Senior entrepreneurship major Cameron Lockrey isn’t waiting for graduation to put his business skills to work. In the summer of 2022, he and a friend started their own power washing business. Lockrey, who loves the outdoors and a good old-fashioned odd job, says customers who appreciated their work started asking the duo if they offered other kinds of services, such as landscaping and window washing. Before they knew it, the power washing business grew to encompass a broader scope of services with a small group of loyal customers.

“Building a customer relationship is so much fun,” Lockrey says. Hoping to grow his business, Lockrey wondered, “What if there was an app where I could just do odd jobs all the time and make some money?” But his search for an existing platform led to a dead end. That’s how Kickback was born, a new app for Apple and Android users that connects customers looking for one-time services with “taskers” willing to do the work at a fair price.

In the fall of 2022, Lockrey’s friends encouraged him to connect with Jon VerLee, a young alumnus and entrepreneur running Calvin’s Startup Garage, an organization designed to support student entrepreneurs in their business endeavors. “I met Jon as soon as I possibly could, and we had a long conversation about business ideas.” During their initial meeting, VerLee invited Lockrey to join the leadership team.

Lockrey now serves as Startup Garage’s event coordinator, preparing the weekly meetings attended by 15 to 20 students each week, most of whom attend Calvin. “There are a few people who don’t even go to Calvin but who show up, and I think it’s awesome. It really shows the need for this kind of community.”

A typical meeting involves a guest speaker or gives students time to meet and discuss personal business objectives and key results (OKR). “We talk about what we’ve accomplished and our struggles. If it’s something we can’t do ourselves, we have a moment right then and there where we get connected with someone who can help. Maybe someone doesn’t know how to build a website, and three people raise their hands and say they can help with that. The connections are extremely useful.”

It’s this environment that helped Lockrey build his app from the ground up. “A year ago, Kickback was nothing but an idea I had over the summer, and then once I got involved in Startup Garage, then I actually got to learn how to take my idea and make it a reality.”

With VerLee’s mentorship, Lockrey built a proof of concept and got regular feedback from the Startup Garage community as he developed his idea. By December 2022, he got a green light on his business plan and spent the next six months creating a workable app. The legal process to make the app available through Google and Apple took another three months.

Remarkably, in less than a year, Lockrey launched Kickback, an app with the potential to fill a real need for part-time gig workers in the home improvement industry. In its first month, Kickback had 134 registered users and, Lockrey reports, “There’s already a bit of an ecosystem going on, with a mix of taskers and customers.”

With the app up and running, Lockrey’s focus has shifted to marketing. His recent win at Startup Garage’s fall PitchUp competition came at just the right time. Lockrey, who was among twelve competitors, had just two minutes to pitch his new app to a panel of judges. He says he plans to use the $1,000 in prize money to invest in local advertising on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Nextdoor.

Though Lockrey is on schedule to graduate this coming spring, he sees Kickback as much more than a one-time project. “Honestly, I would love to have two full time businesses—maybe run Kickback alongside a marketing agency so both could go hand-in-hand. Lockrey admits running two businesses right out of college might be a little ambitious, but he’s excited for the challenge. “It hasn’t been a super long journey, but it’s been a journey full of value and experience. It’s been awesome.”

Written by Sara Korber-DeWeerd