On March 24, Jack Murray, a VM-2 in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, competed and was named the winner of the 2021 MU Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator Competition and the $15,000 prize in startup funding. The campus-wide competition began last fall with a pool of applicants from across multiple disciplines and was narrowed down to just 10 students. The 10 who were chosen to compete in the finals, which was held at the Bond Life Sciences Center, also participated in an EQ eight-week education program, which provided them with workshops and mentoring from entrepreneurial leaders, investors and experts in preparation for the final.
Murray praised how helpful the program was for the competitors. “Over the eight-week course we learned about defining our customer segments, how to interview customers and what they want in your product,” said Murray. “I interviewed 86 urban dog owners from across the country, and they helped me define the price and what they are looking for in a dog crate. We also had classes in ideation and problem solving, prototyping, the legal aspects of your business and financing your venture. The mentorship provided from the entrepreneur department has exceeded my expectations and has given me connections that are invaluable. The entrepreneur department has been more than welcoming, and the transition to learning this whole new world was easier than I thought. They want you to do well and succeed, and that was something that was different for me.”
Murray’s venture idea, Murray Kennel Company, is a space-saving dog kennel that folds up against any wall in three steps. It is similar in concept to a Murphy bed. Murray says that the inspiration for his idea, which he began working on in March 2021, came from needing to save space in his apartment.
“I’m a poor graduate student who lives in a small apartment with roommates,” Murray said. “With my busy schedule I wouldn’t always have time to go to the gym and work out, so I’d do a quick workout in my room. The kennel was always in the way, and after going through the process of putting up the kennel, pinching my fingers and getting frustrated a few times, I decided to look up something easier. There wasn’t really a product that could fold up and get out of the way quickly, so that was the idea and motivation behind it.”
Murray made an important change to his project since the prior round of competition in November. Murray Kennel Company now has a partnership with The Purple Leash Project, an organization that assists domestic abuse shelters become pet friendly to facilitate keeping domestic violence survivors and their pets together. Through this partnership, Murray will donate 10 percent of profits from each crate sold, as well as physical dog crates, to shelters in need.
Up next, Murray will compete in the Southeastern Conference Pitch Competition at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, April 3-5. He and Greg Bier, the executive director of MU entrepreneurship programs, and will fly down for the competition.
Murray says he is proud to be able represent the skills that CVM students possess. “There isn’t just one way to be a veterinarian,” says Murray. “Libby Martin won the whole thing a few years ago. We’re a catch-all group and we’re hard-working people.”
In the competition’s three years of existence, Murray is the second CVM student to take home the $15,000 prize. In 2019, Libby Martin, now a fourth-year veterinary student, not only won first place in the MU Entrepreneur Quest competition, but she also went on to win first place in the UM Systemwide competition, which is not being held in 2022.
By Nick Childress