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Building a Business

April 11, 2017

What does it take to start a business? According to CLA senior Thomas Conley it's a lot more than understanding finances and accounting. Conley's passion for entrepreneurship led him to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), where he knew a wide range of courses and experiences would come in handy in the future.

"I really value the liberal arts education," he says. "I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur and thought CLA would give me a great launch pad and would give me a different angle to work from."

When taking an Entrepreneurship in Action course through the Carlson School of Management, Conley was tasked with working with a small group to create a businessand he put his liberal arts background to work.

The result was Anchor Labs, and Conley didn't plan on letting it end with the semester. Through Anchor Labs, LLC they produced a product that re-imagined rock climbing carabiners, to help climbersparticularly those with limited dexterityin difficult climbing routes.

"Our business stemmed from the realization that over the past 100 years, rock climbing carabiners have gotten lighter but their shape has remained the same. While scaling a wall, clipping in is a very vulnerable point where most falls occur. We set out to design a carabiner that is easier to clip into, so it’s a lot safer."

Conley and his team dove into action, creating 3D printed iterations of the design and taking them to local climbing walls to test out. So far, they’ve received a $10,000 line of credit from a bank and are currently working on a kickstarter campaign to fund the business.

"Because I'm in CLA, I know a lot of people with a huge breadth of skill sets. We've gotten tons of help from people all over the school in all kinds of majors," says Conley. "The most important aspect of a start-up is the team and the broad base of skills in CLA has helped [us] a ton."

Conley's Anchor Labs team includes U of M students Jack Eickhof, Steve Kircher, John Wendorf, Holly Nowacki, Nick Hoyer, and Calway McCormick.