Going With the Flow
Philosophy major Jamie Ross ’18 applies the tenets of Buddhism to his e-commerce startup Mainfactor
Technology companies aren’t exactly places to find inner peace. Many startup cultures favor a hustle-harder ethos that pushes people to burnout.
But Jamie Ross ’18 subscribes to a Buddhist-inspired go-with-the-flow energy as cofounder and COO of Mainfactor, a 25-person marketing and e-commerce agency working with some of today’s top names in entertainment.
A philosophy major, Ross took a gap year from Colby to study abroad at the roof of the world: Kathmandu, Nepal. “I got very into Buddhist philosophy and took a year off to live in Nepal and study to be a Tibetan translator, turning these old manuscripts into English,” he said.
After graduation, it was mindfulness that guided Ross to a more plugged-in career. He started living at the Rangjung Yeshe Gomde California, a meditation and retreat center, to deepen his practice.
“While I was living there, they hired me to build out their website. I had no tech background at all, but I gradually got more comfortable and was hired by a few other meditation centers, which grew into a small consulting business,” said Ross. “Eventually, I met my cofounder, Mike Fiebach, and we just clicked. He wanted to start his own company and needed someone operations-focused, and he took a chance on me.”
Mainfactor helps artists and other entertainers broaden their platforms by building and growing direct-to-consumer businesses—think merchandise like concert tees, branded hoodies or hats, posters, and more.
With $72 million in funding and clients from hip-hop duo Run the Jewels to pop icon Celine Dion, Mainfactor is just taking off. Said Ross, “It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished at Mainfactor as a young team, but there’s still so much work to be done.”
Launching the business during one of the most challenging times—March 2020—was a lesson in going with the flow. As COO, Ross is in charge of day-to-day operations, making sure everything from onboarding new clients to spinning up new direct-to-consumer ventures with them goes smoothly.
“With philosophy and the humanities in general, it’s an unbounded field,” he said. “You need to think critically through a very ambiguous question that doesn’t have a right answer. Someone else could look at the same data and come to a completely different conclusion. That feels very similar to starting a company. You have to pick a direction, commit to it, and see where it takes you.”
Ross learned firsthand the importance of a balanced, well-rounded life as a student athlete, and it’s a way of life he hopes to pass on to his all-remote team. “At Colby, I had to adopt certain habits, and I learned that I do my best work when I’m fulfilling all of the diverse interests that make me, me,” said Ross. “Building this company is a lot of pressure and it’s a lot of hours. It’s not easy, but I learned that I have to be able to enjoy what I’m doing or I’m headed straight to burnout.”
Ross is proof that the safest course of action—or what’s expected of you in a certain position—isn’t always associated with success. “I came into Colby as pre-med because that’s what I thought I should be doing, and it wasn’t until I finally gave myself permission to take more philosophy classes because that was what I was interested in that I started really loving my time at Colby,” he said. “I had no background in e-commerce or tech, but I knew I could teach myself more about the industry. It’s led me down this circuitous, unpredictable path. It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been smooth, but I’m so glad I decided to do it and let myself grow.”
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