Rhodes senior Nick Parinella says tubing, or “floating the river,” is a popular pastime in his hometown of Austin, TX, but trying to keep up with keys or credit cards when on the water is always a big inconvenience. That fact became his inspiration for the Kangaroozie™, a can cooler (koozie) with a waterproof compartment to store valuables.
Recently, the enterprising commerce and business major won first place for his invention at the regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) competition, hosted by the Nashville chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Now he moves on to compete in the USA National Finals to be held in Kansas City, MO, in March.
“There are a lot of brilliant minds in universities that often get overlooked as serious entrepreneurs because people assume we’re less serious or more time-restricted,” Parinella says. “The truth is—we’re passionate, motivated, and able to take on big challenges.”
GSEA is open to students who own and operate a business while attending a college or university. In order to compete, entrepreneurs must have generated at least $500 in revenue or received $1,000 in investments for a business.
In January 2016, Parinella competed in Rhodes’ first hackathon, and he and Seabelo John ’19 won Best in Service for BetterMe, an iOS life management and productivity app that helps users manage their schedules and activities. Although he had taken an entrepreneurship class at Rhodes, this was his first time participating in an entrepreneurial competition. Then in April 2016, Parinella entered the Rhodes Business Plan Competition and won first place for his creation of the Kangaroozie. He received prize money in addition to legal services from Bill Hulsey, a Rhodes College alumnus and intellectual property attorney with offices in Austin and Memphis.
Parinella, who is the president of the Rhodes Entrepreneurship Club, says he also has received advice from the club’s advisor, Bud Richey, associate vice president of external affairs at Rhodes. “He has guided and connected me with individuals who were able to assist me depending on the stage of business development that I was in.”
Parinella used the prize money from the Rhodes Business Plan Competition to start his company called Kangaroozie. Although the product was created based on a tubing experience, it was designed to be used for all outdoor activities. Its features include:
- High-quality foam made to withstand water and all weather conditions
- A waterproof compartment to store an I.D., cash, credit card, keys, and other small items
- A silicone pocket in the compartment to hold belongings together while the door is open
- A ring on the side to attach the Kangaroozie to a lanyard or carabiner
To be a successful student entrepreneur, Parinella says, “You must never give up. Failure and adversity are common in entrepreneurship, but those who find ways to make it through those tough times are the ones who succeed. You must be motivated and committed. With classes, a social life, and other commitments, you are being pulled in many different directions. However, with good time management, you can balance all of these things and still have time to start and operate a business. It can be exhausting and time consuming, but if it’s something you are passionate about, then it is worth every moment.”
The Kangaroozie will be sold on Kickstarter this spring, and Parinella says he looks forward to his business being a success. “I’ve always dreamed of being my own boss and making a change in the world. Through hard-work, dedication, and perseverance, I know my dreams will come true.”
To learn more about the Kangaroozie, visit its Facebook page.