Valerie Mankus Fawn Meadow Flowers
Bryant alum Valerie Mankus '08 harvests flowers on her farm, where she's grown her business, Fawn Meadow Flowers, from two garden beds to half an acre. Photo courtesy of Fawn Meadow Flowers.
From a flower farm to a brewery, these small businesses are owned by Bryant alums, students
Nov 20, 2023, by Emma Bartlett, Stephen Kostrzewa, Danny Lamere, and Casey Nilsson
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One is a winemaker; another operates a coffee roasting company; another, still, pairs mental health awareness with the enduring love of a furry best friend. Their pursuits may be varied, but these student and alumni entrepreneurs agree on one thing: Their academic and extracurricular experiences at Bryant prepared them to harness their interests into fulfilling businesses. 

Here are 6 student and alumni small business owners from the Bryant community:


Valerie Mankus ’08: Fawn Meadow Flowers
36 Main St., Kennebunk, Maine,

An Economics and Finance alum, Valerie Mankus brought her business acumen to the flower fields of Maine and never looked back. Owner and operator of Fawn Meadow Flowers, Mankus has grown from tending two small flower beds to harvesting more than half an acre of plantings for wedding clients, members of her community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and shoppers at her storefront, where she also sells artisan goods including candles, body products, and more with an emphasis on sustainability. She may have been self-taught in floral production, but Mankus credits Bryant for preparing her for small business ownership. “So much of running this business is not making bouquets,” says Mankus, who’s partner, Tom, is also a Bryant alum and a brewery owner in Maine. “Good foundational knowledge in business will take you anywhere.”


Vincent Emery ’26: The Lil’ Rhody Coffee Company

Vincent Emery speaks with customers at Bryant's Family and Friends Weekend. 

The Lil’ Rhody Coffee Company, co-founded by undergraduate Vincent Emery when he was in high school, is working to make the coffee industry more sustainable while ensuring that every cup of joe still tastes just as good. The business aims to transform the coffee landscape through advanced manufacturing techniques, streamlined supply chain processes, and the use of innovative technologies — and by sharing their insights with others. He also aims to give back in other ways, noting the company’s commitment to contributing to the local community, and creating jobs. Emery’s time at Bryant has been instrumental in shaping his approach as CTO/COO. Studying the global supply chain has enriched his understanding of logistics, procurement, and sustainable practices; networking opportunities and a collaborative learning environment are sharpening his leadership skills.


John Musto ’07: Drive Wines

What started as a passion project in his business partner’s garage has grown into an award-winning California wine company for John Musto, a Finance alum. With a focus on micro-production wines, Musto and his partner tap independently owned vineyards for grapes and produce reds and whites infused with the essence of Sonoma County. Familiar varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel are offered alongside Friulano, a crisp white with Italian origins. Oenophiles can purchase wines by the bottle or join the wine club for the latest releases shipped right to your door.  


Prashant Mehta '11: Conscious Step

We all can do our part to change the world, believes Conscious Step founder and chief executive officer Prashant Mehta ’11. Through their purchase of premium fair-trade and organic socks and other items, Conscious Step’s customers support its non-profit partners, which address issues ranging from preserving the rainforest to aiding the LGBTQ community. “Our mission at Conscious Step is focused on the awareness and accessibility of giving back in a time where sustainable practices and understanding global issues is more important than ever,” notes Mehta. The range of subjects Mehta studied at Bryant, including finance, sociology, service learning, and philosophy, prepared him to find a path that was truly his own. “There's no better feeling than putting out quality in the world, utilizing ethical business practices, and collaborating with incredible people and organizations to create change,” he says.


Cody McCormack ’13: WeHa Brewing and Roasting Company
141 Shield St, West Hartford, Connecticut,

Cody McCormack Bryant
Cody McCormack outside of his West Hartford, Connecticut, brewery and roastery.

Serving up cappuccinos, IPAs, tacos and more since 2021, WeHa Brewing and Roasting Company is a small-batch coffee roaster, craft brewery, and kitchen in West Hartford, Connecticut. Founder Cody McCormack ’13 says that in creating WeHa, he set out to create a communal gathering place that paired his passions for artisanal coffee and craft beer. “Why not have a café in the morning and a tap room at night?” he says. Fellow Bryant alum Matt Carbray ’02 helped McCormack get WeHa off the ground by providing financial resources and invaluable industry connections. The thriving local business has expanded its offerings of private events, including a Bryant alumni reception held there on November 16th.


Sam Lower ’26: The Paw’s Post 

Finance student Sam Lower has spent the past two years selling commemorative jewelry that connects a person’s mental health journey to their canine best friend. Every bracelet and necklace pendant features a semicolon with a paw print on the top half; in addition to being a punctuation mark, the semicolon is a motif advocating for suicide awareness. The Paw’s Post expresses a double-sided meaning to its collection: first, to provide eternal support to those who have battled mental illness and second, to pay tribute to the furry friends who walk beside individuals on their journey.

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