REBUILDING AFTER DISASTER
Philip Boulton ’97 graduated from Babson nearly a decade before Antonio Turco-Rivas MBA’05 and J.B. Schneider MBA’05, but the three furniture entrepreneurs share more than just an alma mater.
While at Babson, Turco-Rivas and Schneider co-founded a children’s furniture company called P’kolino; Playfully Smart out of an ambition to work in an industry where they and their families could have real fun.
During the same time period, Boulton co-founded outdoor furniture company Kannoa with a childhood friend, Luis Blasini. Both companies are headquartered in Miami, and the three entrepreneurs share an appreciation for collaborating with fellow can-do alums. “Babson gives you this sense of urgency to get things done that I haven’t found anywhere else,” says Boulton. The support of the Babson network was tested in March 2015 when a terrible fire leveled Kannoa’s Miami warehouse. The fire destroyed inventory and business property at an especially important time of year for a seasonal business such as outdoor furniture.
Boulton credits Turco-Rivas and Schneider for helping Kannoa get back up and running. “P’kolino provided office space, so the next day we bought some computers, had our phone service redirected, and immediately started contacting clients,” he said. Fortunately, Kannoa rebounded to reach record sales this year, and moved into a new building earlier this fall.
The close collaboration has paid off for everyone, and Kannoa even purchased a stake in P’kolino. “Together, we plan to take full advantage of the operational and distribution capabilities of both companies,” says Turco-Rivas. “We see opportunities in the constantly changing furniture industry, and believe that together we can grow and adapt to those changes more efficiently.”
Schneider values P’kolino and Kannoa’s relationship, too, especially since he says entrepreneurship can be tough if you go it alone. “You need a good partner or team members you can rely on.” Schneider even credits the alumni network with providing “entrepreneurial therapy,” serving as a valuable sounding board for business feedback and advice.
The importance of community is something all three entrepreneurs value not just professionally, but also personally. Turco-Rivas pointed out that his wife’s support is one of the most unsung elements of his entrepreneurial success. “Family is a big part of the entrepreneurship equation, and I think my wife deserves much more credit than she gets.”
Boulton agrees, and sees family as an integral part of the venture. Balancing family and work is one of the most important but least discussed parts of his entrepreneurial story. For Schneider, including family in the life of the company also can be an opportunity to have fun. “You can even see a lot of our children in P’kolino’s product development and marketing photos,” he says.