The Mentor Network Founder Feature – Reel

With so many great founders, it seems like all they do is win – welcome to another Founder Feature! In this series, we chat with our founders of the 5th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys.  They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community!

This week, we chatted with Tanner Stoffregen & Connor Davis, Cofounders of Reel!  Reel is a bar and nightlife promotion company based out of Columbia, MO, which connects college students and venue owners through promotional events and rewards.  The app currently in beta phase, but you can learn more on their website.  Besides being accepted into the 5th Cohort of The Mentor Network, Reel was also accepted into BetaBlox this year.  Read on to learn more about their journey and key learnings so far!

Tanner Stoffregen


Connor Davis

What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?

We are fresh out of college and have plenty of experience in the marketing and advertising field. This has helped us facilitate the creation of our startup.

Why this startup?  A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?

Being former college students and living in a college town, we understand and witness every day the fierce competition between businesses in the bar and nightlife industry. We believe that there is a crucial disconnect between businesses in this industry and their customers that traditional social media outlets do not solve. If Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Subway can connect their customers through a mobile platform, why can’t bars? We thought that the process of finding events and specials should be significantly more streamlined so that instead of constantly looking for a good time, people can spend more time having one. With a sleek platform and incentives such as our reward and loyalty program, we realized that not only could we increase revenue for businesses but we also can direct the flow of people and provide a better experience for our users.


What was your first milestone/win that let you know that you were on the right track to build this business?

Aside from being accepted into The Mentor Network, another milestone was getting accepted into the BetaBlox business incubator out of Kansas City. We had to pitch our idea to a panel of proven business mentors and investors. Walking away from that group and being accepted later on really confirmed to us that we had something tangible.

Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?

One quality that has helped us succeed throughout life is knowing when to ask for help. We knew that the Mentor Network, powered by the Sprint Accelerator, would be a great asset because of the track record and influence that both programs have in Kansas City. We did a lot of research before applying and we walked away feeling that getting involved would be an important stepping stone to the next stage of success for our startup.

What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?

Connections, connections, connections. We cannot stress enough how helpful it has been surrounding ourselves with the right people, especially during the early stages of our startup. We believe that our very first meeting with our Sprint mentor was a huge win. The first mentor session we had, we made some very important changes to our company’s strategy that helped pave the way to the path we are currently on.

How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?

The main way we are able to stay sane is that we are young. Being in our early 20s, we are able to do all of the necessary things that this startup needs without having to worry about the time commitments that older founders have.

In a way, being young is a double-edged sword. Some people look at it unfavorably because they feel we lack the knowledge needed to successfully run a business. However, what we lack in knowledge, we make up for in determination.

We have a hunger that comes from being young, which is driven by a desire to prove ourselves. It is, for this reason, we acknowledge the disadvantages it brings and have reached out to places such as Betablox and the Sprint Mentor Network in order to learn.

KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs.  What are we still missing?  What gaps do you think we need to fill?

Kansas City is a great environment with plenty of resources entrepreneurs can take advantage of, however, one thing that we have noticed is that there are so many great ideas and innovative people who just need that first push to take them to the next step. If there was an easier way to find and get into contact with organizations that help guide people looking to take those initial steps, it would go a long way in terms of turning entrepreneurial potential into reality.

Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?

We have all heard it before, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” The KC ecosystem has so many resources available to help make startups successful. Our advice to current and aspiring founders is to pick up the phone, get on Google, and just apply. The worst any incubator or mentorship program can say is no.

If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

We would tell ourselves to “take your time in the fastest way possible.” What you think is a sprint is actually a marathon with numerous obstacles along the way. There is no way to predict what these obstacles are or when they will happen. The only way to complete the race is to never give up. Going too fast you run the chance of making mistakes and burning out. Going too slow, you miss opportunities and lose motivation. At first, we learned this the hard way but after finding the right balance, we now have the ideal pace that we believe allows us to grow organically and tackle challenges as they appear. It’s all about taking things one day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other.

Also published on Medium.

About the author: Ari DeGrote