While pursuing his bachelor’s in business administration at Lindenwood University, Martin O’Brien (’08 and ’09) had aspirations to make his living playing golf. He earned his MBA instead and now runs a successful oyster business at his native Prince Edward Island, Canada.
O’Brien was a competitive golfer in high school and came to Lindenwood, sight unseen, after being recruited by Roger Ellis, who was head golf coach at the time and is now dean of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business & Entrepreneurship.
“I’d heard good things and did research,” O’Brien said. “It worked out pretty well. I was happy there.”
Golf, not business, was his dream at the time.
“As an undergrad, I wanted to go pro,” O’Brien said. “I got to a point where my game wasn’t where I needed it to be.”
At the same time, many of his older teammates were continuing at Lindenwood to pursue their MBA degrees.
“I hadn’t considered a graduate degree, but I took Roger’s (Ellis) advice and went for it,” he said.
O’Brien completed the MBA in 2009, finishing in three terms instead of the normal five. A year later, he decided to buy into the Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company, which his parents started in 2007.
“In 2012, we bought a processing plant, which allows us to sell directly to consumers,” O’Brien said. “It took off after that.”
Today, Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company has seven to eight employees and produces a half million oysters a year. O’Brien said he concentrates on growing oysters, which is a three-year process.
While many people may envision the Gulf of Mexico when they think of Oysters, O’Brien said it is a big business in Canada.
“In the province, there are 3,000 people employed in the industry,“ he said.
O’Brien said his business education proved valuable to the company in what he called a very traditional, “old-fashioned” field, providing a fresh perspective, particularly when his family was putting together a business plan and looking for financing. These days, he is hoping to grow the business organically, increasing production and expanding.
“We’re looking at working with other growers to sell their product,” O’Brien said, “maybe work up to a million oysters a year.”
He still keeps in touch with Ellis, and he has not given up golf, winning the PEI Open four times from 2010 to 2014, as well as the Price Edward Island Amateur Championship in 2013. He has competed in the Canadian National Championships 10 times, going back to 2004.
“I still like to compete,” he said. “I enjoy that quite a bit.”