Blooming Ambition: Entrepreneur Shawn Harrington

Shawn Harrington first became involved with Des Moines’ startup community in 2010, and since then hasn’t been able to stop pushing new ideas forward. While he’s been involved with several projects over the years, he’s currently the co-founder of Ace Blooms, a company that helps men order the perfect bouquet online, every time.

A veteran of both the University of Iowa’s Venture School and the Iowa Startup Accelerator, Harrington has a passion for learning and bringing new ideas to life, regardless of the industry.

Clay & Milk: Tell us a bit about what you’re working on.

Shawn Harrington: I’m primarily on two adventures. The first as the co-founder of Ace Blooms (many know us as Goquets). Ace Blooms is an online service making it easy to send flowers anywhere in the U.S. Lyndsay Horgan and I evolved the idea from a Startup Weekend Ames event and launched the service in 2014. Since then, we took part in the University of Iowa’s Venture School and the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort. My main focus now is the branding for Ace Blooms, which is catered toward men who may not know much about flowers and still want to make sure they’re sending the right bouquet each time.

I also lead account management for Multivista’s team in Iowa. Since launching in the early 2000s, their technology platform has been growing and branching out into new markets. Multivista creates photographic as-built’s of construction projects and makes them accessible online. There’s a lot going on right now while introducing the new mobile app along with 3D and drone services.

C&M: Why did you choose to pursue this career path?

SH: Once you’ve witnessed your efforts impact a market or an industry for the better, it drives you to keep going. My friends will also point out that whenever I get passionate about something I immediately want to push it forward. It’s led me to a small variety of adventures including helping launch the dental software eDossea in 2010. That was my first exposure to startups and learning how to take something from idea stage to market.

On a local level, projects I’ve been a part of since their beginning stages include the Des Moines Social Club, as a founding board member, and the community blog website DesMoinesIsNotBoring.com. That was formed by my good friend Pete Jones and I was a contributor until we decided to go on hiatus a couple years ago in favor of our other business and family commitments. It still gets a lot of talk though. Who knows? Maybe one of us will bring it back!

C&M: Who do you consider to be a mentor? Who do you look to for advice?

SH: Consistently for both personal and career [advice] my older brother Dave has been a big influence in my life. For professional mentors, I’ve drawn a lot of great advice from leaders in our startup community including Eric Engelmann, Mike Colwell and Derek Balsely (who was also recently featured on Clay & Milk). When seeking a mentor, the best approach is to make sure it’s someone who’s not afraid to challenge or call you out if you’re jumping down the wrong path. While it may feel warm and fuzzy to hear only compliments, that’s not what will drive you or your business forward.  

C&M: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

SH: Studying the successes of niche marketing has been a real eye opener. A common piece of advice goes along the lines of “It’s better to be loved by a few, than kind of liked by many,” which relates to finding a company’s core customer. This is still a bit of a challenge for us operating both Goquets and Ace Blooms as far as our national marketing efforts; however, most people will notice how Ace Blooms caters more to the niche.

C&M: Do you have a Spotify playlist you listen to when you’re working or a specific pump-up song?

SH: I have a workout playlist titled “Go!” that also serves as an energy boost during holiday weeks like those leading up to Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, which always involves minimal sleep in the flower business. It has lots of ‘90s rock including Rage Against The Machine mixed in with newer tracks from Cold War Kids, Arkells and July Talk.

C&M: What did you think you’d be when you grew up?

SH: As a kid growing up in a blue collar family in Upstate New York, I probably had 10 or more different answers to that as my mind was always wandering. I’m glad I didn’t box myself into a certain career path before experiencing the world more and realizing how quickly it changes. I found it’s better to set goals while not being afraid to jump at the opportunities that will lead you to them.

C&M: Who has been your biggest fan?

SH: That’s an easy one! It’s my my wife, Carrie. We’d run out of text if I listed all the reasons why so I’d just like to acknowledge the most valuable members of our startup community: the startup spouses. Founders like me get the credit for being risk takers when they’re the ones finding ways to support us through the ups, downs and whatever crazy ideas we come up with along the way.

About Shawn Harrington
Age: 35
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Twitter handle: @Shawnpatrickh

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer based in Des Moines and a regular contributor to Clay & Milk.