders share a passion for sustainability. Nguyen has focused his education on business and outdoor education, Harmor has combined arts and sciences to explore environmentalism, and Tommasini has focused on economics and international climate politics. Even with their diverse academic backgrounds, the trio found a lot of synergy by combining their interests and working together, Harmor said.

College of the Atlantic Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander directs the COA Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery sustainable business incubator.College of the Atlantic Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander directs the COA Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery sustainable business incubator.“This project would not have happened this way if the three of us did not come together. We have so many different talents that we bring to the table and I think that’s really what shapes the creation of this company, because without those we would have ended up somewhere totally different. The final product really is the culmination of who we are collectively, our interests and our talents,” Harmor said.

As outdoor enthusiasts, Tommasini, Harmor, and Nguyen are driven to blend their love for being in nature with their feelings of responsibility for turning around the devastating ecological problems caused by plastics and single-use gear, Tommasini said.

“If we keep experiencing the outdoors the way we currently do, there is not going to be nature to actually enjoy,” she said. “I was privileged as a child to be outside all of the time, and have met some of the most inspirational people on outdoor trips and have had some of the most formative experiences while backpacking, hiking, and canoeing. I want to preserve that as a space that can be beneficial for the formation and development as a person as well as the development of societies.”

The group has done extensive research on waterproofing and material alternatives to conventional petroleum-based and chemical-heavy outdoor equipment, and have taken the Peak Bag with them on adventures down rivers and up mountains to test its performance. They have begun to sell prototypes and meet with local retailers to develop their brand.

“Beehive really represents the transdisciplinarity, the complexity, and the awesomeness of the learning experience at COA,” Tommasini said. “Reflecting on this project as the capstone of my experience at COA, I have realized that it was a great way to intertwine the many interests and other classes I took here that go beyond my core academic path.”

Beehive Mountain Equipment is focused on launching their business in Maine while supporting local artists and apiaries, the latter which, in turn, support the agriculture of the area with more bees. Their next big goal is a capital campaign; they plan to initiate a Kickstarter to raise enough funds to start production. To stay up to date with the project visit beehivemountainequipment.com.