Dividend
Alumni News

First Person: Passions, Pivots, and a Partnership Born at Michigan Ross

By Nico Millado, BBA '16

The early fall air is warm in Ann Arbor, and the Diag is buzzing with students darting to and fro. It’s freshman year 2012 and I’ve made it a point to join every student organization that piques my curiosity. From classes to club meetings, there’s no shortage of new friendships and introductions. 

Tonight’s meeting is for OptiMize, a student org for social innovators and entrepreneurs. I take an empty seat at a table where there’s another kid drumming a beat with his pencil. Eager to meet yet another student, I introduce myself and he replies with a friendly, “Hi, I’m Pat.” 

One year later, the fall air is electric with the excitement of football season. The stadium tunnel is dark and the Michigan Marching Band begins playing their pregame music. They begin to march as the songs meld with the roar of an immense crowd drawing closer. At the end of the tunnel, the floodlights hit and we follow the Marching Band, taking the field as Michigan’s Varsity Cheer Team. As sophomores, Pat McCloskey and I now find ourselves teammates on the cheer team. 

We would go on to win three national championships together as Michigan cheerleaders and, in 2016, Pat and I graduated as classmates from the Ross School of Business. Pat left immediately for the Bay Area to pursue a job with Cisco Systems (eventually moving to Google), as well as to continue his career as a musician. I hopped on a one-way flight to Bangkok to take a gap year exploring Southeast Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Afterward, I found myself moving to Chicago with a modeling contract. 

Three years after graduation, Pat and I had the chance to catch up with each other over a bowl of pho in Chicago’s Chinatown. It was the end of 2019 and the year had been an exciting roller-coaster ride for both of us. Pat had quit his job at Google in order to be a full-time musician, touring and playing shows all over the country as the lead singer of First in Flight. And I had modeled for brands like Nike, adidas, and even saw my face as Scorpion in the latest Mortal Kombat videogame – all while continuing to travel the world. 

We traded stories and I mentioned to Pat that in 2020, it was my goal to launch an e-commerce business. The name and the product were yet to be determined, but I had an idea and, by the end of the night, we had a partnership. 

A few days later, we rang in the new year and began our venture building an online business from the ground up. We leveraged the education we had acquired as Ross students, yet there was no shortage of new skills to be learned and problems to solve. Finally, in March of 2020, we introduced Atlas Jewelry Co. to the world, and the real work began. 

What followed was (and is) a constant journey of problem-solving, learning, and growing. With his experience at Cisco, Google, and in marketing consulting, Pat is able to handle all things marketing and advertising. From building out ad campaigns, to email marketing, to web design and coding, to app integration, Pat drives the back-end business logistics of growing an e-commerce brand. 

At the same time, my photography and design skills, network of models and influencers, and experience in the fashion industry allow me to focus on the creative assets and branding. From product design, to content creation, to supply chain and fulfillment, my focus is on bringing Atlas – and our ideas – to life. 

We have shipped off more than 1000 orders worldwide and achieved a 50x ROI as a two-man team. Our history as friends, classmates, and teammates has been a major key to our success as business partners. With our complementary skill sets and ability to rely on and challenge each other to innovate – even amid a global pandemic – Atlas continues to grow as our passion project. 

With just over a year under our belts, we’re looking forward to expanding our team, growing our brand, and continuing our pursuit as artists, partners, and friends.