Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Menguin Story

By Harsha Kalapala, Second-year MBA, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation 

“Big shots are little shots that kept shooting.” – a quote by Christopher Morley that inspires my focus and persistence to keep charging ahead on my quest to carve out a unique career path in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Quotes are great for quick boosts of inspiration. However, true inspiration comes from the people in our lives, who demonstrate courage, creativity and relentless pursuit of their dreams every single day.

Justin Delaney, Kurt Sutton and Michael Gassman are recent Kelley MBA graduates, who are smart, driven and capable – just like the rest of our fellow Kelleys. However, they did something quite interesting earlier this year. They founded a startup called Menguin, (website winning $100,000 in seed capital at the BEST competition at Indiana University, acquiring some big-time investors and advisors such as CareerBuilder and Mark Cuban. Menguin is in the business of revolutionizing the tuxedo rental industry, leveraging a technology that determines custom measurements through your on-device camera. Our Kelley Innovators Club (KIC) organized an event this fall to bring back Justin Delaney, the CEO of Menguin, to share his story with current Kelley MBA students. Justin also holds a full-time position in commercial strategy at Delta Airlines currently. He recently acquired his family’s French luxury glass business, which his wife Kristin helps oversee.

Justin’s story wasn’t much about his success as it was about his failures. Justin was involved in a variety of ventures including t-shirt making, option trading and travel writing – which put him through many ups and downs through the course of his career. The idea for Menguin sprouted at a wedding, during a casual conversation among friends. Justin and his friends then took the idea to the New Venture Business Planning class at Kelley and developed it further, but the process was rather slow moving. Towards the end of the semester, Justin had to go into emergency surgery for an appendectomy. He thought he was out of danger, when he developed a nasty infection, leading to a major abdominal surgery – which was a huge scare. Fortunately, Justin recovered from the surgery and realized this: Life is short, and it is random. You never know if you are going to be around tomorrow. If there is something you always wanted to do, the time is now.

Justin Delaney, Kelley MBA '13
This was a turning point for Menguin, accelerating their progress and leading to the launch of the company. The point Justin was trying to make was that we don’t have to wait for a life-changing moment or realization to pursue our dreams. It is important for us to recognize this, and build upon what our peers had to take away from their experience. Justin believes that an important factor in his success is taking numerous small risks and pushing different ideas into motion at the same time, focusing on those that take off.

Justin suggested that most innovation often comes from randomness. Doing random things and seeking out interesting conversations with interesting people puts you in a situation to come up with something new and cool. You have to stay focused on things that are important and need to be done, while taking those small risks along the way, allowing certain aspects of your life to chance. Justin encouraged everyone to explore ideas now. The best time to do so is in the MBA program, when you have all the resources and support you need from a legal, financial and research standpoint.

Hearing the Menguin story was a great motivation for many of us, as it helps us relate to Justin’s experience and reflect upon some of the key decisions he has made – pursuing his dream to launch Menguin, without having to give up his search for a full-time career. This was just another testament to the variety of career paths a Kelley MBA can show you, providing an entrepreneurial environment for self-development and discovery.


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