Jason Shanley comes from a family that is 100 percent entrenched in football, and he has enjoyed playing the game since third grade.
“I played varsity defense as an outside linebacker; I’m pretty small but I can pack a punch,” he says.
But the 18-year-old is packing a punch on a different field: He is the CEO of a thriving company called UrLocker.
Shanley is a business management student who won first place for UrLocker in the E. Philip Saunders Young Entrepreneurs Academy Regional “Bright Ideas” Competition—which earned him a four-year $30,000 scholarship from the Saunders College to attend RIT and an opportunity to show his prototypes at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival last May. The innovative entrepreneur earned enough college credits at Ruben A. Cirillo High School in Gananda, N.Y., to enter RIT as a second-year student.
He says he got the idea for his business while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at his family’s kitchen table.
“The concept came to me a couple of summers ago when I realized how—in high school and middle school—all the lockers look the same,” Shanley explains. “So my locker-cover designs are a way for students to come out of their shells and express themselves and their creativity.”
The vertical covers are a laminated mix between a sticker and a window cling—removable, reusable and leaving no residue behind. Although the product line is a mishmash of patterns and colors—Argyle, Zebra-Pink, Liquid Copper, Colored Smoke, Graffiti and Floral—Shanley is hoping to secure licensing arrangements with sports leagues and artists to add even more designs. He has since expanded his market to include laptop covers with plans for tablets, smart phones—and even mini refrigerators.
“Mini refrigerators can be an eyesore in a college dorm room, so imagine having a cheetah print to match your color scheme,” Shanley says. “It just adds some life and creates a great conversation piece.”
According to John Ward, lecturer in the Saunders College: “Jason is a natural entrepreneur. He is creative, he sees possibilities, he is willing to move forward with new ideas and he is passionate about what he is doing. At RIT we are providing him with the tools to take advantage of these capabilities.”
Shanley has already received notoriety for his unique business and was featured in a January episode of BizKid$—the weekly TV series on PBS/WXXI that teaches kids about money. “The show’s producers are the creators of Bill Nye the Science Guy and we filmed it last summer; it took eight hours to do a 3- to 5-minute segment,” he says with a laugh. “I never realized all the work behind the scenes.”
Calling it “a sign from heaven,” Shanley says being accepted into the nine-month program at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy during his senior year at Gananda was like a prelude to success.
“My name was first on the sign-up sheet to apply for the academy classes,” Shanley recalls. “Coming from a school with a graduating class of 82 people, there aren’t a lot of opportunities around. It was like a wake- up call into the business world and my education at RIT.”