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Monday, August 19, 2013
Young boss: Matt Benedetto

By Mike Rogge
XGames.com

Twenty-three-year-old Matt Benedetto is a busy guy. He is a one-man show, operating his 10-year-old company, Eastern Collective, out of his modest-yet-trendy downtown Burlington, Vt., office. Earlier this year Benedetto launched a line of textile-wrapped cables for various electronics -- phones, tablets, cameras -- and became something of an overnight success.

Tech and fashion blogs exploded, hailing his cables as the must-have accessory for the digitally inclined, and the company now boasts press clippings from Wired, Entrepreneur, GQ, Cool Hunting -- even Glamour. As a member of the ski community, Benedetto is bringing mountain culture to a wider audience, pushing his East Coast roots and making a splash in the tech world.

Growing up near New York City made me independent. I always did my own thing and went where I wanted to, and that helped me to make my own path. I sailed and did a lot of outdoor things.

When I was 13 years old my mom taught me how to hand-crochet hats. I started making them for friends, then created a website so kids from Newschoolers.com could tell me what they wanted their hats to look like. I'd make each one by hand and ship it out to them.

I was hand-crocheting too much. I was going to get arthritis. So I designed a line of hats that could get produced in a factory. I launched that when I was 15 or 16. I started adding other products, like apparel, pipe gloves, sunglasses and other kinds of lower-cost accessory goods, that [were] focused on the ski industry.

iPads to iPhones and anything in between: Eastern Collective styles out all your indispensibles.

I moved to Burlington to go to college and ski the better mountains in Vermont.

Saint Michael's College gave me an office space for four years. I came in as a freshman and said, "Hey, this is what I have going on." The head of the business department said, "Sounds great -- here's a space." I used that to warehouse my stuff and fulfilled orders out of it.

Two years ago, I decided to rebrand the company from EC Headwear to Eastern Collective. I'd grown up a lot as a person and I wanted the company to have a more grown-up image and a cleaner look than what I had been doing in the past.

I graduated from Saint Michael's College just over one year ago.

I was working part-time at Nordica, part-time at Fuse Marketing and one of my old professors hired me to run his political campaign for state senate in Vermont. Eventually Fuse offered me a full-time job, so I left Nordica. I was working full-time at an action-sports-focused marketing agency, doing stuff for Dew Tour, Gatorade and all that kind of stuff. It was awesome. I got to travel, meet people [and] do stuff that I would have never done on my own, and then things kept ramping up with EC.

I was working 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day [for Fuse], then 6 p.m. to midnight every day on EC. I was getting drained. Eventually I decided to leave the marketing agency. I'd been doing this since I was 13 and now I'm 23. I decided it was time to dive in and go 100 percent to make this a reality.

It's better. I have my own office and completely separate and designated room that's kind of like a warehouse. I'm not swimming in boxes all the time.

Lots of people make beanies, lots of people make sunglasses ... I want to create things that are unique and my own. The cables do that. They stand out. When anyone sees them, they say, "Wow, that's a great idea. I've never seen anything like it before." I'd like to focus more on the tech side of things, but bring in my roots from when I designed clothing.

Merging my love for the outdoors with technology creates things that people haven't seen before.

Within the last 15 years we've gone from straight skis to ones with all of the different flexes, camber, rocker ... things have changed rapidly. And now with GoPros, and we'll see where things like Google Glass are going to go and how they [are] integrated into skiing. In our daily lives, people don't go two minutes without checking their phones, social media ... it'll be interesting to see what other types of technology will be fused into the sport.