COLUMBIA, Missouri — A pair of Mizzou students from the Kansas City area are providing international students on campus with a taste of home.
Kogo’s Kandies sells candy and treats from other countries, with the goal of fostering a more inclusive campus environment at the University of Missouri, said co-founders Jacob Burrell-Kogo and Henry Accardo.
“International students like seeing part of their culture on campus,” Burrell-Kogo said.
“When someone comes into the store with the biggest smile on their face, that brings so much happiness to us,” Accardo added.
Burrell-Kogo, a sophomore from Grandview, Missouri, and Accardo, a junior from Fairway, Kansas, originally met as high school students at Rockhurst.
The two business majors teamed up to form Kogo’s Kandies to “take advantage” of $2,000 in startup funding offered by US Bank in a partnership with Mizzou, Accardo said.
Burrell-Kogo — who said most people just call him Kogo — came up with the idea as he thought of ways to differentiate his business idea from those of other students.
“Usually business students do clothing startups, so I was thinking, ‘Is there something different I could do?’” Burrell-Kogo said. “When I walked by the bowl of suckers outside of US Bank, it just clicked.”
Armed with a plan and some funding, Burrell-Kogo tapped his friend Accardo — already an experienced entrepreneur — to help him launch Kogo’s Kandies.
They formed an LLC in March, and while attending the World Fair on campus in April, Burrell-Kogo was inspired to add an international flavor to the business.
“There were lots of treats at different booths, and that just got me thinking of how we could include multiple aspects of different cultures to show Mizzou students what else is out there,” Burrell-Kogo said.
On Sept. 1, Kogo’s Kandies officially opened its 350-square-foot retail store in the Mizzou Student Center, which it will occupy until the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Kogo’s Kandies continually buys products from multiple distributors, Accardo said, and enjoys a “good, steady flow” of customers, many of them repeat buyers.
The store is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday on the Mizzou campus. Currently, purchases can only be made on site, though Accardo said the duo is considering opening up online orders.
Taste of entrepreneurship
Although the two young entrepreneurs have some familiarity with building their own businesses, both admitted that Kogo’s Kandies has required them to learn on the fly.
“Students give us feedback — we’re constantly taking advice,” Burrell-Kogo said. “It’s just been a learning process, because I’ve never had a retail store or sold candy before.”
Accardo agreed, saying the experience has provided rewards and challenges.
“It’s been really cool to learn the ins and outs of the retail space on a small scale,” Accardo said. “The most challenging part has just been learning how to do things in the best way possible.”
Burrell-Kogo said he’s already benefited from the networking opportunities and new experiences that have resulted from opening the candy store.
“I’m already learning so much about the business world,” Burrell-Kogo said. “It has helped me grow as a person.”
In the short-term, the founders hope to continue growing and marketing Kogo’s Kandies, and find additional advertising partners, Accardo said.
They are constantly re-investing into the business, Accardo added, and eventually plan to use whatever money remains to fund their next endeavors, which could be individual efforts or another partnership.
Accardo and Burrell-Kogo hope their success will inspire friends and other young entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses and projects.
“My mindset is that high school and college are good settings to start a business,” Burrell-Kogo said. “I’ve had friends who are scared, and I tell them, ‘If you have an idea, just go for it. The worst-case scenario is it flops.’”
Accardo referenced how he had his fair share of doubters while creating the Crossroads Cars show, and encouraged other entrepreneurs to block out the noise and pursue their passions.
“People will criticize you, but you’ve gotta look past it,” Accardo said. “If you believe in something, then don’t let someone else stop you.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.