by Ryan Cox ’18
Professors say it all the time: you are never really done with Development of Western Civilization. Chris Riccobono ’01, founder of UNTUCKIt, is one of many examples Providence College may use as proof of this statement. During St. Dominic Weekend, Riccobono encouraged students to chase their passions as he shared his story to an audience of students and alumni in the Arthur F. and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies.
Riccobono had two goals as a Friar: to develop the skills necessary for his future career in business and to play Division I tennis. Like most students, he was unsure why PC required so many core classes unrelated to his degree when he could have been dedicating most of his time to his future career.
“At first, I would wonder why I needed these Liberal Arts core components when I just wanted to study business and marketing,” Riccobono said in his presentation. “I would soon learn that [these] were uniquely blended with other subject matters. We would be taught to think, ask why, use our faith, and be a moral person.”
“As an entrepreneur,” he explained, “it’s important to know a little bit of everything. Business and marketing were not in conflict with the Liberal Arts but in harmony and absolutely essential to life itself.” He noted that faith and morals were a key feature in his Providence College education, and that “the linkage to faith and morals is what makes PC exceptional and unique.”
Riccobono was a student-athlete for all four years as he played tennis under the guidance of coach Carl LaBranche. Like most student-athletes, Riccobono learned personal discipline and drive under Labranche’s direction.
“To be a successful tennis player you need to be extremely resilient, persistent, have incredible focus and hustle, as well as have a sense of humor to stay sane on the tough days,” Riccobono said, “Coincidentally, these are all the qualities I directly attribute to my success as an entrepreneur.”
Success did not immediately come to Riccobono following graduation. After leaving PC in 2001, Riccobono worked in sales at GE Healthcare while he started an MBA at Columbia University. Riccobono graduated from Columbia in 2007 and started exploring his passions.
“I decided to launch a video wine blog called [Pardon That Vine]. I traveled around the world and interviewed winemakers and talked about wine on video. While this was fun, it did not exactly pay the bills,” Riccobono explained. He never stopped trying new ideas until finally a lasting inspiration hit him in mid-2011.
Riccobono stated, “I needed a shirt to wear untucked at the right length. I was solving a problem that I personally had, which is always the best idea.” So he began his research by sending out a survey which ultimately showed that 95 percent of 500 respondents had the same problem. Riccobono felt he had struck gold.
He spent “the next year learning about how to make a shirt, how to raise money, launch a website, and produce shirts.” He brought on a classmate from Columbia, developed a name, and launched UNTUCKIt as an e-commerce-only business in 2011.
The first brick-and-mortar store opened in Sowa, New York, in 2015. As of today, there are 15 stores nationwide, with plans to expand to 50 by the end of 2018. A store in Boston will open next week and a Providence location will open in 2018. UNTUCKIt today has since expanded, now selling men’s and women’s clothing in a variety of styles, including its original shirts, sweaters, and accessories.
Since there was a large group of students in the crowd, Riccobono concluded his presentation with some advice to those students. “You need to hustle all hours of the day. Early in your career there is nothing more valuable than work ethic,” he said. “Accept setbacks. It’s one step forward, two steps back, and you can’t get upset or flustered.”
With UNTUCKIt still growing and developing, Riccobono has been busy the last six years since founding the company. He continues, however, to think of his experiences at PC and draw from them. He explained, “I hope to come back soon to speak with PC business students who might hope to have a future in entrepreneurship.”