Jared Blakney (’14) talks with Madison Abbott (’19) from the with the Davidson student Innovation & Entrepreneurship team about the innovative projects he engaged in while a student at Davidson College, and how an entrepreneurial mindset continues to influence the work he does today as a young alumni.
During Jared’s time at Davidson, he participated in many programs offered by the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program, including 3 Day Startup and the Davidson College Venture Fund. Through the Avinger Scholarship, that identifies and recognizes one or two rising sophomores, juniors, or seniors who show the vision, qualities, and passions of an innovator, he developed Blakney Brand, ‘a lifestyle brand for the modern cosmopolite’ that he founded with his brother. Looking back on his Davidson experience, Jared reflected, “It was both a huge vote of confidence and extremely humbling to get that kind of support from Davidson. Working on the venture provided a major learning curve and I grew a lot from having to navigate all of the ups and downs associated with starting a business.”
After Davidson, Jared worked as Marketing Manager for a small digital product development company called Mission Data. As the marketing manager, he helped manage and grow the company’s innovation lab, a place where engineers could experiment with various emerging technologies like AR/VR, the internet of things, voice interfaces, and machine learning. He also helped Mission Data launch a new product. Jared finished up at Mission Data in October, and is currently in the process of looking for his next role. In the meantime, he is continuing to work with his brother on growing Blakney Brand. They had a soft launch last spring, and they are currently looking to ramp up sales and add to their product line.
When asked if he felt Davidson prepared him for these experiences, Jared said, “I think Davidson played a critical role in preparing me for my job at Mission Data and any opportunity I take on in the future. Being able to think critically and approach problems from a wide range of perspectives has been very beneficial for me working in a strategic marketing role and as an aspiring entrepreneur. At Davidson, you’re required to think across a wide range of disciplines, so it definitely fostered my analytical skillset and gave me the confidence that I can learn anything no matter what it is.” Jared’s experiences serve as evidence that a liberal arts education, while seemingly unconventional, can serve as fantastic preparation for a career in entrepreneurship.
With any worthwhile endeavor, there are bound to be some challenges. Jared said that the biggest difficulty he has encountered so far is maintaining inspiration for an idea. “There are some days I wonder if building a clothing brand is an endeavor I’m passionate enough about to make the necessary sacrifices for it to be successful. However, something always compels me to keep moving forward. I sort of have had to learn to just ride the waves of creative inspiration and just grind through the periods when I’m not as excited about building the brand.” Jared continues to enjoy working with his brother to bring their idea to life, and he has gained a better appreciation and understanding of the creative process. To him, the most rewarding part of this experience is seeing the finished product and launching it out into the world.
His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a place to work where you can learn a ton and where people are invested in seeing you succeed. He also says it is important to not rush things, and to not get discouraged when you’re not seeing immediate success. To sum it up, he said “Just be patient, keep grinding, and chipping away at your idea bit by bit, and eventually there will be a tipping point where things just fall into place.”