As long as Spencer Quinn can remember, he wanted to start his own business. So self-reliant was he as a boy that once the school year ended, he usually went to work re-staining his neighbors’ fences to earn money during the summer.
Now set to graduate from Brigham Young University in April, Quinn already has a head start on many of his peers. While keeping up his studies in biotechnology and business strategy, the 25-year-old co-founded and presided over a company called FiberFix, named after his line of hard-setting adhesive tape, which he says is 100 times stronger than duct tape. For his visionary business leadership, Quinn won the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s 2013 Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA), which includes $150,000 in cash and business prizes.
The idea for FiberFix came to Quinn when he heard of a doctor who made an emergency repair on his all-terrain vehicle with casting tape used to set broken bones. By October 2012, Quinn and his co-founder cousin had created a prototype, and within months they were selling the product in a hardware store. About a year later, the product is available in more than 6,000 locations across the U.S.
Quinn credits the rapid growth of FiberFix to business savvy acquired through rounds of GSEA competition that began in his home state of Utah. “It was the first time I had ever been to an international competition,” Quinn says. “To be around and compete against people from all over the world, some of them who had been working on their businesses for many, many years, was inspiring and very humbling.”
As he honed his product pitch through competition, Quinn was able to attract investors and retailers, as well as a deal on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. Suddenly Home Depot and Lowe’s were calling to request national orders, and FiberFix was everywhere.
“In Spencer’s case, his business is already bigger than 99 percent of all businesses in the United States… but even for somebody who’s had that much success, being forced to prepare for the competition by taking a step back to think objectively about the business and what you’ve learned, we feel is an immensely instructive process,” says Adam Robinson, GSEA subcommittee chair and competition judge, who points out, “We’re all about finding the student entrepreneur with whom you’d invest, not the business.”
Quinn says he plans to continue cultivating FiberFix for the foreseeable future, though he could decide to move on in several years. In any event, he’s committed to a lifetime of entrepreneurship and learning about himself and his business.
“Entrepreneurs overall are doers,” Quinn says. “They roll up their sleeves and go earn it. What’s cool about going to school and starting a business at the same time is you get the hands-on learning every day. That’s kind of what’s missing in a classroom setting, sometimes.”