For Jack Murray, a VM4 at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, what started as an innovative idea during the COVID lockdown has become a fledging business. While pursuing his veterinary studies remotely, Murray found himself confined to the same four walls of his apartment for most of the day with his dog, Heidi, nearby. Wanting to free up room in his apartment, Murray came up with an idea for a space-saving dog kennel.
Murray introduced his concept, Murray Kennel Company, at the 2021 MU Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator Competition, a campuswide contest for full-time Mizzou students. EQ provides the workshops, tools, networking, mentoring and a $30,000 prize pool to help translate student ideas into viable and scalable businesses. Murray’s kennel and presentation not only won him fan favorite at the competition, but also the $15,000 first place prize in startup funding.
“It gave us the crucial funding needed to jumpstart our business,” said Murray. “While the prize money definitely helped, the mentorship and connections Entrepreneur Quest has given me are priceless and will last my lifetime. The eight-week course was an immersion into the small business and startup industry, providing me with the necessary tools and resources to work on my own business venture.”
Initially, the plan was to create a Murphy bed-style crate that folded into the wall, but since then Murray’s company has pivoted to perfecting a collapsible dog crate that can be folded and easily used when traveling. “Americans are traveling more frequently with their pets,” said Murray. “This crate provides an effortless traveling experience for pet parents, while still being space-saving in smaller apartments or homes, and it can fold flat against any wall.”
In the past year, the company has manufactured two different prototypes. Murray says the largest portion of the prize money went toward finalizing the latest prototype and applying for a patent. He has also developed an ecommerce website that can accept pre-orders.
The current goal is to obtain enough pre-orders in the coming months to begin production of the molds. According to Murray, he estimates that crates will be ready for production and delivery to customers in approximately eight to 10 months. “Our biggest obstacle is raising enough capital to produce the various injection and extrusion models necessary to manufacture every dog crate,” Murray said. “These molds are extremely expensive to create. Even though it is more costly, we are proud to offer an American-made product.”
Assistance came not just from business professionals, but Murray also tapped into the expertise of his fellow Mizzou students. “I was able to work and connect with so many current students at Mizzou, which included law students who aided in the formation of my LLC, marketing students who helped with my social media and marketing, as well as alumni of Mizzou who helped develop our website, produced marketing materials, and handled all my photography and videography needs,” said Murray. “When people found out that I was a veterinary student at Mizzou, they graciously offered their expertise and advice. It is clear to me that this inspiring culture at Mizzou is all about people having a lifelong commitment to their school.”
While Murray has his eyes on next steps, the EQ Competition remains an important part of the Murray Kennel Company journey and has provided him with invaluable assets to continue building his business. “Without EQ I would not have had any business background or capital needed to start this venture,” says Murray. “It’s exceptional of Mizzou to provide this opportunity to students, and I’m proud to represent the College of Veterinary Medicine throughout this process.”
By Nick Childress