Marine named Entrepreneur of the Year by Anchorage Chamber
An Afghanistan veteran whose entrepreneurship stretches from forming Quick Cup and Quick Bites to helping coffee shops develop safety measures was named the Alaska Entrepreneur of the Year by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce during its Annual Young Professionals Summit.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Keith McCormick developed a free app called Quick Cup and worked through the startup concept while serving as a medic and bunking in a connex trailer on his last tour of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In fact, last April, he was a finalist in the 2017 Alaska Business Plan Competition. He did his pitch before a live audience at the Bear Tooth Theatre via video while still stationed in the war zone.
“A lot has happened in a single year,” McCormick said. “Thanks to my wife and business partners — that’s what I call the coffee shops that signed on — this has really been an unbelievable year.”
Quick Cup is focused on a single mission: to get coffee-cravers to their favorite cup of java in the shortest time possible. It leverages a patent pending algorithm for estimated wait time-quickest options, believed to be the first in the nation. Quick Bites produces private mobile apps for restaurants, using similar patent-pending technology, to save time and steps at meal times.
The chamber honored McCormick as a motivated individual “who identifies a need and seeks to fill it.”
The citation lauded McCormick as “Alaska’s next generation of legacy builders. They are innovative, passionate, ambitious, and visionaries. Most importantly, recipients have demonstrated a growing impact with their business in their industry and/or community.”
McCormick was raised in Alaska, graduating from South Anchorage High School in 2009, the same year he joined the Marines. He married Sarah Russell in February 2010 during one of his training leaves, and spent a total of five years away from Alaska between several tours.
“I figured out of the five years since he was born, I’ve spent six months total with my son,” he said. “I was tired of being away, and wanted to create a business. There’s no real jobs for infantrymen when they get out, other than police forces or security.”
McCormick trained as a medic to qualify as a contractor just as the war efforts were ratcheting down. He was building on the University of Alaska physician’s assistant program he wasn’t able to finish during his tours of duty.
But creating a business that lets him stay closer to his family matches his goals for now. He also works with other veterans in a partnership called Northern Shield Defense, which provides bodyguards for celebrities visiting Alaska and safety training to coffee shops to help prevent robberies.
He analyzes baristas as they open and close their daily operations, evaluates camera placements, then generates a report and advises on how to close security gaps.
And he works for the City of Whittier training other emergency medical technicians or EMTs.
“I work out of the house, and when I do EMT training for Whittier, the family comes with me. We stay in a trailer by the water,” he said.
Some Anchorage coffee shops and huts have been fast to sign on with Quick Cup. They pay no upfront costs to have their menu loaded on McCormick’s Quick Cup app. The fee comes as 5 percent take on each coffee or beverage sold. So far, he has 15 active shops signed on and another 75 customer leads to follow up on after attending the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle in mid-April.
Based on national interest generated at the expo, he will be able to upload menus from chains like Starbucks.
McCormick does all the technical work himself, with help from Keoke Long, a U.S. Marine and business partner who invested in Quick Cup. Because it’s an app, the customer base can be anywhere in the U.S. , or the world. The algorithm will be able to calculate wait times based on the individual location.
“It works anywhere in the world with tweaking for language and the formatting of the language,” he said.
Some coffee shops have turned down Quick Cup.
One local coffee shop, for example, doesn’t want the kind of customers that are in a hurry, he said.
“On the other hand, when you have people sitting in line at a coffee hut, I’m sure that’s not something they want to be doing,” he said.
“Just trying to give people back time is our most important asset.”
Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].