This Kenan-Flagler Graduate Was Once Homeless. Now He’s Building Two Startups

Tyrell Carter, BSBA ‘21, graduated from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in May. He’s now working to get two startups to market. Courtesy photo

The first time the entrepreneurial bug bit him, Tyrell Carter was sitting on a street corner with little more to his name than his gray hoodie and khaki shorts. He was 10 or 12 at the time, homeless, but he had found a bit of success by drawing bookmarks and selling them to kids in the neighborhood. He remembers thinking: “Whatever I do, I’m going to be the greatest.”

Today, Carter, BSBA ‘21, has a degree from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (No. 6 in Poets&Quants’ latest ranking of undergraduate business schools), and he’s building two separate startups. His first, ANTE, a software platform to help small businesses run more efficiently, was incubated at two separate UNC startup labs. 

“This is the thing I imagined: I imagined looking at a diploma from one of the best schools in the country. To actually see it and be able to, like, touch it … that’s the greatest feeling ever,” Carter tells P&Q

In this interview, as part of our Student-founder series, Carter explains why business school was the best choice for his entrepreneurial journey. 

Where did you grow up and when did your interest in business begin?

‘Neither of my parents went to college so this was my first time going through the process, figuring out a lot of stuff on my own,’ Tyrell says. Courtesy

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, towards the eastern side of the state. I first started noticing I liked business when I was really young, and I started selling bookmarks that I made and drew myself. Just whatever I was interested in at the time like video games, movies or TV. I had a little bit of success, and that was really kind of the birth of my love of entrepreneurship. I later found out that there are a lot of entrepreneurs in my family that I didn’t even know about. My grandfathers were both entrepreneurs. 

One of my grandfathers owned the store in town, and then I found out my other grandfather had a lot of entrepreneurial pursuits in terms of different investments or starting businesses and clubs.

When did you decide you wanted to go to business school, and why did you choose Kenan-Flagler?

I was actually going to go to school to start my own animation studio, and I was gonna go to Regent University. But I also applied to UNC (University of North Carolina) and NC State because that’s where a lot of the kids in my school actually applied to. It seemed like if you were smart, you could get into those schools.

Which schools were you accepted to?

I got into all three. I was planning on going to Regent University in Virginia Beach and double majoring in their animation program and business. I actually did a trip over there, and there was a scholarship program, but it really didn’t work out like I wanted it to. So that really kind of destroyed my plans of going there because I really needed funds. I ended up saying, okay, ‘Carolina is the best school (no offense NC State), and I can go there for business.’ My friend was going there, and both his parents went there so it seemed like the perfect place to go. I got into UNC and was selected as a Carolina Covenant Scholar. I found out then that I still had to apply for the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

So, when I got there, I was doing everything I could to learn about business school and learn about what was the best way to apply. I actually learned how big Kenan-Flagler actually was. I had no idea. Neither of my parents went to college so this was my first time going through the process, figuring out a lot of stuff on my own.

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