For the second year in a row, a South Carolina Law student has won The Proving Ground, a Shark Tank-style business competition for student-entrepreneurs at the University of South Carolina. In March, Franklin McGuire, a third-year law student and his brothers-turned-business partners, earned the Avenir Discovery Prize, walking away with $17,500 in funding for their startup apparel company. CivvieSupply makes patriotic and military-inspired clothing with a vintage twist. The brothers — all of whom serve in the military — began the company in December 2018, quickly amassing more than 650 orders and 17,000 followers on social media.
McGuire founded CivvieSupply with his brother, Thomas McGuire, and brothers-in-law, Kane McManus and Daniel Baxa, all active duty military. From military bases in Germany to Georgia, the brothers worked through design, marketing and business challenges to get their venture started.
A Citadel graduate from Lexington, South Carolina, McGuire worked in sales before enrolling in the dual-degree J.D./MBA program offered by South Carolina Law and the Darla Moore School of Business. Believing in the value of the cross-disciplinary curriculum, he says his legal experiences have helped him develop a well-rounded approach to business, which he has applied to CivvieSupply.
“Thinking like a lawyer is sometimes an added challenge to thinking entrepreneurially,” McGuire says. “It’s this difference in perspective that helps me analyze additional elements of a business idea or decision that I might have missed otherwise.”
McGuire also credits professor Benjamin Means’ family law class as advantageous when he set up his company with his brothers.
“While the idea for CivvieSupply may have been born independently of my legal ‘toolbox,’ the legal education I've received so far has certainly proven invaluable in the implementation and execution of our business plan. I think students should take a lot more of these kinds of classes,” he says.
The School of Law offers more than 30 business law classes and features an in-house counsel externship, a nonprofit organizations clinic and a small business organization capstone course, as well as five dual-degrees with the Moore School, including the MBA, International MBA, accountancy, economics and human resources.
As for CivvieSupply, McGuire says the next steps are to expand their team, to build out a new 6,500-square-foot fulfillment center in Forest Acres, South Carolina, and to grow and diversify the company's product line. In the meantime, he will continue both his service with the National Guard and his academic studies, with plans to graduate in December 2020. Upon graduation, he will remain in South Carolina to build his business.
“Life has been pretty wild these past few years, but I know that starting businesses and building and growing brands will always be a passion of mine. I enjoy the law and the extra layer of awareness it bring to my ‘business brain,’” McGuire says.