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February 07, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Vol Court kicks off with an accomplished guest speaker

J. Retinger, the CEO of BioPet, was the speaker at the Vol Court kick off event on Tuesday.

In the kickoff event for the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition” of the spring semester, 25 students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), attended to learn about the founding of BioPet and PooPrints.

The Vol Court program, which is run through the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) at the Haslam College of Business, is intended to help students interested in entrepreneurship gain a better understanding of what it takes to build a business idea. The four-week program will end in a pitch contest, where the winner will receive $1,500 to go toward getting their idea off the ground.

BioPet just opened its worldwide headquarters in Knoxville on Friday (see article here). J Retinger, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), took a moment on Tuesday evening to share with Vol Court participants his secrets to success in the start-up realm.

“Our claim to fame is PooPrints. We work with apartments, communities, and dog parks to collect DNA and poop to identify who didn’t clean up their dog poop. We are the poop police,” Retinger said.

BioPet has around 50 employees, PooPrints has around 7,000 clients globally, and the company is growing faster than ever before.

From fired to fearless leader

Retinger’s first story came as a shocker to students at the Vol Court kick off. He shared that he got fired from his first job as a flower delivery worker.

While many people would be discouraged by such an experience, Retinger saw the moment as a lesson and used it to propel his career forward.

“I knew I had to figure it out,” he laughed. “So, I went on to join a company in corporate America and focused on trying to get experience.”

Retinger said he saw his companies experience mergers and acquisitions. He asked questions about every step of the process.

“My best piece of advice is to meet as many people as you can, ask as many questions as you can, and have a genuine curiosity about the way people think and do what they do,” Retinger said.

His mentality of being a sponge is what set him apart in the corporate realm. It’s what got him noticed by his family friend, Tom Boyd, as being a good person to help develop BioPet.

“My mom worked for Tom Boyd for years, and one day he called me with an idea for a business – which is now PooPrints. Tom asked me to come and run it,” Retinger said.

Growing BioPet

Greg Bostick, the Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Knoxville was also at the Vol Court session on Tuesday.

“In this world, there’s all kinds of ways to make a buck, you just have to figure out what you want to do,” Bostick told students.

That’s exactly what BioPet had to figure out. How would this revolutionary concept bring in money?

The hardest part at the start was the rejection from other businesses. Making the first sale was difficult, Retinger explained. However, Retinger saw the big picture of how many multi-family communities, apartment complexes, and dog parks are in the world. He knew some businesses out there would opt into the concept. It was a lot of work, and at first not a lot of results. Retinger even said there were a few nights that the BioPet account balance was $0.

“Success takes sacrifice. For work-life balance, you must evaluate what the sacrifice is each day, each week, each month, and each year. You must understand the priorities of those around you and be communicative with your loved ones about the opportunity cost of building a business,” he said.

Retinger said he asks himself three questions each Friday:

  1. What worked this week?
  2. What didn’t work this week?
  3. What do we need to accomplish next week?

The next session of Vol Court is 5:30 p.m. EST Tuesday, February 13 in Room 202 of the Haslam College of Business. The speaker at the next session will be Angelique Adams, the CEO and Founder of Angelique Adams Media Solutions, LLC.

For more information about the Vol Court kick off and subsequent sessions, visit the web page.


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