Handing Off a Startup, Post-Graduation

How a college entrepreneur built up—and let go of—a successful give-back business.
May 22, 2012

Sometimes entrepreneurial ideas are found in the most unlikely places. That's what happened to Jeff Savio founder of Keep It Warm, a "socially responsible" company that sells and donates blankets on a one-for-one basis.

Savio, originally from Voorhees, N.J., ran the company while attending Villanova University, majoring in international business. Now, he's graduating and accepting a full-time job in corporate treasuries at Goldman Sachs in New York. Like other college entrepreneurs, he has to make a decision. Keep It Warm is not a big revenue driver. In fact, it made about $8,000 the first year, which was fully reinvested. But he says he still wants to keep the business running.

"We have more people on the team now that can help run the day-to-day things. I'll still be actively involved," Savio says.

One reason for continuing Keep It Warm, according to Savio, is that he has a vision that is very closely connected to how the company started. During Savio's senior year of high school, he went on a service trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota people who live there suffer from poor living conditions, including an 80-to-90 percent unemployment rate and an median household income of $3,000 a year. Many families sleep on the floor and don't have adequate protection from the elements (winters in South Dakota can see temperatures dip below -50 degrees F), and many die each year from hypothermia. The experience led Savio to want to help the Lakota and others who were without winter protection.

Once he had the idea for Keep It Warm, he used the skills he learned in college to make it a reality. In its first year, Savio and his crew managed to donate 750 pounds of blankets with the proceeds from selling, among other products Villanova-emblazoned blankets at the school bookstore. Now, Keep It Warm has gotten more exposure than Savio could have reasonably expected. He appeared on MSNBC as part of its elevator pitch segment.

"It was great buzz and definitely got our name out there," he says. "People across the country all of a sudden [started] e-mailing and saying, 'This is a great idea. We're excited to help.'"

Moving forward, Savio says he wants to eventually return to small business and design clothing. Then, when someone asks what brand it is, customers who identify with it can spread the word about what the company is doing.

"We're dreaming big," Savio says. "Where there's a dire need for it, we can help people. We want to make it a movement."

Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock