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Startup Garage Helps Launch App

November 8, 2023
Cameron Lockrey took home the top prize of $1,000 for his “Kickback” app idea.
Cameron Lockrey took home the top prize of $1,000 for his “Kickback” app idea.

Calvin University senior Cameron Lockrey stood on the Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall stage under a single spotlight.

“Last year, me and my friends started a pressure-washing business, and it was pretty good,” he said. “But some of our clients would call us up and say, ‘Hey, we need you to do landscaping,’ and we even had one guy ask us to move his rocks. It was crazy.”

But those random add-ons got him thinking, Lockrey said.

“I loved being outside and doing odd jobs, and I was kind of wondering, ‘What if there’s an app out there that lets me find odd jobs and other tasks to do and make money?’”

He searched but couldn’t find one, he said.

“So, I introduce to you . . . ‘Kickback,’ a revolutionary app that connects taskers with homeowners who need tasks done.”

On Thursday, Nov. 2, Lockrey was one of 12 students pitching their business ideas to a room full of students, business owners, and community members as part of Calvin’s annual PitchUp competition, where students have two minutes to impress a panel of judges and the audience on their idea’s desirability, viability, and feasibility – and to win them over with their presentation.

Students pitched everything from toothpaste dispensers to the Airbnb equivalent for boats.

“What if there was an app that allowed people with a boat to loan it to the ‘flotation-ally’ challenged?’ asked one of the presenters. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ‘Borrow My Boat.’”

Ideas also ranged from a versatile truck bed to an app that allows individuals to find volunteer options tailored to their passions, skills, and availability.

“Enter ‘Serve Hub’—the app that bridges the gap between those who want to help and those who need it most,” explained another presenter.

The evening was full of interesting ideas and creative pitches. And in the end Lockrey’s “Kickback” idea took home the top prize of $1,000.

“I think it shows how helpful the Calvin Startup Garage is in helping students thoroughly think through, craft, and launch their ideas that the winner was one who was very mature in the Calvin Startup Garage itself,” said Jon VerLee.

VerLee, a 2008 Calvin alum, is the director of the Calvin Startup Garage, the entity that hosted the PitchUp competition and empowers students to make their business dreams a reality.

“I knew there was a guy named Jon VerLee, but I didn’t know too much about him,” said Lockrey. ”What I did know was that he could help me hit the ground running.”

So, Lockrey asked VerLee for a meeting.

“We had a walking meeting, and I told him my idea. He really liked it, and right then and there he asked me to join the leadership team for the Startup Garage,” said Lockrey.

That truly began his entrepreneurial venture.

“Thanks to Startups, I’ve taken the baby steps in building the app, and it’s been a long journey,” said Lockrey.

Following VerLee’s advice, Lockrey got user feedback, came up with a proof of concept, spent several months building the app, went through the legal process, and then on Sept. 10 Lockrey saw his idea show up in his App Store.

“There’s a lot of opportunities as more of life becomes digital,” said VerLee. “So whether it be sharing a boat and using an app to structure that, cost comparisons with grocery stores and using an app to organize that, or in Cam’s case using an app to connect homeowners with people willing to do tasks, technology does a wonderful job of connecting a lot of the needs that have existed for decades and centuries in a brand-new way.”

For Lockrey, with the Kickback App now available in “stores” via Apple and Android, he’s now hoping to use the $1,000 he earned and the skill set he’s developed at Calvin to get the word out.

These success stories are inspiring to VerLee, and he knows there are plenty more coming.

“Entrepreneurship comes alive when it is paired with an individual's passion,” said VerLee. “It’s entrepreneurship plus your passion where the magic happens. My hope with this event is that it would ignite a fire in students who are predisposed to being innovators and disruptors and that they would see a path forward to take those ideas into the future. For some of them, it may be starting that idea now; for others it might just be planting that seed that comes to fruition five to ten years in the future, after they have had a bit more real-world experience. But, in either case, we want this to be the inspiration to go after those big ideas and make a change in the world in a Christ-centered way.”

This fall, CRC News is sharing stories that demonstrate the impact of ministry shares. To learn more, visit or invite Jeff Bolt (U.S.) or Roshani Morton (Canada) to speak to your council, congregation, or classis.