Full circle: Kelly Curry's journey from student to entrepreneur and back – Faculty of Engineering

Full circle: Kelly Curry’s journey from student to entrepreneur and back

Dr. Brian Baetz hooding Kelly Curry at McMaster Engineering Convocation

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This adage is one that Kelly Curry, a McMaster University alumnus has employed in his academic and entrepreneurial endeavours. A McMaster Civil Engineering grad in 1995, Curry returned to his alma mater nearly three decades later to pursue a Master’s in Engineering Entrepreurship and Innovation (MEEI) in the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology. While his first attempt at the master’s program didn’t result in a diploma, he made a triumphant return years later and proudly crossed the Convocation stage this week.

Curry’s course

Curry’s time as a student with the W Booth School began in September 2006 when he enrolled into the MEEI program. However, by 2008, Curry, an avid golf player, found himself drawn away from academia to focus on his entrepreneurial venture, Swingnature, a product designed to enhance golf swings.

Following advice from GolfTown’s president, Curry ventured into infomercials, initially selling 7,500 units. However, the acquisition of the Golf Channel by Comcast ended the infomercial business. Reflecting on this period of his life, Curry noted, “The one guarantee is that entrepreneurship and the building of a business is not a straight line as much as we would like it to be.”

Undeterred, Curry then went on to launch Golfventory, an e-commerce platform for golf shops, which failed due to low interest. He then created Sightly, a platform for optometry practices, which grew rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most recently, Curry founded Lens2Recycle, an at-home contact lens recycling device inspired by the environmental impact of lens waste. In April 2023, while developing this product, Curry reconnected with Brian Baetz, who had taught Curry 30 years prior during his undergraduate studies, to seek his insights. Curry recalls: “Before Lens2Recycle became a product, I wanted to run the idea by Brian for his thoughts, so we had lunch in April 2023. It was during this conversation that I came to learn that he was running the program, and he did not realize that I had one more course to complete. I told him that I would like to finish it, and he said that he would get back to me.”

Curry received an email from Baetz the next month saying that the program would allow him to complete the last course and use Lens2Recycle as his project requirement. “I can tell you that I was super excited to finally get the MEEI degree completed,” Curry says.

Kelly Curry (left) with Brian Baetz at Convocation

Completing the circle

In September 2023, Curry re-enrolled in the MEEI program, completing the final course in December. Speaking about this achievement and Baetz’s encouragement, Curry expressed: “Brian was my favorite professor during my undergrad, and I always kept in touch with him after I graduated. It is just special to complete this degree with your favourite professor and a supporter.”

Baetz, who describes Curry as a ‘true serial entrepreneur’, reflects on Curry’s journey with the Faculty of Engineering. “He always had a sparkle in his eye and a keen sense of where engineering and technology would go in the future. It was a natural fit for him to enrol in the new MEEI program back in 2005,” said Baetz. “It was truly exciting when he decided to re-enter our grad program last year and complete his final requirements for the MEEI degree, and it is our good fortune to now have him as a double alumnus of McMaster.”

Holder of Endowed Chair, W Booth Chair in Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Dr. Seshasai Srininvasan, echoes Baetz’s sentiment.

Kelly’s journey at McMaster is an inspiration to everyone and demonstrates how dedication, doggedness and tenacity can be rewarding and satisfying,” he says. “His trajectory through different departments, culminating as a very successful entrepreneur, underlines the need to have a multi-disciplinary capability to bring meaningful changes to advance our society. We are fortunate to have this star as an alumni.

Dr. Seshasai Srininvasan

Impact of a McMaster education

Reflecting on the influence of his education, Curry credits McMaster with teaching him essential problem-solving skills. “I was given the skills to look at any problem and create a plan to try and solve that problem,” he says.

The completion of his degree was particularly meaningful for Curry, now a father of four. “What a special feeling to show your kids that you can accomplish anything that you want no matter your age so long as you work hard and never give up,” he said.

Curry’s advice to current students balancing studies with entrepreneurial ambitions is to embrace failure as a learning tool. “We never learn from success; we only learn from failure,” he says. “Make adjustments from these learnings. Try again and enjoy the journey.”