Kansas City-area alumni and current KU students gathered Oct. 18 at the WeWork shared-office space in downtown Kansas City for a networking event and panel discussion with three of the city’s top entrepreneurs.
The panelists included Chase McAnulty, assoc., founder and CEO of vintage T-shirt company Charlie Hustle; Paul Francis, a’80, founder and CEO of OYO Fitness; and Hillary Philgreen, g’97, chief operating officer of Hantover Inc. and ARY Brands Inc and founder and creator of StinkBOSS. The discussion was moderated by Tyler Enders, b’11, owner of Made in KC and partner in five other retail concepts in the Kansas City area.
“These sorts of panel discussions and industry connections are a big focus for the Alumni Association right now,” Peterson said, explaining that the Association plans to launch a new career initiative, the Jayhawk Career Network, in 2018. “Programs like this in major metro markets across the country are part of that plan.”
What worked and what didn’t
Throughout the evening, the panelists answered a series of questions from Enders, as well as from several participants in the crowd, about their processes for product development and marketing, including how they secured funding, who they enlisted for help, how their prototypes were built and, ultimately, what worked for them and what didn’t.
Philgreen, a mother of two teenage boys who inspired the creation of StinkBOSS, a machine designed to dry, sanitize and deodorize shoes and athletic gear, relied on her extensive business background and made connections with other industry professionals, which proved invaluable to launching her product. She reminded participants that Kansas City offers a wealth of resources and networking opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
“You need help, there are people in this city that will help you,” she said. “You just need the concept and you just need to step forward and try.”
“Reverse engineer” what’s already been done
Francis and McAnulty used the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help fund their concepts, and they stressed the importance of having a captivating, informative video for product campaigns. Both entrepreneurs recruited local business-savvy professionals to help create their videos.
“You don’t have to do anything new,” said Francis, who patented SpiraFlex, the exercise technology that powered strength-training equipment for NASA, and also developed the Bowflex Revolution. He watched several other campaign videos before creating one for his latest product, the DoubleFlex portable gym. “You just have to reverse engineer what’s already been done, then just improve upon it.”
McAnulty, whose passion for vintage tees and textile design inspired him to launch Charlie Hustle in 2012, reminded participants that the most important lesson in starting a new business or launching a new product is to keep trying. His brand’s most popular tee and signature piece, the KC Heart design, wasn’t even on the initial roster of T-shirts when Charlie Hustle first launched.
“You learn from everything,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes, you learn from your little successes. Try to expand and grow on those. We failed on a lot of different products. Just keep going, do it.”
Watch our video below to hear from the panelists. Pictures from the event are available on our Flickr page and may be downloaded for personal use.
More than 40 alumni and 15 current students met July 18 on Michigan Avenue to learn from some of the best and brightest Jayhawk alumni based in the Windy City.
The event, Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel, featured a panel of business leaders who shared the stories of their journey with Chicago area alumni. A select number of KU Student-Alumni Network members also attended.
Bryce McMichael, d’08, Chicago Network leader, said “One of the main goals we have in Chicago is diversifying our event offering beyond watch parties for KU games and expand into the careers and lifelong learning space. This event definitely fit the bill in that regard.”
David Hoese, e’86, vice president at Goldman Sachs served as panel moderator, with Todd Holmes c’89, CEO at Liquidus Marketing and co-founder of Goose Island Beer Co., Sherry Scott j’91, president at Gagen MacDonald, and David Grossman j’89, president at Freshii comprising the panel.
“The panelists stemmed from a Presidents Club reception we had last year in which Todd Holmes suggested an event like this,” McMichael said. “David Grossman and Sherry Scott were also added due to their specific entrepreneurial experience, local ties, and fascinating life stories.”
The event was the first of a series highlighting business leaders and entrepreneurs in Chicago. The panel offered advice to students and young alumni on topics such as how to start a business and risk tolerance.
“With 15 current KU students who hail from the Chicago area in attendance, I believe they came away with inspiration and pointers on how to create your own destiny and do the work you truly love,” McMichael said. “I also hope that those who went also came away knowing that their Alumni Association can provide much, much more value than they had originally thought going into the event!”
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, president of the KU Alumni Association, echoed McMichael’s sentiments for the Alumni Association as a whole.
“We want to do more to directly connect students to industry leaders and showcase the power and reach of the KU degree,” Peterson said. “We must leverage the story of successful alumni to ensure current students have direct and constant access to a powerful network.”
Peterson’s goals were realized for Rebecca Hans, j’18, a Student-Alumni Network member who made an unexpected connection.
“I didn’t expect to know anyone [at the event] but I saw a family friend,” Hans said. “He introduced me to someone who has a connection to the military at KU. My dream job is a military psychologist where I could work with soldiers or their families and help them with mental health issues.”
“This event helped me realize that I can be successful in Chicago. Knowing that I am graduating in the spring, it is comforting to see that KU stays with you forever.”
The Lawrence Women’s Network is a new effort by the KU Alumni Association that enables members to meet for friendship, professional networking and service to the university and the association. As a division of the Lawrence Alumni Network, the group will sponsor educational, cultural and social events to further engage local Jayhawks and help us provide relevant and interesting programs.
The kickoff event is purely social: join fellow Jayhawks at Painted Kanvas, a local family-owned and operated paint and wine studio. The event will featured guided instruction to create your very own painting of the 1912 Jayhawk.
Light appetizers will be provided, and full bar service including beer, wine and cocktails will be available. Space is limited, so register online today! The cost is $35 for alumni association members and $45 for nonmembers. And, although this event is hosted by the new Women’s Alumni Network, all friends of KU are welcome to attend.
Do you have suggestions for future events or programs? Contact Tyler Rockers, assistant director of national and Kansas networks, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out to one of our local network volunteers—a list of volunteers is available here. Be sure to also join our Lawrence Jayhawks Facebook group!
Many times, members of our alumni network find themselves engaging with one another in a way that promotes personal and professional engagement. Glen Collins, c’98 , wasted no time after leaving KU to start his career as a marketing professional.
Now the marketing director and partner for Switch in Dallas, Collins sees the value of his KU experience weaving into his everyday work. Switch offers strategy, branding and digital assistance for a variety of companies: American Heart Association, Coyote Grills, Country Club Plaza, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Vim + Vigor to name a few.
We caught up with Collins to find out more about how he came to be a partner at Switch.
Tell us a little bit about your experience as a student at KU: things you were involved in, your favorite professor, your favorite traditions.
My experience at KU can be summed up in one word: transformative. The relationships, education, culture, the Midwest, Lawrence, the fraternity, live music and the cult religion that is KU basketball. It ran through my veins, and still does.
Growing up in Dallas, I knew very little about KU. Fortunately, the fraternity I joined, FIJI, on-ramped me quite well. My favorite experiences included directing Rock Chalk Revue, working at a brand new store called Hobbs on Mass Street, enjoying live music at Liberty Hall and The Bottleneck. But it’s all the filler in between that was the greatest—making friends from all over the country, reading the University Daily Kansan before class, and having awesome exchanges with professors and teaching assistants. I loved every minute of it. I had too much fun my sophomore year, and my GPA slipped so much my parents made me come home for a semester to straighten up. It was the best thing for me. I worked to save up enough money to go back, and it made me appreciate just how great it was. I never took KU for granted after that, and while I didn’t make the Dean’s List, my grades were significantly better until I graduated.
How did you meet your business partner, and how did that lead to your company?
I met my business partner, Kimi Dallman, through a friend I met at KU. That friend was Matt Dallman c’01, a great guy who was a few years younger than me in my fraternity. Matt and I originally bumped into one another at a KU Alumni Association watch party, then soon after that at an alumni happy hour. We were catching up on life and business, and he suggested that I connect with his wife, who was in a similar career as mine.
At the time, my company was a marketing consultancy supporting small to medium-sized businesses. Kimi’s company, originally Switch Creative, was a design firm focused on branding and web. A week or two later we all had lunch, and Kimi and I immediately connected and discovered the means to support each other’s businesses. We worked together for six or eight months on a number of successful projects before we started talking about merging our shops. A few months later, we merged and have grown more and more ever since. At the time of our merger, Switch had five total employees. Currently we have sixteen employees and have merged with another interactive development shop, Good Work, to grow our service offering even more.
We have had a blast running Switch, and KU is central to core of our business — both consciously and subconsciously. We’ve hosted multiple March Madness watch parties at the office, with the bell cow being Switch Sixteen (a pre-party/pep rally) that preceded KU’s sweet sixteen game in Dallas in 2013.
How do you stay connected to KU as an alumnus living in Dallas?
Fortunately I have several very close friends that I met at KU that live in the DFW area. The KU bond is real, and we often seek each other out. My best friend married a Jayhawk. One of my other best friends is on the alumni board and is very plugged in to the alumni events (watchers, happy hours, coffees). I attend as much as I can. Honestly, I would have to try to not brush up against KU friends past and present these days. And I like it that way. A lot.
What advice do you have for current KU students and graduates?
Never take it for granted. KU is a special place with a heartbeat all it’s own. It’s authentic and pure, and the relationships you develop there reflect that purity and authenticity.
For existing students: Enjoy all aspects of KU and Lawrence: slugging to class in the cold; the pageantry of game days; Day on the Hill; and the live music of Lawrence. Get a job if you can — I worked in restaurants, as an intramural referee and in a retail store. Those relationships are so meaningful to me as I was transforming from student to graduate and professional.
For graduates: Lean on the KU network. The trust tree is strong, and the reception is always warm and comfortable. Jayhawks look after Jayhawks — they really do. Seek out the community. You’re gonna watch KU hoops somewhere, so you might as well go to a watch party and do the Rock Chalk chant with strangers. Eventually some of those strangers will become relationships that are more than basketball buddies.
Tell us a little bit about the recent Dallas Network breakfast and what alumni can expect when they attend a KU event.
The Dallas Network breakfast is great. It’s very intimate and casual. You can expect to meet Jayhawks from a variety of different places, ages and careers. Often one or two Jayhawks are singled out to share their story, and specifically their business background. It’s a great time on a relational and business networking level. It will invariably lead to spin-off meetings, lunches, etc. Don’t miss it.
Last year, we announced a brand-new benefit for members: a series of online networking events that allows Jayhawks around the world to connect and chat through an online platform. Members can log in from their computer, tablet or phone, no matter where they are—the office, the couch or the coffee shop—and meet fellow alumni in a speed-networking-style chat room.
Since the first event on Jan. 29, (Kansas Day!) which was a resounding success with more than 90 attendees, we’ve held 17 additional events: chats open to all members on the third Thursday of every month, as well as several smaller events tailored to specific degrees and industries, such as communications, business or healthcare. We even hosted an event designed for student members, which paired them with alumni during the chat.
We’re exploring even more ways to make this service valuable for our members, but in the meantime, take a look at the results of our efforts last year. If you’ve participated in an online networking event, your suggestions and feedback are valuable as we plan future chats. And if you haven’t participated, what are you waiting for? The next event takes place on Thursday, Feb. 18, at noon (CST), and registration is now open.
“One thing we all have in common is our Jayhawk network,” Mark van Blaricum told students at the Student Alumni Association’s Networking Night event on October 20.
More than thirty members of SAA attended the popular event, modeled after “speed dating” events, to meet alumni, make connections and learn more about the business world.
Van Blaricum, b’99, l’02, g’08, gave the keynote address at the event, and reminded students that there are many different ways they can gain leadership skills. He has worked as an attorney in various healthcare settings since 2006, serving as the risk manager at a hospital, a compliance officer for a safety-net health insurance plan, as well as practicing law at a small healthcare firm. Van Blaricum is also a freelance ghostwriter for Inc.com and other outlets. He has a passion for health and wellness, and gives presentations on health-related topics to groups across Kansas City.
After the keynote, students had the opportunity to meet with alumni in small groups.
Other alumni who participated in the event include:
Kelli Calhoon, e’01, a senior Manager for Ramboll Environ US Corporation, who manages air quality and other environmental permitting and compliance projects for a variety of manufacturing industry clients, including power generation, oil & gas, cement, construction materials, and fertilizer manufacturing. She manages and prepares technical work and has extensive experience with business development and sales in the environmental services industry.
Mark Frutiger, b’01, an Account Manager II—Institutional Servicing for KeyBank, who manages pool loans in the Institutional Servicing group. He works with borrowers, lenders and other stakeholders to make sure loans are in compliance and operating within established guidelines. He is an advocate for the borrower and the lender.
Grant Kollman, c’10, associate director and investment sales specialist at Berkadia Real Estate Services who focuses on the acquisition, disposition, and advisement of multifamily assets throughout the Midwest.
Tom Larkin, a’09, vice president of development for Flint Hills Holdings Group, LLC, who oversees real estate development sourcing and project management for the state of Kansas and parts of the Kansas City Metro.
Mike Walrod, b’90, a consultant and business coach who helps business owners and executives gain clarity over what they want to accomplish. He collaborates with them on the critical next steps needed for success.
Jerry Younger, e’86, g’92, the deputy secretary and state transportation engineer who provides the executive day-to-day leadership for 2400 employees of KDOT. He is responsible for the effective and efficient management of a 10,000 mile state highway system as well as involvement in other transportation modes (bike/pedestrian, rail, transit, aviation). He also serves as the chief engineer for KDOT.
“As you climb the career ladder, you will be put in charge of people. Their success will depend on your success, ” explained Younger.
The first in a series of business-focused networking events for Kansas City area alumni was held June 17 at Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa. The company’s president and CEO, Scott Coons, was the keynote speaker.
Jim Brown, j’92, president of the Kansas City Alumni Network, introduced Coons, e’91, who spoke to a group of nearly 40 Jayhawks in the massive lobby of the sustainably constructed building, which boasts 240,000 square feet, a dodgeball court, amphitheater, two-story slide and full-service cafeteria for nearly 800 Lexmark employees who work in process and content management software technology.
“We have a lot of fun,” Coons said. “We believe happy employees make happy customers.”
Coons, who will retire in July, has been with Lexmark, formerly known as Perceptive Software, for 20 years. In that time, he’s learned some valuable lessons for building a successful business, including these tips, which he shared with the group:
1. Focus: Our saying around here is, “You’re not defined by what you do. You’re defined by what you don’t do.” Too many times you see project managers trying to solve the world’s problems with their product, instead of just getting the product built and finding its first customer.
2. Put in a little extra effort every single day. Don’t let something that can be done today trickle into tomorrow. Get it done today. Stay a little late or start a little early.
3. Work is never done. Too many young employees don’t know what hard work is. We have to spend a lot of time helping them understand that hard work is the first thing you have to do to be successful.
4. Prepare for a number of short races. It’s not a marathon. Win the first race and move on to the next one. You might not be around if you don’t win the race in front of you.
5. Surround yourself with winners. Give people a great deal of latitude and let them do their jobs. They will make mistakes. Mistakes are fine; they help you learn. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
6. Don’t always do what you’re told. The experts aren’t always right. Have the motivation to prove them wrong.
7. Listen to your customers. It’s hard to listen to customers when things are going wrong, but that’s when you’ll learn the most from them. Customers will tell you exactly which product to build; you just have to listen.
8. Don’t make a habit of spending more than you make. Some startups get ahead of themselves, and then they’re in a leverage position they don’t want to be in. Do your business conservatively.
9. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Happy employees make for happy customers.
10. Decide who you are and what you are, then go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. You have to make a lot of sacrifice. You have to put in a lot of hours and have a lot of support from family and friends. But if they’re in your corner, they’ll understand the time and dedication it takes to get there.
To view of a Flickr album of images from the event, click here.
Jayhawks who have stayed close to the nest in Lawrence gathered today at the Adams Alumni Center for the first in a series of networking luncheons.
A guest speaker panel included Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs for the School of Business; Cyndi Hermocillo-Legg, small business facilitator for the City of Lawrence; and Brady Pollington, c’02, vice president and secretary for the Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County.
The next networking luncheon for Lawrence-area Jayhawks will be held on Thursday, April 30. With a new volunteer board in place, the Lawrence network is excited to plan new events and programs for local alumni.
Last week, the KU Alumni Association hosted its first-ever online networking event for alumni and students. Using a platform provided by Brazen Careerist, members of the Alumni Association were able to log in to the event from anywhere in the world and connect with fellow Jayhawks.
“I really enjoyed the online networking event today and was able to connect with people from various backgrounds and areas of the world— all from my desk at lunch,” noted Ashley Backhus, j’07, a Life Member and owner of PlanMyTournament.com.
Current students who are members of the Student Alumni Association also participated in the event to help sharpen their networking skills and seek advice from alumni.
If you missed the first virtual event, don’t worry—we plan to offer additional opportunities to network online with Jayhawks!
Check out the infographic below to see some of the numbers from our first event.
We heard you loud and clear, Jayhawks—in our most recent survey of all alumni, you asked for more career services and networking opportunities as a benefit with your Alumni Association membership.
We’re excited to announce a new series of online networking events using the Brazen Careerist online platform, where members can connect and chat with each other, no matter where you are in the world.
Our first real-time event allows you to log in and choose a “booth” based on the field or industry you’re interested in, such as business, education, communications, engineering and more. You’ll be matched with another participant in that booth for 5-8 minutes, where you’ll have the opportunity to ask each other questions, share experiences, exchange career tips and build your professional network.
Think speed-networking in a virtual room full of Jayhawks.
This opportunity is only available for members of the KU Alumni Association. Not sure if you’re a member? Check a recent email you received from us—your membership status is at the bottom of the email. Or, give us a call at 800.584.2957 and our friendly staff will help you out.
If you’re not a member and want to take advantage of this opportunity, click here to join today! Or, visit www.kualumni.org/join to check out all our membership options.