Jeff Kunowski, a recent graduate of Arizona State University, is the founder of Illumin8 Outdoor Media, LLC., an Arizona based company that provides eco-friendly and innovative signage products primarily using LED technologies.
Kunowski learned early on in his college career that he can benefit from establishing a network of contacts outside of the classroom. He reached out to local companies and set up meetings which led to an expansive network and an impressive 12 internships with companies like: the Phoenix Suns, Clear Channel Outdoor, the U.S. Attorneys Office, Venture51, and others.
Driving home from work one night in 2010, Kunowski unexpectedly found the inspiration he needed to create his very own business. To advertise, companies will often hire individuals to hold up signs on streets corners to draw in customers. As the sun starts to go down, it becomes harder to make out what exactly these signs are advertising. While sitting in commuter traffic, Kunowski realized that illuminating these signs would be the best way to extend the promotional hours and attract key audiences. After countless hours of research and trying out different light sources, Illumin8 Outdoor Media was born.
Kunowski turned to the Arizona State University Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative for help with funding. He put together a business plan, renderings, market research and gave a compelling presentation to the judges about why his business would succeed in today’s market. Illumin8 was selected for a $10,000 grant, plus office space at ASU SkySong and access to university mentors.
After extensive development, Kunowski introduced his products to his network. The Phoenix Suns were among the first to purchase these signage platforms. As word spread, so did sales throughout the downtown Phoenix District.
This early success attracted the attention of Douglas Moss, (former President of the Phoenix Coyotes and former president of the Madison Square Garden Network), who is now a partner and investor. Moss has been the driving force behind Illumin8’s relationship with sports and entertainment clientele on a national scale. In 2012, under the guidance of Moss, Illumin8 began a relationship with Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, to provide static backlit signage solutions to accompany their large format digital signs in sports and entertainment venues across the country.
1. What was the driving force behind your decision to start a business in college?
2. There are always obstacles when trying to reach your goals. What is your advice to members of the student body who wish to excel beyond the books (business, company)?
3. Who are your main influences and why?
4. Recognition is key. How would you like to be recognized in a world of entrepreneurs?
5. Other than networking, what are other things you can do to make sure your business excels beyond a start-up?
6. Which fields are you looking to explore next and why?
7. How does business connect to the college life? Do you feel that they are compatible or more of a pressure point?