Texas Tech University

Piper's Passion: An Entrepreneur's Hustle

Innovation Hub Team

March 9, 2020

Hub startup mentor Shara Konechney says setbacks and pivots provide valuable lessons

Innovation Hub iTTU Mentor Shara Konechney is the epitome of a successful startup entrepreneur by most measures.

So it might surprise some people that she says setbacks and failures have contributed significantly to her overall success throughout the past three decades.

"It's been a crazy journey." she says. "Looking back, I might do a few things differently, of course. But had I not made a thousand mistakes and learned from them, I wouldn't be here. I'm in a good spot. I'm thankful, grateful, and blessed."

Inspiring hustle

Konechney shares that same spirit of positivity, resilience, and perseverance with the startups she mentors.

"To me, hustle is about purpose with passion and fearlessly riding the wave," she says. "The passion keeps you from having fear, I think. There's nothing you can't do if you have passion."

Lifelong learning and paying it forward are recurrent themes in Konechney's entrepreneurial journey.

"I have a friend that teaches at Texas Tech University's retail department. I'm always asking if I can sit in on classes and read their books. Most of what I had learned over the years had been through hard knocks. That's why I'm so thrilled for the startups that come to the Texas Tech Innovation Hub programs. The help available here for business plans, pitches and other things is just incredible. And I think the Hub is just beginning to hit its stride. Even greater things are ahead."

She's humble about her role in guiding startups as a Hub mentor.

"I'm truly inspired by the Texas Tech Accelerator and iLaunch competition teams. I learn much more from them than they learn from me. If there's anything they can draw from me, I'm happy to share it. They give me strength and knowledge and keep me young. I kind of feel like I'm just getting started."

Encouraging startup entrepreneurs

Konechney's mentorship goes far beyond her activities at the Hub.

Piper, her independent fashion-forward store in Lubbock, carries products from startup teams she's worked with, including Hangio and Little Luminary. (Both have been featured in previous Hub Hustle  blogs.) Piper also sells jewelry made by a high school student who launched a business after participating in the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce's entrepreneurship program for youth four years ago.

That program was Konechney's introduction to the Texas Tech Innovation Hub. She says, "I was asked to speak at the Hub one night to the program's first group of students and their parents. I was so impressed with their ideas and all the great hands-on learning opportunities they had. A short time later, I was asked to be a mentor at the Hub. Of course, I agreed!" she says.

Konechney continues to be involved in the Chamber of Commerce's youth entrepreneurship program and serves on the Chamber's board.

Passion, persistence, and pivots

Konechney's mentor and role model was her mother, Barbara Airhart.

Konechney was in her 20s when she left a job in hotel sales to join forces with her mom. "At the time, we were both single and had bills to pay. Mom was repping out of the Dallas Apparel Mart. We decided we wanted to do our own thing. So I left my real job with real money to start selling apparel and accessories in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico out of the back of my car, just like my mom."

Along the way, the pair decided to design and sell their own line of ladies' western clothes at major rodeos and livestock and trade shows. Eventually, they opened stores in Lubbock and Ruidoso, New Mexico while continuing to sell their apparel on the trade show circuit. Later, they added accessories to their inventory. They eventually added more stores, then sold some, and started new ones. They also re-branded multiple times while navigating economic downturns, increased competition, and shifting industry trends over the years.

Konechney says, "I think 'entrepreneur' is just a fancy word for 'gypsy,' at least in my case. I always knew that I could do something on my own. I also knew it might not work. And it failed a bunch of times. In fact, Mom and I reached one point where we ended up having to file bankruptcy and we started all over. There's nothing we didn't go through. I bring that up because I want people to know if that happens, it's not over. You just regroup, pivot, and keep moving, as we did."