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Collins College of Business

Tequila with Friends: A thriving TU alumni-owned business

Curnelius Arnick

Seeing the fruits of alumni success only reaffirms the importance of a line in The Univeristy of Tulsa’s mission: to prepare individuals to make meaningful contributions to our campus, our community and our world. One Collins College of Business alumnus, Curnelius Arnick, is doing all that and more with his full-time career and as chief financial officer of his business, Tequila with Friends.

Tequila with Friends is an award-winning tequila brand that started as a blog in 2018 but has since transformed into a smashing success for all co-founders involved. Brandon Scott (CEO), Roddrick West (business operations) and Devin Woodson (marketing) were Arnick’s best childhood friends. Now, the four men get to collaborate and watch each other succeed on a daily basis.

Despite being recruited by many schools to play football, Arnick ultimately landed on the decision to attend TU because of the exceptional academics. In 2011, he graduated with a degree in business management, and he received a second degree in marketing during his bonus year of athletic eligibility. Both of which, Arnick claims, provided him with fundamental business know-how. From accounting principles, budgeting and forecasting, supply chain management and writing up business plans, TU’s business school left no stone unturned. “I can truly say that I have been able to apply the knowledge I learned from TU to the business I’ve been building for the last five years,” Arnick said.

The prosperous path

Arnick has been juggling his successful spirits company and his full-time job with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as a senior finance business partner for five years. “I’ve worked nights and weekends with my childhood friends to build our brand,” said Arnick, who reports being able to manage both relatively well. “My key to handling the strenuous schedule is having a good balance with time management and understanding the importance of prioritizing.”

Arnick at the NFL 360 event

Building a start-up has changed Arnick’s life in ways he initially never thought possible. Through his involvement with Tequila with Friends, Arnick’s journey has introduced him to some of the spirit industry’s best. “I have met so many great people who genuinely want to help our company grow,” said Arnick, whose products were featured at the 2022 NFL Draft, the NFL 360 event during Super Bowl LVII weekend and even the Grammy Awards. These high-profile events have provided excellent exposure for Tequila with Friends.

However, the road to success has not always been smooth. Learning the nuances of the spirits industry has been one of the biggest challenges facing Arnick and his team. He reported spending countless nights researching federal and state laws, understanding permits and licenses by market, learning the process of importing products across the U.S.-Mexico border, building relationships with distribution and logistics companies and establishing credibility with new prospective customers. “By being willing to learn something new every day, I’ve been able to overcome these challenges,” Arnick said. “I’m not afraid to make mistakes, and I make sure that a mitigation strategy is implemented when mistakes do occur. I don’t fear them, but rather learn from them.”

Goal getting

In November 2020, Arnick’s team secured distribution and landed their first sale to a retail account. “I will never forget visiting the account to see the Tequila with Friends Blanco bottle sitting on the shelf amongst other brands,” he said. “We had been told ‘no’ so many times that it was starting to get discouraging.” But eventually, the late nights, emails and phone calls finally paid off: “It was inspiring to  purchase a bottle of my own tequila from a local spirits store.”

A man and a woman promoting Tequila with Friends
Arnick and his wife, Tori Arnick at the 2022 Black Alumni Reunion

Last November, Tequila with Friends was featured at the Black Alumni reunion during Homecoming weekend. Hosted by the Black Alumni Leadership Council, the visit was made even more special because Arnick was accompanied by his wife, Tori, who graduated from TU in 2014. “She helped me promote the brand at a place where we share so many memories,” Arnick stated, thinking of the steps of McFarlin Library, which was a favorite hangout spot during the pair’s undergraduate experience. “We are very thankful that the staff in the Alumni Association office extended us the invitation. We look forward to future collaborations with TU,” he said.

Due to the long hours and hard work that business ventures demand, any spare time that Arnick gets is dedicated to his chief support system, his family: “My wife has been my No. 1 supporter in all that I do. My daughter, Teigan, is the spark that keeps my fire going. Any free time that I get, I am spending it with my girls.”

Looking ahead, Arnick and the Tequila with Friends team hopes to make their brand a household name. “We want to further saturate our current markets of Texas, California, Washington, D.C., and Maryland with our presence,” he reported. “As we continue to build key relationships, we plan to expand to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana within the next few months.”

A word of advice

West, Scott, Arnick and Woodson

After five years of trial, error and success, Arnick has a few critical pieces of advice to share with students and alumni considering the business owner’s path. The first is to conduct extensive research: “No matter what venture you pursue, you must know the business inside and out. This will help with evaluating opportunities and identifying any risk that can impact your business.” Next, do not underestimate the value of building great relationships and the power of networking: “You never know whom someone else knows or the connections they can forge for you.” Arnick’s last piece of advice is to be unafraid of failure or rejection: “One of my favorite Denzel Washington quotes reflects this: ‘Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fail forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.’”

Want to help Arnick and the Tequila with Friends team? Request Tequila with Friends at your favorite spirit stores, bars and restaurants, and follow Tequila with Friends on all social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) to help spread their story. If you’re interested in learning more about business and maybe starting your own company, check out the Collins College of Business’ new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship!

New Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to fund future Tulsa startups

The city of Tulsa has been immersed in efforts to establish itself as a leader in the region for entrepreneurial activity, a goal that is getting a significant boost from a new endeavor in The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business.

On Wednesday, TU announced the establishment of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with a goal of raising $10 million to help the campus community commercialize intellectual property, create new ventures and attain venture capital funding. The university aims to provide seed capital for the next 100 companies started by TU students, alumni and faculty.

The announcement came during TU’s monthly Friends of Finance luncheon, which supports scholarships for business students.

Left to right: Sean Kouplen, Kathy Taylor, Chris Wright and Scott Asbjornson

The center will be led by Chris Wright, a TU graduate and local entrepreneur with a history of creating new, technology-driven enterprises.

Kathy Taylor, dean of the Collins College of Business, said that 220 TU alumni have started more than 130 companies and raised more than $1.7 billion in venture capital funding during the past decade. “It’s an amazing achievement for these alumni founders and companies,” she said. “But going forward, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at TU is going to cultivate and seed-fund the next 100 start-ups.”

This focus stems from the fact that of the scores of companies started by TU alumni, only a few are based in Oklahoma. The center is on a mission to change that.

“For the next 100 companies that are started by TU students, faculty and alumni, we are going to be a part of that journey,” Wright said. “We will cultivate those businesses right here on TU’s campus. We’re going to seed-fund these entrepreneurial ventures and keep those businesses and jobs here in Tulsa and in Oklahoma to drive economic development.”

What’s more, there is an appetite among TU students for the school to take a more active role in encouraging startups. A recent survey of TU students revealed:

  • 81% believe TU needs a clear strategy for cultivating innovation
  • 78% believe TU needs to help students and faculty commercialize their innovations
  • 90% believe it’s important for TU to support student entrepreneurship
  • 80% believe it’s important for TU to have a dedicated center to support innovation and entrepreneurship

“The students were clear, the data is clear, and TU and the Collins College of Business are responding by launching the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” Taylor said.

Initiatives that are part of the center’s launch include:

  • Enhanced curriculum and opportunities – Students will have more opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and venture capital and develop the skills they need to be successful.
  • Hurricane Venture Fund – Entrepreneurs will have access to funding through our partnership with 46VC, a Tulsa-based venture capital firm. A portion of the fund will also be carved for student-led venture investing.
  • Venture studio/accelerator – The center will develop an on-campus startup accelerator that will involve programming, hands-on support and access to mentorship and capital.
  • Nova Fellows Program – A one-on-one mentorship program to help founders grow their ideas into sustainable businesses.
  • Commercialization support – The center and Hurricane Ventures will work together to commercialize intellectual property and ideas developed within the TU ecosystem.

Wright has been a cofounder or investor in numerous Tulsa-based tech companies including Reliant, Medefy, MeIn3 and Plannly. He has been an adjunct faculty member at TU for more than 10 years, teaching courses in leadership, entrepreneurship, human resources, marketing and research methods.

Wright was a founding member of TYPros and The Forge – Tulsa’s first business incubator program – and has served on numerous professional and advisory boards throughout the Tulsa community.

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship already has secured $500,000 in pledges toward the $10 million goal with $250,000 apiece pledged by Scott Asbjornson (BSBA ’91, MBA ’95) and Regent Bank.

“Regent Bank is so excited to partner with The University of Tulsa on the new TU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. We believe fully in the new venture and tech ecosystem that is exploding here in Tulsa, and we applaud President Brad Carson, Dean Kathy Taylor and Dr. Chris Wright for their vision and boldness to take this exciting step to bridge the gap between brilliant ideas and commercializing them to start up successful businesses. Regent Bank is honored to partner with TU to make this vision a reality, and we will do our part to help this exciting ecosystem continue to flourish,” said Sean Kouplen, bank chairman and CEO.

“When I served as secretary of commerce for the state of Oklahoma, we spent a lot of time studying our state’s most successful companies and what they had in common. With very few exceptions, we learned that these companies started in Oklahoma and decided to stay and grow here. I believe the key to Oklahoma’s economic future is ‘growing our own’ and Regent Bank wants to do our part to help make this happen,” he said.

Asbjornson will chair the center’s advisory board, which comprises a number of representatives from Tulsa’s business and civic communities as well as from the university. The board held its first meeting Wednesday afternoon. Asbjornson, former chief financial offer for Aaon Inc., said he is eager to get started preparing TU students to take the first step in starting their own businesses.

Friends of Finance Featured Speaker

Beverly Carmichael

Collins College of Business also hosted Beverly Carmichael, current Blue Apron board member and formerly of Southwest Airlines, Ticketmaster and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, during the monthly Friends of Finance luncheon.

Carmichael, a Tulsa resident, attorney and corporate executive, detailed her rise to leadership positions in the business world as well as her views on how companies can be more successful by focusing on their workforce. Business leaders should be open to new ways their employees work, and to pay attention to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, she said.

Carmichael also noted the strategic importance of committing to diversity, equity and inclusion, saying diverse workforces get better results. “Statistic after statistic say that the more diverse your organization is, the better it will perform,” she said. “That’s easy to understand because you get diverse perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have.

“If you don’t have diversity, it’s like talking to yourself.”

Please join us for the next Executive Speaker Series event, which features Sid McAnnally, president and chief executive officer of ONE Gas, on March 22, 2023.

Former Williams CFO joins Collins College of Business as “executive in residence” 

The University of Tulsa is excited to announce that John Chandler, former senior vice president and CFO of the Williams Companies, is joining the Collins College of Business as an executive in residence. 

Before Williams, Chandler (BSBA ’92) served as CFO of Magellan Midstream Partners LP, beginning that role in 2002 in advance of Magellan’s spinoff from Williams in 2003. During Chandler’s tenure at Williams, he strengthened its balance sheet, improved many key credit rating metrics and achieved significant deleveraging, driving consistent value to Williams’ shareholders. 

“John’s deep knowledge and C-suite experience in the energy industry will add best-in-class real-world student learning and collaboration with other disciplines across the university,” said TU President Brad R. Carson. 

Chandler serves on the board of directors for Matrix Services Co. and has served on the boards of several community organizations including the Wagoner Education Foundation, Wagoner Community Outreach and the Tulsa Area United Way. 

To support the university’s and the college’s strategic plans, Collins College of Business is reinventing its energy curriculum with a data analytics mindset and by applying sustainability across all segments of the energy industry. With the vital role energy plays in our region’s economy, Collins will integrate energy through every discipline in the college.  

“John will make an important impact on students at the Collins College of Business. He will be available to spend time one-on-one with students, assist in identifying applied learning projects, identify others in the business community who can provide specialized areas of expertise and collaborate to set the energy strategy for the college,” said Dean Kathy Taylor. Chandler’s connection also will assist in identifying internships and potential job opportunities for students in the energy industry. 

As executive in residence, Chandler will share his broad corporate experience with TU students and faculty, helping to link theory to practice. With a distinguished history of success, he has held leadership roles with companies involved in significant transactions and growth. He will provide the inside scoop on how to lead organizations and corporate strategy; offer insight into how companies, advisers and investors interact and add value; and point out future trends in the energy industry. 

Chandler and his wife, Barbie (BSN ’92), have made their home in Wagoner where they own and operate an 850-acre cattle ranch. All four of their children have attended TU. One of their daughters, Halli Tipton, is a clinical assistant professor of nursing at the university. 

As Collins College of Business updates and reimagines energy education at the undergraduate and graduate level, Chandler will work with long-time energy faculty and industry professionals Tom Seng and Jennifer Bennett as well as other faculty to identify areas that should be included for the relaunch of energy studies in fall 2023. Chandler’s knowledge, alongside the exceptional faculty across the college, will ensure TU students are prepared for the world of energy today and tomorrow.

My CCB Story: Andrew McKinnis (BSBA ’19, MBA ’20)

Written by Andrew McKinnis, BSBA ’19, MBA ’20 and current analyst for Advantage Capital


Thinking back on what the Collins College of Business means to me, I find it impossible to separate my current self from the impact that the faculty, curriculum, and culture had upon me in my time there.

When I first arrived, the professors took in a clueless kid. Over the next four and a half years, they continually invested their time and effort into giving direction and all the skills and knowledge necessary for success. I remember office hours conversations with Jennifer Bennett in my final undergrad term that set me down a path leading to my current position. Brice Collier served as my professor and advocate countless times and ultimately served as my reference for Advantage. Tom Seng, whom I worked under as a GA, displayed such a commitment to the success of his students and routinely would put his reputation behind them if it could help them reach their goals. These conversations and commitment between students and renowned professors are rare in the collegiate and professional arenas. At Tulsa, they are a staple of every student’s experience.

The intellectual product that CCB creates in their students is something that I take incredible pride in and believe puts our students at a competitive level with the best. The quality correlates to the relationships between students and professors and a developed curriculum built upon rigor, creativity, and application in industry. Dr. Mike Troilo had such an ability to take complex, cross-border concepts and bring them down to a level where we could grasp them to develop solutions that were far beyond what anyone would expect of a group in their 20s. My fondest academic memory might be with Tally Ferguson and the Student Investment Fund, where students manage a considerable amount of investments through direct application of lessons learned, all while under the leadership of an established professional. Looking back now as a professional, I cannot think of a better development than my time working in SIF with Tally.

All told, the CCB brought out the best of me because that is what is required. From its professors, students, alumni, and everything a part of it, CCB has a culture that demands the best.

These lessons learned, relationships created, and memories made in Helmerich Hall continue with me, as does my pride in being an alum.

Student Investment Fund among Top 25 in the U.S.

An initiative meant to provide exceptional opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in their study of finance found its beginnings in the fall semester of 1997. Founded by Friends of Finance, The University of Tulsa’s Student Investment Fund (SIF) remains an integral component to the education of students in business and finance and is one of the 25 largest student-managed investment funds in the United States. 

Classroom of students with instructor at the head of class
SIF classroom

In the fall of 2021, the SIF reached an impressive milestone when the fund broke $8 million. Collins College of Business Adjunct Instructor and Senior Vice President and Director of Enterprise Risk Management at BOK Financial Tally Ferguson explained the significance of this milestone by emphasizing the power of compound growth: “The fund started with $300,000 in 1997. We added another $1.8 million in donations over the next 18 years, and we have paid out $1.4 million for scholarships and program building expenses in the past four years.”

In other words, students turned $2.1 million into $8 million in invested funds, plus $1.4 million in cash distributed. “Another significance of the fund’s size,” said Ferguson, “is that it gives us an opportunity to explore different prudent investment strategies within the fund.” Currently, the SIF is focusing on identifying individual stocks projected to outperform their sectors and the overall market. 

The SIF allows students to gain practical experience in financial modeling, portfolio management and fundamental analysis. “Making investment decisions with real consequences and understanding the effects of macroeconomic forces on industries and firms is a unique opportunity for our outstanding students,” said Ferguson. “Students apply financial theories and models in making real investment decisions and manage a real portfolio of financial assets.”

Ferguson became a faculty advisor for the SIF in 2011. Having already been an adjunct instructor, Ferguson enjoyed interacting with TU students and jumped at the chance to become more involved. “The Collins College of Business faculty train students so well,” said Ferguson, “they come well prepared to have meaningful discussions about value, allocation and economic trends.” Ferguson also reported that serving as a TU faculty member has given him unique exposure to potential hires for his team at BOK Financial. Overall, he noted, “SIF is an investment well worth the effort.”

Interested in the experiential learning opportunities for students of business and finance? Check out the Collins College of Business website to learn more!

Business students team up with local firms and nonprofit organizations

Students in The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business regularly share their expertise with companies and nonprofits in Tulsa and surrounding communities. These projects not only give the students real-world experience, they also help local businesses and nonprofits find creative solutions to expand their brands and better reach consumers.

Professor Charles Wood wearing a green shirt and smiling
Professor Charles Wood

Professor of Marketing Charles Wood believes that hands-on experience is a valuable tool for learning about the world of marketing. “The purpose of all of these collaboration projects is for students to apply concepts they learn in class to real-world settings,” Wood said. “For an applied discipline such as marketing, real learning occurs best when students are required to synthesize and experientially use theories and concepts in new contexts.”

Dee Harris of Tulsa’s Family and Children Service Center worked with TU business students in both the spring and summer semesters. “Professor Wood’s classes are the perfect example of balancing student learning with community need,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a partner in real-world learning as it invigorates students and provides nonprofits with a new perspective about our marketing and communication plans. I always look forward to collaborating with students and enjoy watching them discover, create and solve.”

Integrated Marketing Communication

A potent example of this university-and-community engagement arose in the spring 2020 Integrated Marketing Communication course. In this course, undergraduate students formed teams and worked with seven local nonprofit and for-profit organizations. At the beginning of the project, representatives of the organizations came to campus multiple times to check-in with the students’ progress and provide assistance where needed. Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic altered the semester plans, the meetings between student groups and their organizations continued, albeit online.

Despite the unexpected transition to online classes, the students and their companies maintained a close working relationship that promoted growth for both parties. The student teams developed and managed a full Google AdWords campaign to help their clients achieve their goals. A local social media expert, Joe Hart, came to these sessions and supported the teams throughout the semester.

Consumer Behavior

During the summer, community engagement continued, but this time with graduate students. A consultancy brief project in the master of business administration (MBA) Consumer Behavior course paired small groups of students with 10 local companies including Scoops Rolls and Creamery, Runners World and Marshall Brewing. Each group of students listened to their partner-firm’s concerns and developed personalized plans to meet their needs.

For the summer course, Wood explained, “the only selection criteria provided was that the business be locally owned. Students were encouraged to choose their own clients based on what they believed was the organization’s potential and clear need for some advice and assistance, meet with the owners and then proceed from there.”

All the groups delivered potential aids to the companies, including ideas about better use of social media, customer loyalty programs, community engagement, retail layout improvements, partnerships, branding and promotions.

Danny Donley smiling and wearing a blue polo shirt
Danny Donley, MBA student

One student in the MBA course, Danny Donley, said of the summer experience: “The chance to work hands-on with a real company in our community that is struggling a little extra because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a tremendous experience. My team worked with a small massage therapy company and helped use our knowledge and research to immediately revitalize the company’s marketing strategy and reach. We had the opportunity to put creative ideas into action to test our own skills while benefiting a local firm, which is rewarding in two ways.”

A business degree from TU will bring you in contact with faculty members at the forefront of their fields who are excellent teachers as well as scholars. Learn about this vibrant, welcoming community.

CCB honors alumni and students with 2019-20 excellence awards

Dean Linda Nichols has announced the winners of the annual Collins College of Business Excellence Awards.

Outstanding alumni

Outstanding Alumnus Albert Myres Sr.

excellence awardsAlbert Myres Sr. is president and chief executive officer of Octcet Inc., a rapidly developing oxygenated diesel additive company focusing on the bulk diesel industry. Octcet develops and markets a unique range of advanced additives designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel and operations efficiency. Myres oversees the company’s business operations, strategy, vision and mission.

Throughout his career, Myres has gained hands-on experience in business relations, government affairs, regulatory affairs, public affairs and international relations. Directing these functions with Fortune 250 corporations, Myres has advised CEOs, developed a network of key relations with federal, state and local decision makers and a network of relations within nongovernmental organizations and national groups engaged in energy policy, public policy and environmental stewardship.

Myres is a member of several boards and community service organizations, including the Texas Southern University Board of Regents, the Greater Houston YMCA, the Nature Conservancy and The University of Tulsa Collins College of Business Executive Advisory Board. He also was appointed chair of the Gulf Coast Relief Fund by Houston Mayor Bill White after Hurricane Ike and served in same role for the Hurricane Katrina/Rita Fund.

Myres earned a bachelor of science in finance from the TU Collins College of Business and resides in the greater Houston area with his wife, Angela.

Fast-Track Alumna Emily Reh

excellence awardsEmily Reh has worked in the energy industry for 10 years and has used her talents on both the commercial and operations sides of the downstream sector. As the manager of market development at ONE Gas, she focuses on new customer and pipeline infrastructure growth throughout Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Reh earned a BSBA degree with a major in marketing and also was part of the first graduating class of TU’s master of energy business program.

Reh served for three years on the TU Alumni Board-Tulsa chapter, chairing the 2017 Homecoming celebration and the Young Alumni Committee. Currently, she is a member of the TU School of Energy Advisory Council.

Outstanding Students

David R. Lawson Outstanding Senior Award

Three graduating seniors received the 2020 David R. Lawson Outstanding Senior Award in recognition of their leadership and accomplishments while students at TU: Lauren Milburn, Clay Moyer and Muneeb Yousufi.

excellence awardsLauren Milburn, computer information systems

“My TU experience is something that I will treasure and take pride in for a lifetime! It has provided and shaped countless opportunities for my future aspirations and given me the resources to pursue them with confidence.”

excellence awardsClay Moyer, management with specialization in innovation

“The free inquiry, encouragement, support and academic rigor of TU have come together to make me a better person. These four years at TU have contributed immensely to my personal and professional development. I am incredibly thankful for the unique and tailored education that TU has provided, and I am proud of the memories and friends that have come of it.”

excellence awardsMuneeb Yousufi, finance and energy management

“I believe that my impact at TU has been greatly beneficial, and I believe that as a natural extension of volunteer work and involvement with helping students, that I have impacted the Tulsa community as well in a positive way.”

Other outstanding graduates

Each CCB discipline also chose an outstanding graduate:

Accounting: Jenny O’Bryan

Economics: Stephen McDonald

Energy Management: Cooper Griffin

Finance: Stephen McDonald

Marketing: Jen Martin

Computer Information Systems: Anna Kinder

Management: Brittanie Whitney

International Business: Eleni Schmitt

Faculty and staff awards

Mayo Staff Excellence Award

Carol Alix, director of operations, fiscal affairs and special projects, brings a wealth of institutional knowledge, insight and an exceptional attitude to her responsibilities. Dean Linda Nichols and many others rely on her counsel every day.

Mayo Teaching Excellence Award

Meagan Baskin, Chapman Assistant Professor of Management, has brought innovative teaching methods to the college, and her students and colleagues are appreciative and supportive of her methods.

Mayo Research Excellence Award

Wen-Chyuan Chiang, Doris L. Flournoy Professor of Business, is a cornerstone of the college’s operations management group. The committee selected the following publication, of which Chiang was the lead author, to receive this research excellence award: Chiang, W., Y. Li, J. Shang, and T. Urban. 2019. Impact of drone delivery on sustainability and cost: Realizing the UAV potential through vehicle routing optimization. Applied Energy 242: 1164-1175

Helmerich Graduate Faculty Excellence Award

Graduate students selected Rob Moore, Chapman Applied Assistant Professor of Energy Business, for the faculty excellence award. Moore demonstrates his compassion and integrity daily in the classroom.