Growth Story: Will Kelly of Knack
Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Will Kelly, Head of Operations of Knack, a peer tutoring platform for universities to activate their high-achieving students as a qualified network of peer educators.
Where are you from?
Tell us more about your role at Knack. What does a day in the life look like?
As an early hire at a fast-growing startup, no two days are exactly the same. While my primary focus is driving increased efficiency through improving internal business operations, I also assist with marketing, product, account management, sales, data/analytics, business strategy, human resources, and everything in between. I’m even the “Editor in Chief” of the Knack Notes Blog.
How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?
I began working with Knack in August of 2016, just a few weeks into my first year of college. I actually first served as a tutor, signing up after receiving a marketing email and going on to have the first Knack session outside of the state of Florida. Consequently, Samyr reached out to ask if I would be interested in getting involved with their marketing efforts on campus. Soon thereafter, I identified a few opportunities to make the campus marketing program more efficient/cost-effective and, within a few months, I was running campus marketing across all 6 of Knack’s campuses. Over the course of the next year, I helped grow Knack to 60+ campuses across the US and continued to expand my role in the company. As such, I was offered a full-time position with the company and I moved down to Tampa last year after graduating from NC State.
The biggest challenge that I faced early in my career was balancing my time between being in school and working on Knack. This was compounded by my desire to graduate from college in two years, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Luckily, Samyr and the rest of the founders at Knack were extremely helpful in providing the support and flexibility needed for me to succeed. Since joining the team full-time, I have challenged myself to become a better leader within the company as we have continued to expand our team.
How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?
I have lived in Tampa for just over a year now and, in that time, I have already seen tremendous growth in the startup community here. Being able to interact with other startups and see the abundance of hard working individuals in the area has been extremely inspiring. I look forward to seeing the Tampa Bay startup community continue to prosper in years to come.
What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?
My biggest piece of advice would be to clearly define your goals and priorities, both as a company and as an individual. If you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and a rough idea of how to get there, hard work and dedication will take care of the rest. Building a startup is no easy task, but if you are resilient and fully committed to doing whatever it takes to succeed, then you’ll have a good chance to make it happen.
Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?
Tampa Bay is well positioned to grow into one of the premier startup hubs in the US. This will only happen if companies like ours do our part to show that startups can be successful here. I look forward to leading the charge with my team here at Knack.
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