Alumna Profile: Shannon Rinckey
E-commerce has become a substantial economic sector in recent years as new technological tools make small business ownership a feasible reality for many. Once-costly and time consuming business ventures are now more affordable and accessible, unleashing entrepreneurial innovation through startup companies across the country. Take Aquinas alumna Shannon (Eggebrecht) Rinckey, entrepreneur and mother of four in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
Rinckey graduated from Aquinas in 2002, majoring in business administration and communication. Like many who have attended college, her initial school decision wasn’t easy. “I was actually planning to go to a larger state school, but I ended up getting a really solid scholarship from Aquinas,” Rinckey said. “So when it came down to it, I could go to Aquinas, a great private school, and get half of my tuition paid, or I could go to the state school, where they do not give out scholarships as freely. So I decided to go to Aquinas, and I really loved my time here.”
Reflecting on her time at Aquinas, Rinckey said that some of her favorite moments were interactions with professors, and the great interest they took in their disciplines and students. “Many of my professors at Aquinas really encouraged the idea that learning is a lifelong passion,” she said. “They inspire you.”
Drawing on her education from Aquinas, her graduate degree in counseling from Western Michigan University, and personal experience as a mother of four, Rinckey founded Mama’s Got Mail in March 2013. A monthly subscription service for moms, Mama’s Got Mail sends monthly boxes that include items such as novels, beauty products, and crafting kits. “Moms are the heart of the family,” said Rinckey. “Mama’s Got Mail wants to support and nurture moms, in a way that only other moms get; it’s fun mail for moms, mail that actually encourages them. I also include this kind of counseling aspect every month. I have a little self-checking sheet that I include that matches with the month’s theme. So that’s an opportunity for self-care and well-being for the mom, giving her a chance to think about her relationships and self-identity.”
Rinckey entered Mama’s Got Mail into 48Hour Launch in April 2013, at the urging of friends and mentors. 48Hour Launch is a competition hosted in Chattanooga, Tennessee by The Company Lab, an organization dedicated to helping startup businesses in the Chattanooga region. The competition takes place within a 48 hour weekend, in which new businesses get free help and support from the local community.
However, this year’s 48Hour Launch held a further twist. As the “Female Founders Edition,” the event specifically focused on local female startup businesses in e-commerce. The Jump Fund, a Chattanooga-based, female-led funding initiative for entrepreneurial women, cosponsored the competition.
All contestants came before a panel of judges to give final presentations on April 7, 2013, after completing a weekend of planning, building, and branding their companies. “It was so gratifying,” Rinckey said. “Here we have the business community in Chattanooga listening to my presentation, engaging with me. It was such a powerful moment, and I’ll never forget it.”
In the end, Rinckey and Mama’s Got Mail finished first out of nine contestants, winning the 2013 competition. “I didn’t go into it expecting to win,” she said, “so everything that’s come from it has been really awesome.”
Moving forward from her success at 48Hour Launch, Rinckey plans to hire a remote assistant and continue expanding her business. However, she wants to ensure that her professional and personal lives remain well-balanced. “I love this company,” she said, “but I don’t want it to take over my life. So I’m being really strategic about how my time is spent on the company. I want to be home with my kids and be involved with their lives.”
When examining the mission of Mama’s Got Mail, Rinckey hoped that it reflects Aquinas College’s deep sense of community and service. “By supporting moms,” she said, “it allows them to be better, more rounded people. They can love their families better, do their jobs better, and be happier people. I think the ripple effect is huge when they’re feeling really filled up and loved.”
Having successfully graduated from Aquinas and found her way in the business world, Rinckey parted with this advice to students. “College isn’t just about grades; it’s also about the lifelong skills that you learn - learning to think for yourself in defining who you are. Take advantage of the experiences that you will have at Aquinas.”