Posted on Apr 29, 2016
in Alumni News and News
Welcome to our first installment—and, we hope, not the last!—of Jayhawks in the news!
Every week, we see so many great stories floating around the interwebs that feature Jayhawks and the great things they are doing. We post them on Facebook, share them on Twitter, shout them from the rooftops—but we know that not everyone uses all forms of social media, and that even if you do, you’re likely to miss more posts than you see.
So, we plan to start a regular feature right here on our website where you can find links to these stories and learn what your fellow alumni are up to these days.
Ethan Golub, f’08, is a native of Providence, Rhode Island, who graduated with degree in music theory and then headed west to Los Angeles to study acting and comedy improvisation. He later auditioned for the Blue Man Group and has spent the past four years performing with the group. Read the full article.
Watch for future coverage in Kansas Alumni magazine about Golub.
Dr. Mylea Charvat’s tale of going from a PhD on an academic track to entrepreneur is as compelling as her product; so compelling, it’s what got her $1.5M in funding late last year. Learn how a car accident, a rude awakening about the state of medical care and a background in cognitive function research led Charvat, c’02, to launch a new company. Read the full article.
We featured a Q&A with Steven Blustein, b’09, g’11, earlier this month before he appeared on Shark Tank with his PrideBites co-founder, Sean Knecht. How’d they do? The duo scored big on the hit television show, making a deal with two investors that has helped kicked off their company. Read the full article.
And in other reality show news, alumna Brittany Harrell-Miller, c’14, was selected for a new strength and conditioning competition series that pairs contestants with professional trainers to complete challenges. Read the full article.
We profiled Meredith Chait, c’14, j’14, on our blog last year, after she spent nine weeks volunteering in Tanzania. Now, the globetrotting graduate is in Latvia on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she’s been teaching English and hockey to children for the past eight months. Read the full article.
Have you seen a story featuring a Jayhawk? Send it our way so we can include it in a future post! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shark Tank Episode 728: Sean Knecht and Steven Blustein from Austin, Texas design and customize accessories for the most important member of the family: your one-of-a-kind pet. Tune in Friday, April 8, 8p.m. on ABC. Photo from ABC’s Beth Dubber.
Imagine the pressure of presenting your life’s work before some of the world’s most influential investors. This is the feeling Steven Blustein, b’09, g’11, felt when he and his co-founders pitched their product, PrideBites, on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank last June. Nine months later, Shark Tank will feature PrideBites during its April 8 show.
PrideBites offers customized dog toys and essential pet products: beds, blankets, collars, leashes, hoodies and more. Blustein and his co-founders, fellow University of Kansas students Sam Lampe, c’12, and Daniel Lium, g’11, and Sean Knecht created the product nearly six years ago.
Many advised Blustein and his co-founders that the pet industry would be nearly impossible to get into, yet they quickly found their place with customization and quality products. Within a month of its debut in 2012, PrideBites was awarded “Best Dog Toy of the Year” by Pet Business Magazine.
We checked in with Blustein to learn more about his company and his experience with the show:
How did PrideBites come to be?
We linked up with some of our other friends to develop it [PrideBites] and start the company from scratch. I think KU is pretty influential in what we are doing and how we connected in terms of the beginning and how the environment could appeal to as many people as possible on campus, and to come together to create something fun.
What were some of the challenges you and your partners faced?
Some obstacles we faced were how we were going to find out how to manufacture the product. It was really difficult to start up with a new product, and we were really lucky to be linked up through KU with Ting Liu, an international student at the time, to identify the right factories to work with, and learning how to tell what channels the product should be in.”
What are some of your dog’s favorite things to do?
I got my dog, Mona, when I was a student at Kansas. She’s the first person to greet you at the door. Her favorite activity is sunbathing around the office. She is a part of the many other dog personalities at the office. They help make the day to day activities be less stressful.
Blustein and Mona.
What did you do when you first find out PrideBites was selected to be on the show?
I was sitting in line at SXSW and it was an 18 month journey plus nine months after filming our application. It was like ‘hey you’re going to be going on.’ I was with my girlfriend, and gave her a big hug, and called my partners because it’s been something we’ve been working on forever.
So, what’s it like to stand in front of the ‘Sharks?’
So the filming was back in June. We planned for so much and had a really good pitch, walked in and I remembered those days in college when I presented to my accounting professors. You’re really in awe of the moment when standing in front of celebrity investors. You have one chance to pitch your story to the best people of the field
Did you have any sort of game plan before coming onto the show?
We practiced more than two hundred times. We were religious about going over every single episode to see what kind of questions they ask. Three or four times a day, we would hop online to practice our pitch and go over spreadsheets. This practice is derived from KU. My old professor, Dr. Allen Ford, helped me craft my discipline. Going into Shark Tank, no one could be better prepared than my company.
What are some of your biggest takeaways from your time at KU?
Definitely my friends. I also think the experience and the type of culture that Kansas has. You’ll never be a stranger at Kansas. My degree, the accounting track and the people who helped me along my way. KU has professors who identify your talent and skills and let them come to fruition.
Do you have any advice for recent grads looking to pursue similar success?
You have a great opportunity at Kansas — stick to the resources at KU, learn from the culture there and don’t be afraid to go out and take advantage of your college time. Reach out to as many people as possible, and get connected. You only have one experience, and for my sake, it was to develop an idea, and follow my dream.
The Founders (from left to right): Daniel Lium, Sean Knecht, Steven Blustein and Sam Lampe
Watch co-founders Steven Blustein and Sean Knecht pitch PrideBites to the ‘Sharks’ on April 8 at 8 p.m. CT, and read more about Blustein and his company in a 2015 story from the KU School of Business.
— Cole Anneberg