Tyler Greenberg ’19, Brett Segobiano ’20, and Chris Finke ’19 have always been really busy. As Notre Dame students, Greenberg was a club hockey player and volunteer for Special Olympics Notre Dame; Segobiano was a pre-med student and board member of both Special Olympics and Camp Kesem, as well as a running back on the football team his freshman year; and Finke was a walk-on wide receiver who, after earning a scholarship as a sophomore, went on to have a successful five-year career with the Fighting Irish while also earning a degree in finance.
Today, the trio is potentially busier than ever. Greenberg is serving in the Navy; Segobiano is a full-time medical student at the University of Illinois; and Finke is pursuing a career in the NFL.
But despite their impressive careers and schedules, the three college friends have one more thing to add to their extensive resumes. They manage Jake Max, an apparel company focused on amplifying the voices and artistic talents of people with disabilities.
Jake Max offers a variety of high-quality cotton t-shirts, sweatshirts, crewnecks, and hats. The colorful designs on each piece are created by Jake Max Maximizers, artists with developmental disabilities who receive 15 percent of the profits from their designs.
“While they’re going on this journey of entrepreneurship, we’re really focusing on the financial opportunities and creating those in a fun and inviting way,” Greenberg, the brand’s founder, said. “We’ve seen the impact that is made by customers all over the country wearing their designs. It’s also empowering them financially. They have the ability to feel proud of something they’ve created, and they’re learning alongside us how to run a business.”
While seven of Jake Max’s current employees are Notre Dame graduates, the company surprisingly didn’t get its start under the Dome. Instead, it began in 2016 when Greenberg was a student at the University of St. Thomas where he played hockey and ran track before transferring to Notre Dame.
In an entrepreneurship class, he was challenged to come up with a concept for a “lemonade stand business.” Family was the driving factor behind his idea which would quickly evolve into Jake Max. The Chicagoland native was inspired to start his own business by his father and grandparents, all entrepreneurs, and his mother who is an artist. However, Jake Max was most inspired by Greenberg’s twin cousins with Fragile X Syndrome — a condition which in males manifests similarly to autism — Jake and Max.
“Throughout my life, Jake and Max really exemplified how much individuals with disabilities are capable of,” Greenberg said. “I thought their name would be a good platform to share the stories and names of other people with disabilities, and ultimately allow them to join me and our team in learning how to start a business.”
It wasn’t until he arrived at Notre Dame in 2017 as a walk-on hockey player that Greenberg said Jake Max really took off. There, as a junior political science major, he met Finke in a social entrepreneurship class.
“We had to give a presentation at the end of the semester on an idea for social entrepreneurship,” Finke recalled.
He remembered being surprised to discover that his classmate was already growing a real social entrepreneurship company from his dorm room where he stored inventory and shipped out orders.
“I was intrigued from the moment I heard about it,” Finke said. “When I came to Notre Dame, I wanted to be involved with the South Bend special needs community. … I also have twin cousins, Jake and Luke, with autism, so it was kind of a coincidence there.”
Finke got involved with Jake Max as a financial analyst, a role he still fills today. Soon after, he introduced Greenberg to his former teammate, Segobiano, who was by then highly involved in Notre Dame’s Special Olympics programs.
Greenberg began volunteering with Special Olympics which brought him and Segobiano closer together. Following a football game the two organized between the Notre Dame and University of Michigan Special Olympics teams, Segobiano formally joined the Jake Max family.
“At Special Olympics, we have a big mission: promoting inclusion for individuals with disabilities,” he said. “So when I came across Jake Max, it was a really fascinating mix for me to take that mission and spread it with entrepreneurship and apparel.”
With a team built up, Greenberg, Segobiano, and Finke were ready to take Jake Max to the next level.
“Our extracurricular focus became creating this company to not only have an impact on the country and the customers but also specifically on people in South Bend and Special Olympics athletes at Notre Dame,” Greenberg said.
Through friendships forged at Notre Dame and in Special Olympics, Jake Max was able to expand and develop its Maximizers program.
“We call the artists with disabilities who we work with ‘Maximizers’ because of the idea of maximizing your potential,” Segobiano explained.
The Jake Max Team
Each month, the company features the designs of a new Maximizer of the Month selected through an application available on Jake Max’s website. Maximizers have been as young as one year old and as old as in their 30s. Artists with a variety of diagnoses — from Down Syndrome to autism to cerebral palsy — have been featured, and multiple Special Olympics Notre Dame athletes have even gotten their time in the spotlight.
“We want to give them the tools to be entrepreneurs of their own,” said Segobiano, now Jake Max’s CEO after Greenberg stepped back to accommodate the Navy’s involved schedule. “We take people’s existing skillsets and, using our website and connections, amplify those designs.”
One way they have done this recently is by pairing each Maximizer with a Champion, a mentor who has achieved extraordinary success in their field and wants to help amplify the Maximizer’s story. Champions have included primetime television actors, professional football players, and social media influencers.
“We try to connect each Maximizer with someone who reflects them and their design,” Segobiano said.
Maximizer Rosie — a teenager with multiple congenital defects, Special Olympics Notre Dame athlete, and Fighting Irish football fan — was paired with former Notre Dame offensive tackle and current NFL player Mike McGlinchey ’17 to promote her Irish-inspired shamrock design. Maximizer Lucy — a college student with Down Syndrome and aspiring business owner — has been working with entertainment entrepreneur and comedian Claudia Oshry.
Greenberg credits Notre Dame graduates and members of the Jake Max team who have excelled in fields like entertainment and sports with making these connections possible.
“The Notre Dame Network is a powerful thing,” he said.
Segobiano, who comes from a long line of Notre Dame graduates — including uncle Mike Segobiano ’80 and brother Brian Segobiano ’07 — certainly agrees.
“I heard it all the time growing up, the Notre Dame standard of excellence — ‘Go be a force for good in the community,’” he said. “Jake Max’s mission [is] to be an advocate for people with disabilities and the inclusion of this community. This call to action is how we all came together.”