“Anyone over 30 will tell you that you need to go to school,” 20-year-old Jake Schmigelski said.
Unlike the friends he left behind, former Stony Brook University student Schmigelski is no longer going to class in Frey Hall and studying for tests in Melville Library this semester.
Instead, his business, Gale International Trading LLC, a brokerage and distribution company serving the food industry, is now his full-time job. Schmigelski dropped out of Stony Brook University this semester to run Schmig’s Supply Co., the Gale division that handles distribution.
“I’m never going back to school,” Schmigelski said.
He originally chose Stony Brook to stay close to his hometown of Melville, Long Island, as his business had been strictly brokering back then.
“All of my mentors, family friends are all saying to go back to school,” he said. “If you are not in school, it is kind of a sink or swim type feeling. It’s like I have to make this work because I don’t have a degree to fall back on.”
Schmigelski said most of the classes required at Stony Brook may have broadened his mind, but they were not the path to his goals.
As a student, Schmigelski studied business accounting. He currently mentors students with their business plans at the Innovation Center at Stony Brook.
“Accounting is something I use every single day; it is the most important thing I learned at Stony Brook,” Schmigelski said. “That’s all that helped from school, and that’s why I stopped.”
He said having a degree is ingrained in people’s minds as necessary, and people think they will not be respected if they do not have one. However, Schmigelski dismissed this sentiment.
“Quite frankly, I don’t necessarily care if people respect me,” he said. “I respect myself a lot more now that I am sitting in my own office at 20-years-old.”
He started his own company in January 2013. His business plans were in the works even earlier, starting when he was 16. He brought on his old high school friend and former brokerage partner, Connor Quinlan, also a 20-year-old college dropout, as his business partner.
“We’ve definitely hit some road bumps along the way, but have had a lot of excitement too,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan was a student at SUNY Brockport until this semester.
“I don’t plan on going back to school, either,” Quinlan said.
Schmigelski first started distributing the summer of 2014. The company’s main customers are bodegas, gas stations and grocery stores. He has gained close to 200 customers over the past year.
Distribution is different than brokerage because distribution is buying and selling. It requires a warehouse and delivery trucks, rather than just being a sales representative.
At 16 years old, Schmigelski was a Citibank intern. He was offered an opportunity to come back every summer until he graduated college and to then get a managerial job at Citibank. But he realized he did not like working for anyone else.
“I like sitting at my own desk, in my own office,” Schmigelski said. “I don’t particularly like taking orders from anyone.”
At the same time, he was brokering for Divine Brine Pickles, a local gourmet pickle manufacturer, selling to farm stands. He continued to improve his inventory and to sell to larger clients.
“My first warehouse was a storage unit, 100 square feet, then I moved to 750 square feet,” Schmigelski said. “And this is my third warehouse in one year; it’s 1,000 square feet.”
He tried brokering a variety of materials like metal and construction products under Gale International Trading LLC, but nothing quite stuck until he started brokering food.
“I just wanted to sell, sell, sell, sell,” Schmigelski said. “I didn’t know it would end up being a food company.”
Schmigelski could have waited to graduate to launch his business even further if he had stuck with brokerage, but distribution involves delivery, which is more labor-intensive. Once he started distributing with Schmig’s Supply Co., school was too much for him to handle.
When asked to list the qualifications for being an entrepreneur, he listed luck, an excellent work ethic and both mental and physical strength.
“You have to be able to withstand working 36 hours straight and lots and lots of people telling you that you’re too young to do this and to go back to school,” Schmigelski said.
In distribution, there are no Sundays off. A typical day starts at 6 a.m. so that Schmigelski can get to the office and load up the trucks by 8 a.m.. After driving around Long Island and Queens all day, he gets back to the office around 9 p.m.. He then runs the invoices for the day and plans the following day’s deliveries, only to repeat the process again the next day.
“I backed myself into a corner in that I have to make this work,” Schmigelski said. “Put 100 percent of your money into your idea. It may not be the most responsible thing, but will definitely make you work a lot harder. And that is sort of what I did.”
Schmigelski said he hopes the young company will continue expanding and bringing on new clients every month. They plan on hiring their first delivery person in the near future as well.
“I must make this work,” Schmigelski said. “I have to make this work.”