Q&A with Mackinsey Archer and Jonathan Harrington
2018 I2E Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup 3rd Place Winners
Picture: Flurry Float Team, Mackinsey Archer and Johnathan Harrington, are pictured with Dr. Stacey Bolin at the i2E 2018 Love's Cup competition
Mackinsey Archer, who goes by “Kinsey” for short, and Johnathan Harrington recently took 3rd place with their product Flurry Float in the 2018 i2E Love’s Cup Business plan competition in the Small Business Division. We sat down with Kinsey and Johnathan to learn more about them and their entrepreneurial aspirations.
AJF: Where did you grow up and go to high school?
K: I grew up in Choctaw, Oklahoma and I graduated high school in Choctaw.
J: I grew up in Holdenville, Oklahoma and graduated from Moss High School.
AJF: Why did you choose ECU and the Stonecipher School of Business?
K: I was originally going to go to UCO, and then my mom encouraged me to check out East Central University. We came here on a random day, it was raining and empty. But as soon as I stepped on campus it felt like this was the right choice for me. I felt like this is where I need to be. And that’s pretty much how I made the decision.
I was initially not going to declare a major, but the administration told me that I needed to. So I declared Biology just to get the science classes out of the way before I figured out what I really want to do. But I think business has always been in the back of my mind because in my previous job, I worked closely with a business owner so I was constantly exposed to that environment. I had good conversations with him about his entrepreneurship journey and it interested me.
J: I came to ECU mostly because both my parents graduated from ECU. Also, I've been interested in business since my sophomore year in high school. I had an accounting professor who I really looked up to and that’s how I fell in love with accounting and decided what I wanted to major in.
K: Johnathan being an Accounting major was very helpful for us as a team. Our majors played a role in having a good partnership.
Kinsey is a Business Administration major with a focus in Entrepreneurship and Johnathan is an Accounting major in the ECU Stonecipher School of Business.
AJF: When will you graduate from ECU? What are your plans after graduation?
K: I will graduated next year; 2019. Right now I am working on pursuing a rental homes business. I also plan to search for a full-time job in Ada. That way I can have a stable income in addition to my entrepreneurship journey.
J: I am graduating in December. Super excited about that! I am wanting to go into public accounting. After I have enough hours I will sit for the CPA exam and look forward to completing that. Hopefully I can get a job in the area but according to what opportunity comes up, I am open to moving around.
AJF: Could you describe the product you developed for the Love’s Cup? How did you come up with this idea?
K: FurryFloat is a floatation device designed for dogs. This product allows you to take your four-legged friend to the lake with you worry free. It is a floating ring developed specifically for dogs to assure their safety when swimming in deep water.
The idea came to me while my family and I were at the lake. We tried to get our dogs to spend the whole day with us, but it was clear they were exhausted from swimming and were constantly trying to get near us. We had even bought a life vest for them, but they were really uncomfortable.
AJF: Which award(s) did you win at the Love’s Cup?
J: We were the Interview winners in the product category, and placed 3rd in the Small Business division business plan competition.
K: I was also the recipient of the Paulsen Award Scholarship. It is a $5,000 scholarship that will be applied to school.
AJF: What does winning these awards mean to you? What will you do with this recognition?
K: It means a lot more financial peace than I had. I just purchased a house in April and it was a big step. So winning this, and having this opportunity really helped a lot. The scholarship will help me to pay my expenses for senior year, and that will help my family a lot.
J: Similar to what Kinsey said, the prize money from this competition will help me financially.
K: This experience has been amazing. There has been so much encouragement, not only from ECU but from the community. Also, the connections made through this competition are great. For example, one of the judges is helping me to make connections in an area I need to advance my career, and I am hopeful that his reference will open further opportunities for me. That means a lot.
J: Yes, the opportunities we had to meet business leaders and grow our network have been great. Even the connections made with people within our Ada community, who I did not really know prior to this competition, are definitely beneficial. Knowing that you have all these people looking out for you, is pretty awesome.
AJF: What are your future plans with FurryFloat?
K: I don't think I have mentioned this to Johnathan yet [laughing], but I think even though our product has the potential to be a profitable and valid business, we have to find a way to reduce the cost. We need to make some changes to the material of the FurryFloat in order to lower our manufacturing costs. Because the material we initially planned on is expensive. This is also something the judges accurately pointed out. We need to do more research and connect with industry experts in order to move forward. But yes, I mean, just through this experience I have received a lot of encouragement to pursue this business and I plan on it in the next year or so.
J: I think it is definitely something that will work, but the biggest thing I learnt from the competition is that we know a lot about why the business would work, but not exactly how it would. And I think that is the reason we did not place as high as we would have liked, because we did not have much of the 'how' figured out. So, some of those things will really have to be nailed down for me to jump into this business. Because one of our biggest issues is that the product is priced high right now. So like Kinsey said, if we can find a way to reduce the price by using some different materials, it would definitely be something to be made possible.
AJF: At Ada Jobs, we strongly believe that entrepreneurship is
key to advancing a community’s economic growth. We want to help develop local
entrepreneurs and encourage new technology and new businesses.
What are a couple of things that Ada could be doing to help you as an entrepreneur in Ada? What would you want to see here?
K: So far my only entrepreneurial experience has been with the school, but I think Ada could do a better job at marketing and promoting the resources that we currently have in the community. A big entrepreneurial summit where people can come and share their ideas and learn about what Ada Jobs and other resources has to offer, would be great. More community involvement would be good for such events.
Maybe even offer a workshop for younger high school students. Because, for me, I honestly did not even know what entrepreneurship meant until I started taking entrepreneurship classes in the business school. I did not have that knowledge until last year. I think if I had that knowledge back in high school, then that would have leveraged my journey a lot more and I would have been further ahead. Because I have always had interest, but I just did not know where they fit in.
J: I definitely agree that the marketing side of it could improve. For example, I am outside of the area and I had never heard about any of this at all until about January, before the competition! I think it would be a good idea to try to extend the reach beyond Ada. There are a lot of communities around Ada that come into play, so even if it is areas just outside Ada or even up to an hour away, a lot of opportunities are hidden there. Traditionally many of these areas have had a farming and ranching focus, but many people do not have jobs there. Getting into some of those areas and promoting entrepreneurship there would be a good strategy.
AJF: One of our plans as a part of our entrepreneurship strategy for the year is to organize a community-wide pitch competition later in the fall. Our goal with this is to facilitate the exchange of ideas between entrepreneurs and the community. What are your thoughts on that?
K: I think that is a great idea. People know about Shark Tank and they are really excited about that show. And people who do watch that show are quick to share their ideas, like ‘I wonder if people have thought about this’. And I think sometimes they don’t realize that they can make it a reality. Like, you can do it. If you see a problem and can think of a solution, then you can do it, you can fix that problem before someone else does. I understand that being in Oklahoma, and being in a small town, it is hard not to be intimidated to go out there and do that. But everybody is capable. All they need is the resources and the encouragement and they can make it if they are willing to put in the work.
J: I agree. I think it will be a good event for the community.
AJF: Another plan we have talking about is creating entrepreneurial spaces in Ada. We’ve talked about co-working spaces. We’ve talked about design labs. If there is a space like that in Ada, where you could co-work in a shared space, would that be helpful?
K: The ECU School of Business has a great facility with computer labs and that is where I have been doing all my work so far. But I am thinking about the community and myself after I graduate; I will not be able to use this facility anymore. The only option I would have is to work from home. So yes, I think a co-working space would be a great idea to have in Ada. Entrepreneurs working on side businesses would find it useful. Especially if it is open after work and school hours because that is often when most of the work happens.
J: Yes, for sure. In fact, that is kind of how Kinsey and I met; through our entrepreneurship class where we sat beside each other and from one conversation to the other, we came up with the idea of FurryFloat. That is how it started.
AJF: So, having a place for people to go meet other people would be a great opportunity to find somebody to work with?
K: Yes, it would be a great place to make connections. Like-minded people working in the same space is a great way to get conversations started. In such a space we can encourage each other and get feedback. Most entrepreneurs are that way, they want to help each other. Oklahoma is a great community for entrepreneurship.
AJF: Anything else you would like to share?
K: I would really like to thank Ada Jobs for making you (Dia Ghosh) so available to us and also for financially supporting the event. So, big thank you to Ada Jobs!
J: Definitely agree with her. You guys helped to make a lot of this possible and thank you very much for everything you did and are doing for the community. We look forward to working with you in the future.