Morgan Szekely is passionate about two things: her morning cup of joe, and her dog-mom status to fur baby Tucker. While working from home during pandemic lockdowns, Szekely was “drawn to doing something that fed my soul.” One morning, while she sipped her favorite coffee and played with her dog, she had a “lightbulb” moment. What if she found a way to bring those two things together? With a little encouragement from her husband, she quit her job and launched Quirky Kin. It’s a Philadelphia-based coffee subscription service that celebrates dogs and caregivers alike by way of ethically sourced, fair-trade coffees (for humans) with punny, pet-friendly names such as “Wake & Wag” and “Zoomy Zoom.”
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
There aren’t many coffee companies out there celebrating dogs! Beyond that, I’m aiming to bring in enough profit to actually make a difference and donate to organizations and causes that make the world a better place. For example, I would love to donate to foundations that help disabled people afford service animals, or that rescue dogs from situations involving animal cruelty.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
When I participated in a three-day fall market, and was able to get direct feedback about my company – and hear customers’ excitement! I heard so many stories from folks about how a customer’s dog is their fur baby because they weren’t able to have kids, or how their dog has brought them so much companionship. It was validating and rewarding to hear, firsthand from strangers, how much joy my coffee brought them. We ran out of merch that weekend, and had people stopping to take pictures of our product to share with friends who they thought would love our brand.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Managing and fostering growth. Although I have the proper education to start a business, I have still never done this before. I reached out to mentors from both my MBA program and my undergraduate degree. Connecting with other entrepreneurs and learning from them has been the biggest blessing.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. As such, I don’t have any family members who can give me advice on starting a business or how to network. They can’t put me in contact with certain people, or help support me financially. And especially, as a young woman in business, it can be difficult at times for people to take you seriously.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid of what others think. Go after your dreams!
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I think about my goals and how badly I want to accomplish them. No one can get me there except me.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“‘Til You Can’t” by Cody Johnson.
Who is your most important role model?
My biggest role model is not a person, but rather other socially-minded companies. Companies like outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which truly puts their money where their mouth is by supporting environmental causes, inspire me to do good in this world. I admire and love how they care about their employees, their customers and the environment. My goal is to become a certified B Corp one day! ◼