Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What happens when three student entrepreneurs come together under the roof of the University of Iowa’s business incubator? A new business, called ANKR, emerges, along with new friendships.

Connor Keane (Finance), Shannon McKenzie (Enterprise Leadership), and Conor Paulsen (Enterprise Leadership) are members of Founders Club, a student business incubator program located in the Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory (BELL) on the University of Iowa campus. Founders Club provides numerous resources to student entrepreneurs while also allowing them to connect with each other in a collaborative space. Students participating in the Founders Club meet every Friday during the academic year to network, hear from guest entrepreneurs, and participate in business development workshops. This networking opportunity is what brought the ANKR team together.

Each member of the ANKR team is working on their own business, or two, within the BELL and are heavily involved with the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). Keane operates a business called AZ Academy that teaches entrepreneurs how to establish a successful Amazon business, all while balancing the demands of being on the UI football team for the past three years. Paulsen and co-founder Leeland Miller run GentlemenCare, a line of premium leather products that actively influence men around the world to act and live like a gentleman.

“ANKR is a brand that encourages durability and travel,” explains Paulsen. “The brand tells a story of island vibes and progressive vitality, along with the warmth and great memories experienced on the water.”

As full-time students trying to financially support their individual existing startups, one of the main motives behind creating ANKR was to create a steady stream of income. This past May, ANKR was established when the three partners uncovered an opportunity through Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program through the help of Founders Club participant Chris Cozzolino. Cozollino uses the FBA program for his own business and convinced the ANKR team to research it further.

FBA allows Amazon to pick, pack, and ship a business’ products in domestic and international markets. Perks for business owners include having merchandise delivered with Amazon Prime’s Two-Day Free Shipping guarantee, having freedom to fulfill orders from multiple channels, and using Amazon’s reputation to establish trust with new customers. ANKR chose to use the power of the FBA program to enter the popular drinkware segment within Amazon.

If Keane, McKenzie, and Paulsen had not met each other in the resource-rich business incubator, ANKR would not exist today. Entrepreneurship is a team sport, something that the Founders Club environment promotes. When young creatives are surrounded by other like-minded student entrepreneurs, new business ideas emerge. ANKR’s team motto is Jim Rohn’s quote, “An individual is the average of the five people they spend the most time around.” When you surround yourself with innovative peers, there is no telling what ideas you can come up with.

The UI entrepreneurs launched their ANKR tumbler this summer, which now holds one of the highest ratings (4.9 stars) for tumblers on  The growing popularity is attributed to ANKR’s double-wall, stainless steel design which keeps beverages at optimal temperature, hot or cold, for up to 48 hours.  The ANKR tumbler is eco-friendly, 100% BPA free, and built with a sweatproof design.

This group of entrepreneurial students exemplifies the dedication and innovation that embodies Iowa JPEC and Founders Club. When the three students noticed an opportunity, they created a successful business and in that development, found new partners to help in their entrepreneurial journey.

ANKR is offering an exclusive “Buy One, Get One Free” special on the ANKR Tumbler to everyone at the University of Iowa. To receive this limited discount, please email stating “UI ANKR Promo” to receive your discount code.