Drury grad turns passion for design, business and travel into career

By Jessie Roller

A master’s degree in business, another master’s degree in architecture, plus a passion for travel led 2013 Drury graduate Danny Collins to become a successful entrepreneur, launching his new company, Project Latitude, at age 28.

While at Drury, the Springfield native earned his undergraduate degree and both master’s degrees all in six years – no easy task given the rigorous nature of the programs. He recently returned to Drury to speak to business and architecture students about his ever-changing career path.

After graduation, Collins landed a job at an architecture firm in New York City. After working there three years, he realized the corporate world of architecture just wasn’t for him and he began forming the idea of combining the two passions in his life, architecture and travel, into what became Project Latitude.

Collins in Guatemala with the Waxpi duffle bag.

Collins in Guatemala with the Waxpi duffle bag.

“I’ve always been a person that desired to be a larger part of something small rather than a small part of something large,” Collins says. “I am a firm believer in passion in the workplace and the concept of living to work not simply working to live.”

Collins founded Project Latitude with his partner and friend, Javier Roig. Its products fund needed improvements in small towns and communities within Latin America, and potentially around the world. Each unique product is solely created in these communities, with earnings going back into the communities funding needs such as infrastructure improvements. Volunteers who travel to the community do much of the physical work.

Project Latitude has seen initial success with its first project and product: the Chaski backpack made in Ecuador. It began as a crowd-funded project on Kickstarter. A second product, the Waxpi duffle bag, is also made in Ecuador.

Collins describes the brand identity as “the urban adventurer.”

Danny Collins

“These will be items for the person who has an office job from 9-to-5, but also likes to get out and do some exploring,” he says. The products will continue to be made and produce revenue for its community even after the Project Latitude team of volunteers complete their improvements.

Collins attributes much of his success to Drury. “The liberal arts program was very fitting for someone like me,” he says, “where I could learn what it was that I wanted to do, but I didn’t have to go straight in having no other choices than the degree I had chosen.”

In addition to tackling two master’s degrees while in school, Collins was also a member of the men’s soccer team and was involved in the vibrant everyday life Drury offers. He says that intense blend of opportunities led to his desire to combine many different concepts into one career — which was really the underlying idea of the company.

During his recent talk with Drury students, Collins encouraged them not to settle for just any job, but instead to go out and find what they truly love and then make it into a career.

He also advocated for all students, and people, to study business in some way.

“The world is a business and everything we do is a business, in some fashion or another,” he says.

The Chaski backpack

The Chaski backpack

Collins says his MBA has helped him immensely with his business, and in his personal life. His business knowledge has been helpful to him with issues such as mortgage agreements, for example, which is why he believes business education can benefit everyone, no matter their career.

Collins and Roig have big dreams for their company. They hope to one day have their own Project Latitude storefront, but for now they are working on placing products into existing retail stores, such as 5 Pound Apparel in Springfield (a boutique business started by another Drury graduate, Bryan Simpson). The goal is to sell about 50 percent of their products at retail and the other 50 percent on their own online platform.

But the true endgame is about more than sales.

“The goal for Project Latitude would never be to just sell products,” Collins says. “We want it to be a lifestyle brand and a lifestyle in a community of people who just want to do cool things and do some good while they’re doing it.”

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