Passion for the Great Lakes Inspires Michigan Teen's Entrepreneurial Spirit
Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
MUSKEGON, MI - The Great Lakes are "Always fresh. Occasionally frozen."
That's the tag line of a new Muskegon-based apparel company founded in July 2017 by Muskegon Catholic Central High School student Jackson Riegler, 17, of Muskegon.
He named his company Oshki, which means "fresh" in the Ojibwe language. Ojibwe tribes lived primarily in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ontario, Canada.
Riegler's passion for the Great Lakes and potential cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative fueled his business plan. He donates 5 percent of Oshki profits to the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
In March, President Donald Trump sought to cut $50 million from the $300 million in 2017 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds to help pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The 2017 funding was saved, and a U.S. House 2018 budget bill introduced in July included $300 million in GLRI funding.
"They don't know what it's about or what it means to people around here," he said of the Trump Administration's proposed cuts to Great Lakes funding.
Riegler has made one donation to the Alliance for the Great Lakes so far - after less than a month in business - for $150.
"It's going really well - better than expected," he said of his business. "I can't complain."
He visits Lake Michigan every day to "appreciate the blessing we have in these lakes."
The soon-to-be high school senior lives near Pere Marquette Park beach in Muskegon. One of his favorite beach activities is early-morning paddle boarding.
The four Oshki shirt designs pay homage to Lake Michigan with the main logo being a sunset over water enclosed in a circle. The shirts come in uni-sex sizes from small to extra extra large, and range in price from $21.99-$31.99.
Oshki is currently only available online. Most orders come from the Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Grand Haven areas, with some coming from Chicago, Wisconsin and Traverse City.
The Great Lakes are "something I've always cared about," Riegler said.
As a high school freshman, he wanted to be a marine biologist. That year, he interned at the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute.
Later, he became interested in business. A business class at Aquinas College inspired him to come up with business ideas that applied to his passions. Oshki was conceived during February 2017.
Riegler saved money from landscaping and lawn care work throughout the summer to launch Oshki.
His goal is to attend the University of Michigan to study business administration.