Harvard MBAs, Breakwater and Capital

With a background in mechanical engineering and a passion for his hometown of Chicago, Beau A'Arcy discovered what the Chicagoland was missing. Breakwater Chicago was envisioned by Beau and his two co-founders, Ashvin Lad and Elizabeth Bell, as a place where Chicagoans can indulge in the water landscape that surrounds our city.

We thought engineering would be the most difficult part. Then, the engineers told us it would be the easiest part.
— Beau D'Arcy

After undergraduate school, Beau's next move was receiving his MBA from Harvard University. In 2009 during an internship with the Venetian Resort, Hotel, and Casino in Las Vegas, he developed the idea of a venue that involved water, restaurants, bars and entertainment. This concept has not been developed in Chicago and after rejection from various rooftop locations, his idea spanned onto the water. 

Breakwater is a floating island of entertainment where boaters can enjoy the lake and not be stuck in the docks and marinas in the city. "I was noticing that people were not leaving their boat slips and had no destination for get-togethers outside the dock," he said. The concept would allow boaters to dock at the island and enjoy restaurants, bars, pools and, of course, the lake. But, getting the wheels to turn on his idea took some time, as well as overcoming some challenges.

What the Dignitas team loved most about Beau's story is the part that most founders don't divulge - the challenges. When we asked Beau what the process of building a business was like he said that there was difficulty in getting started. With no income in graduate school and trying to get a startup on the ground with no income created an environment where Beau had to do what he had to do.

 "I worked as an over-qualified door guy with a Harvard MBA in Old Town for a while and stayed the course," he said.  Beau stayed determined to fund his concept and in 2013 Breakwater Chicago, LLC was formed. Fast forward a year and Breakwater closes its first round of capital.  

"Coming into the Breakwater project, we thought that the engineering would be the most difficult part. After speaking with multiple engineers, it was actually the easiest. The biggest challenge proved to be finding the capital," Beau stated.

Beau's dream of a floating entertainment complex always come back to being a contribution to his hometown. Since its inception, Breakwater has been constructed to be an iconic part of Chicago. "We want to have the kind of impact on the hometown like the Bean and Willis Tower," he said. With something that has never been done before, there is always backlash. We asked Beau what advice he would give other founders and he stated, "People are wired to always gravitate toward the negatives. Take that with a grain of salt and keep pushing forward and stay the course." 

I was an overqualified doorman with a Harvard MBA.
— Beau D'Arcy

As the design stage of the Breakwater project is wrapping up, the construction phase is about to begin. This exciting time excites Beau to think about the other projects that Chicago could develop, "I hope this pushes the envelope and creates a catalyst for Chicago to create big, physical projects," he said.

Can you relate to Beau's story or want more insight about founders? We would love to hear from you! 

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