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BY LISA CHINN MARVASHTI / University of Mary Washington

UMW alumni Robert Davis and Abbas Haider made Forbes’ prestigious “30 Under 30.” The 2018 list of the country’s top young entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers – all under 30 years old – was released earlier today.

“It’s pretty unreal right now,” Haider said this afternoon, just hours after learning he and Davis had made the publication. “We were competing with all the Silicon Valleys and everything. For just a company out of Fredericksburg, Virginia – just Rob and me – we’re super excited.”

Haider said the two had been receiving congratulatory messages from around the world.

Now in its seventh edition, Forbes’ 30 Under 30 is an “encyclopedia of creative disruption,” offering “an annual opportunity to embrace the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of youth.” The list singles out 30 visionaries in each of 20 industries, from Art & Style and Consumer Tech to Sports and Venture Capital.

Davis, 27, and Haider, 28, were named among the young leaders in the Manufacturing & Industry category, whose members are “creating the products, methods and materials of tomorrow.”

Both business administration majors who graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2012, the pair owns Aspetto, a downtown Fredericksburg company that offers high-end bulletproof clothing – think body armor in the form of suits and professional attire – for men. Clients include the U.S. armed forces, government contractors, NFL players and reality TV stars.

The life-saving Aspetto clothing line was born in UMW Professor Galen deGraff’s international business strategy class, where Davis and Haider teamed up on an assignment to invent a product or service viable in foreign markets and create a business plan for its success.

“We had a great experience at Mary Washington,” Haider said. “You don’t have to live in the most extreme, most funded, most technologically advanced areas to create something for yourself. It’s how you continue moving forward.”

Aspetto has climbed to the top of the industry, receiving recognition from such publications as Esquire and Newsweek, generating millions of dollars in revenue, and rising to the top of more than 15,000 nominations from across the country to make Forbes’ 30 Under 30.

“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster in going through the process of running our own business,” Davis said. “It’s truly exciting to have this recognition, [but] our objective isn’t going to change. Our vision isn’t going to change. We’re going to keep on innovating.”

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