Clarkie of the Week: Justin Zay


Photo courtesy of Payton VanDeusen

Everett Beals, Contributing Writer

Entrepreneur, screen studies major, New England Patriots fan, and an unforgettable presence at Wright Hall, Justin Zay (’24) is all these things and much more. Many on campus have come to know Justin for making a profitable business out of his ramen delivery service. In this edition of Clarkie of the Week, The Scarlet sat down with Justin in a Zoom interview to discuss his GoRamen business, his overall interests, how the pandemic has impacted his education and social life at Clark University, and a range of other topics!


Scarlet: Hi Justin! It’s me, Everett, on behalf of the Scarlet. How are you doing today?

Justin: I’m doing pretty good, I spent the majority of the morning cleaning my room – which is kind of a daily affair because if I neglect it for like, a day, it becomes a complete warzone – so, yeah, other than that it’s been a pretty chill day.


Scarlet: Sweet! Alright, well, since you’re Clarkie of the Week, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself.

Justin: About myself. Let’s see – so I guess I’m a very spontaneous person, it goes with me because I have ADHD so my mind is always all over the place. That allows me to be very impulsive.I think that’s why I’ve been able to create this ramen business successfully because I’m used to being all over the place. I also love meeting new people and I like to think of myself as a social butterfly. I’ll be hanging out with someone and then I go to deliver ramen and I’m just gone for 30 minutes because I get distracted and get completely sidetracked – which is bad in a lot of situations, but it’s how I meet new people and that I enjoy. Other than that, I like football. I play football and organized a group chat – which you’re a part of – and I like to be creative. I like to film videos, which is appropriate as a member of the Screen Department.


Scarlet: Is that your major track you’re part of? You said you’re a member of the Screen Department?

Justin: Yeah! I plan on majoring in screen studies and minoring in marketing.That’s actually how I ended up in the entrepreneurship class because it’s required for my minor. I’ve always loved watching movies and making movies, and that’s kind of what led me here. My grandfather actually is a film professor at the University of Milwaukee. I believe he’s kind of sent me down this path too.


Scarlet: Did Clark stand out to you for the major that you wanted? What was it that drew you here?

Justin: I actually visited here only weeks before the whole country got shut down because I have family that lives in Natick. I got the opportunity to sit down with Professor Manon and to meet and talk about the Screen Department because I had expressed interest in it before. I was really impressed by just how smart that man was and what he told me about the curriculum and seeing the Traina Arts Center. I was really impressed and really excited about it. Once I visited the school I was like, “I know I’m going here.” Just because – I know everyone says they “love the Clark community,” it’s kind of cliché– but every experience I had while visiting was positive. So I knew it was the right choice.


Scarlet: So was it one of those “a-ha” moments?

Justin: Yeah, I applied to Clark late actually. My mom is the college guidance teacher at my high school, and she said, “oh, there’s this school in Worcester” – because I was looking at New England schools and my family’s from New England.I’ve always wanted to go to school here because it’s kind of where I belong as a Patriots fan because Pennsylvania isn’t an ideal environment. I think that meeting [with Professor Manon] was when I really knew that I wanted to come here because I was really impressed by what I saw and what I learned from it.


Scarlet: Yeah, and I’ve known you for almost two months, but where in Pennsylvania are you from?

Justin: So, I’m from about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, it’s a town called Phoenixville. Some random fun facts about it: it has the most breweries per capita of any town in the United States. Whenever someone wants to complain about Phoenixville, they say, “No more breweries! We need more coffee shops!” But it’s a really cool town and I think I’m very lucky to live there and not like in the middle of nowhere parts of Pennsylvania. There used to be an old steel mill there and my parents got our house after it shut down, and there was a massive recession – but everything took a positive turn and a lot of art galleries came in and now it’s a really vibrant little town that stands out.


Scarlet: Sweet, yeah – I do know where King of Prussia is and that’s close, right?

Justin: Yeah, the King of Prussia Mall is what everyone knows about, but it’s hell in there I’m telling you. I’ve gotten lost and had to walk in a massive circle and pass the same thing three times before realizing I was lost.


Scarlet: So, you dropped GoRamen earlier and it’s pretty clear you’ve made a very concerted effort to get involved on campus, despite the pandemic going on. The GoRamen signs are hard to miss, so let’s start there.When did that business start and how has it been going?

Justin: It’s been going very well. I started off because of the entrepreneurship class I’m taking and the first assignment was to start a business with a dollar and run it. When I first heard about this I was super intimidated by it and we had to spend 4-6 hours working on a presentation for the next class. Basically, I procrastinated a lot because I didn’t have any ideas and then on Sunday at like 11 o’clock I thought “What am I doing?” because all day I had been saying “Sunday’s the day, I’m going to figure it out.” I had this original idea and it wasn’t very good – then I thought, “Ok, so I have all this ramen in my room. It’s free, it’s mine, and I need to show something.” So I just grabbed one of my friends. I got Robbie from upstairs, had her photoshop me into a massive cup of ramen, called it “Justin’s Ramen” and then put those signs up and got $40 in the first night. I only spent like one dollar – and a few in donations from my friends for chopsticks – and it was really successful, and I was really pleased. The next day, my friend Ben who lives next door said “Hey, I’ll make a website for you so people can order online and we can work out a profit cut.” So the next day we had a rebrand and created this GoRamen brand which quite a few people know about which I’m very happy with. We’ve been working together on this and it’s been going really well. I have a ton of fun doing it and I’ve met so many people – so many people who I would never become friends with otherwise through this – because I deliver ramen at like 2:30 in the morning, or even 4 a.m., and meet a new person and get their number so they can pay me and it’s super cool. It’s such a great opportunity and I’m so glad I’m a part of it.


Scarlet: Is Ben still on your payroll? Do you have employees? And you had that merger as well, right?

Justin: Yeah, so one night I went out to go get some food with some friends and got a bunch of orders I couldn’t fill. When I got back, they didn’t want it anymore because it was, y’know, an hour later. I thought, “Oh God! I’m losing money! I want employees and just bring in money.” So I made an Instagram story to ask if anyone would work for us, but I realized that it was impossible to do it efficiently and we gave up on having delivery people. But my employees would be: Ben, my number one – he does the website and the behind-the-scenes – he helps me with the graphic design because I’m very bad at that. And then we merged with Clark Candygrams, with Mary and her business – she’s a classmate of mine – and though we’re still separate businesses, we have a mutually-beneficial situation. I promote her business, with the product on my website – when someone orders, I let her know and she handles delivery. There’s also Philly, he works with Mary, and does deliveries in Wright, because she lives in another building. And also Bella – she draws the cute little logos for the ramen cup and the macaroni for the website. But it’s a very small business.


Scarlet: Do you plan to continue GoRamen after the class ends?

Justin: I do, yes. I’ve had so much fun doing this. It’s such a great experience, so I do plan on continuing after class. It does end this semester, so if I were to continue it’d be next spring, but I want to do that. It’s such a unique experience that a lot of people aren’t given, so I want to take advantage of that.


Scarlet: Are there any other activities you’re a part of other than that? Any extracurriculars?

Justin: So, the ramen does take up basically 100 percent of my time. So I don’t have much free time. But I have made an effort to volunteer for an organization called “Back to Blue PA,” the Democratic committee with my home state, which is a swing state, so I thought I’d do some work for them. I’m volunteering Mondays and Tuesdays and doing text banking – I tried phone banking, and it’s not my thing.


Scarlet: Yeah, I did that in June for a senate candidate in my home state of Maine. The calling itself isn’t super fun, though I didn’t mind talking if someone actually answered.

Justin: Sure, as soon as people would answer, I’d think, “What do I say?”. It was terrible. Other than that, I haven’t joined any clubs yet. I was looking at the beekeeping club though and that looks cool.


Scarlet: How have you been navigating the pandemic? How has it impacted your education and your student life?

Justin: I think I’m really fortunate that I picked Clark. I think despite the general restrictions we have, the experience at Clark has been very “normal,” I think, in a way. Classes are different and it’s different when you’re on Zoom – every single class I have is on Zoom, it just changed – but you get in this pattern of waking up and going to class just a few minutes later. That’s kind of strange to me because you expect to wake up and have your whole morning routine and then I would have to walk to Traina, but since it’s on Zoom I just do it in my room. I think that’s a big difference. But socially, I think I’ve had a very positive experience despite the pandemic. I’ve been able to adhere to the rules, with masks and everything without having to sacrifice having friends. I was surprised about that because when I first heard about all the rules I thought I’d really struggle with meeting people and meeting friends – but that wasn’t the case. I think the pandemic hasn’t had as many negative effects on my education and my social life here as I anticipated.


Scarlet: I definitely agree. I’m very thankful for having chosen Clark for that reason among many others.

Justin: Because they handled it so well.


Scarlet: With that, and probably a lot of luck too, we’re still here so that’s nice.

Justin: Definitely. All the schools I was choosing between are all just closed down. I went to a small high school and the kids were all really talented, smart students. Some are Ivy League kids and everything’s online for them. They don’t even get to go back to their campus. So I’m so pleased that I lucked out and picked Clark and we’re here.


Scarlet: Yeah, it’s a good thing the University of Florida denied me – that would’ve been bad.

Justin: Yeah.


Scarlet: So, it’s unclear if we can actually draw a line and say that the pandemic is over, but is there anything you’re really looking forward to doing once campus life returns to “normal,” whatever that means to you?

Justin: Yes, I’m not entirely sure about what kinds of things Clark will offer once campus life returns, but one thing I really miss is going to the movie theater. That was my favorite thing to do. The Regal Cinemas at home had this thing where you could pay $24 and get unlimited tickets to movies and me and my friend got them together. We would go to the movies every single weekend. Sometimes more than once to take full advantage of it. It was so much fun – I saw every new movie. I’m kind of bummed there’s not that same opportunity anymore, but I do look forward to going to the movie theater again. Besides that, I definitely want to join a football club, an official one – I know all the contact sports have been suspended because of COVID. And also just general campus activities, I think. I want to broaden my college experience beyond social events in my dorm. And in-person classes of course. I don’t have any in-person classes and I think there’s a much more personal connection to the professor when you’re in a classroom as opposed to being on a computer.


Scarlet: Hopefully soon some more performance and visual installations in Worcester will open. Before we close, I saw a lot of the previous Clarkie of the Week articles asked this question, so I’ll ask you as well. If you were a food, which would it be?

Justin: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious what I’m going to pick for this one. It’d be a cup of ramen!


Scarlet: Yeah, I thought that might be what you would say.

Justin: Yeah, I feel like it’d be inappropriate for me to pick anything else other than that just because I’m ramen boy” from Wright.


Scarlet: That’s your thing! Any other closing thoughts?

Justin: Sure, one thing I thought was funny, that kind of shows just how much I’m enjoying Clark: when I’m talking to my friends here and I’m on my way home– “home,” I refer to my dorm as home. A lot of people think that’s really strange, but I just started calling it that. This is my new home and I’m not looking forward to going home to my Pennsylvania home because in the winter because I’m having so much fun here. I hope to return in the spring.


Scarlet: Alright, well, thank you so much for sitting down with me! I definitely have enough to sift through now. I really appreciate it Justin, congratulations again– and recognition to whomever your secret admirer is, who put your name down.

Justin: Yeah! I was really excited when I heard. Thank you!