When Ray Fraser, ’11, graduated from the University of Richmond he told his friends he wouldn’t be back until he felt he had something that was going to change the world. After founding Tree Sleeve, a “buy one give one” reusable cup sleeve company, Fraser thinks he will have a great homecoming.

Tree Sleeve’s mission is to put an end to deforestation by planting trees in areas of the world most affected by deforestation. Currently for every Tree Sleeve sold a tree is planted in Ethiopia. To date over 500 trees are scheduled to be planted in the coming months.

Founded earlier in 2013, Tree Sleeve is Fraser’s second start-up venture. While at the Robins School of Business, he partnered with a few classmates to start an online course registration system which didn’t take off as expected. “After graduation I became a recluse in my parents’ attic, determined to find my next passion project,” Fraser said. “I didn’t care how long it would take as long as I found a way to make an impact on the world through my knowledge of business that would be sustainable for years to come. 

A year later, Fraser developed the idea for Tree Sleeve after spending time in a coffee shop and witnessing how many coffee sleeves were being thrown away. “It all seemed so wasteful,” he said. “I went home and did some research and realized how much of a problem single use items such as coffee sleeves are and how much waste they produce.”

Fraser decided then to start his company, and wanting to find a unique way to make the issue of deforestation resonate with coffee shop patrons, he focused on Ethiopia. “Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee, yet is also one of the most deforested places in the world. I felt if we were to impact the world through our tree planting, here was where to start,” he said.

While Fraser is working toward a great cause, his journey has not been without challenge.  “What has been most difficult about this experience is rising from failure. I try to succeed at everything I do and to pick myself up after taking a misstep is something that can’t be taught, you have to experience it,” Fraser said.

One of his mentors since his time at the Robins School has been Assistant Professor of Management Dr. Jeff Pollack. “Dr. Pollack’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship course really paved the way for me after college. Entrepreneurship is hard work and you have to have the proper background in order to be successful. The Robins School provided me with a firm understanding of what it takes to succeed in business,” he said.

“The Robins School opened my mind. I had great teachers and amazing peers who came from all different walks of life and were able to provide me with such different perspectives. It’s what I love most about Richmond,” Fraser said.

As for his future, Fraser is looking forward to meetings and partnerships with non-profit organizations and investors to continue growing Tree Sleeve. He also hopes to continue providing aid to Ethiopia and other struggling countries saying, “I’ve got a long way to go but with what I’ve learned and my passion for this project, I know I can accomplish my goals.”