Alumni Spotlight: Katie Finnegan

Emma Barge

Former J.Crew merchandiser and class of 2005 Colgate graduate Katie Finnegan went for coffee with a friend during the holiday season of 2011. As we can all imagine ourselves doing, the two women began to commiserate over the special offers and limited-time deals that inundated their email inboxes with spam. Intrigued by the prospect of saving a little cash while indulging in some shiny new buys, Finnegan and her future business partner had the wheels turning: how do we get to the sale without having to sort through the spam? Soon after, Hukkster – your personal assistant for sale seeking – was born.

 1) What is Hukkster? How does it work and why do we need it? is a revolutionary digital platform that allows shoppers to track specific products across the web and get alerted the moment they go on sale! Shoppers go about their normal shopping activities, visit their favorite retail sites either via their browser or with our iOS app (available in the app store) and when they see a product they like, they click the “hukk it” button. Shoppers are prompted to indicate their exact size and color preference. They may also categorize products into individual lists and set a price threshold. Hukkster then does all of the dirty work — tracking specific products and alerting shoppers of any price discount including coupon codes and special promotions that apply.

 2) Did you start Hukkster right after graduation? How did you get to where you are now?

 No. I have had a pretty varied but fulfilling path to get to where I am today with Hukkster. I have always had a passion for retail, so after Colgate I worked at American Eagle Outfitters in Operations and at J.Crew as a Merchant. After three years in the industry, I decided to go to Duke to get my MBA full-time. Taking a pretty traditional post-MBA career path, I then went into management consulting. I worked at A.T. Kearney for twoyears as a consultant, always focusing on the retail sector. It was at A.T. Kearney, during the height of the flash sale boom, that my business partner and I came up with the idea for Hukkster.

 3) What parts of your Colgate experience played the biggest role in developing this business?

 To plug the liberal arts a bit, it was really that well-diversified and balanced education that allowed me to do so many different things throughout my professional career with confidence. I never felt that because I didn’t do it before, I couldn’t figure it out. And it was that attitude that helped us get Hukkster off the ground. Secondly, it is the unprecedented support of the Colgate community. I talked about the “goosebumps moment” I had at the first Colgate Entrepreneurship Weekend which was the bump I needed to jump in and tackle Hukkster full time!

 4) What have your biggest challenges been? What about your most thrilling successes?

 It’s definitely the most rewarding and the most difficult endeavor I’ve ever embraced in my professional life. Challenges surface almost every day when you’re building a business from scratch but I would say prioritization is the biggest challenge. We have a small team and lofty goals, so we really have to prioritize to make sure that we’re focusing our efforts in one place to move our business forward one step at a time.

 In 2013, “Time Inc.” named Hukkster as a Top 10 NYC Startup to Watch. While it was a huge honor to be recognized for all of our hard work, we are still a very young brand with a lot of work ahead of us. We enjoy celebrating our successes but use those moments as fuel to stay focused, drive our platform forward and push ourselves to achieve the next milestone.

 5) What is the one thing at Colgate that you wish you had done or done more of?

I would have to say that I didn’t take advantage of the Outdoor Ed activities enough when I was a student. Now, when I head up as an alumna, I am continuously impressed and in awe with the beauty of Hamilton, NY. I think being up there for four years straight, I may have taken it for granted and didn’t realize how good we had it.

 6) Do you have any advice for current Colgate students about forming a career path? “Do-s”

and “Don’t-s”?

Do what you love. You need to have passion in what you are doing and the rest will follow suit. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. If you are continuously succeeding, you aren’t learning!

 7) Do you think that you have faced any special challenges either at Colgate or after graduation specifically related to being a woman?

 I would have to say the support for female professionals, in particular, female entrepreneurs has been pretty amazing. People in the industry recognize that females make amazing leaders and even better product owners – who better to market to a woman or build a product for a woman than one herself?

Contact Emma Barge at [email protected].