John Cascarano ‘01 is a serial entrepreneur who started off his career by helping to found media company Mental Floss.
Cascarano came to Duke thinking he would study a pre-medicine track, but his freshman year Focus Program, centered on the theme “Athens in the Golden Age,” gave him “the itch to do something different.”
He decided to major in English instead. Also during his freshman year, he met Mangesh Hattikudur and Will Pearson, who would later become his Mental Floss co-founders.
“I don’t think I decided to become an entrepreneur,” Cascarano said. “I think the circumstances decided it for me.”
The circumstances were this: Pearson and Hattikudur wanted to start an on-campus magazine. Cascarano was an English major, and he was tasked with providing written content for the magazine. So Mental Floss was born.
After graduation, Cascarano and Hattikudur stayed in Durham waiting tables and trying to sustain Mental Floss past its campus magazine origins.
“We had no money,” he said. “It was one of the scariest feelings.”
But about nine months later, he said, he “chickened out” and went to law school.
Although he continued to write for Mental Floss while in law school, he was much less involved in the company’s operations. He met his wife in law school, and he and his wife were lawyers for five years.
Cascarano eventually became unhappy in his job, but it wasn’t until the financial crisis that he was spurred to jump back into entrepreneurship.
Rather than risk a layoff, he launches a beauty products e-tailor called Lock & Mane, where he both sold products from other brands and created his own brands.
Cascarano sold Lock & Mane after six years, but he retained the brands he created under the e-tailor and continues to work on them today. His brands are Fresh Dog, a dry shampoo for dogs, and Tame the Beast, which features beard care and other products. He also sells products for women under the brand Michael Lorin Reed.
He also works on Fashionable, a company started by a Duke MBA that sells beautiful products by women who have overcome. Because Cascarano liked the company’s mission, he agreed to be its temporary e-commerce director, helping to double Fashionable’s revenue.
Cascarano has found success with his brands by finding holes in the market – that is, seeing needs for specific products in the market and then launching those products.
“Coming from the age of Facebook, you may feel you need to hit home runs to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “But you can also find success hitting singles.”
To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.