Kit Carson ’04, ’13: Tennis Star Turned Tech Entrepreneur
What do SMU, tennis and a cloud-based mobile platform have in common?
Alumna Kit Carson ’04, ’13.
Setting out to “disrupt the way payments are made,” Carson co-founded Tantrum Street in 2011 with Park Cities native William Cervin. The company offers apps that provide a streamlined purchase process for consumers and businesses. Tantrum’s Cartwheel Register mobile checkout app for merchants and Skip Wallet mobile wallet for customers enable secure credit card transactions via smartphones or tablets without extra hardware.
“The name Tantrum Street came out of our desire to cause disruption in the payments space and our need to question, ‘ Why do things the way they’ve always been done?‘” Carson explains. “Tantrum, Skip and Cartwheel also create a family of brands that evoke a sense of motion, action and playfulness.”
Skip Wallet allows consumers to load credit, debit and gift card information, as well as rewards card details, onto one platform. The secure “digital wallet” makes the purchase, return and budget-tracking process quick and efficient. Consumers can use their mobile device for cardless checkouts at the register. Skip Wallet also can be utilized without a device by employing a unique payname and PIN number.
Along with simplifying the buying experience, Skip Wallet makes philanthropy an easy, one-step process. With each purchase made via Skip Wallet, consumers can help support Good Returns. The social enterprise network works with companies and individuals to provide small business loans to partners that directly address global issues, such as alleviating poverty.
“Good Returns is a core part of our company,” Carson says. “Every time you use it, you can make a difference. You have the opportunity to change lives.”
Carson runs Tantrum Street out of a historical building near downtown Dallas. The light-filled, collaborative space houses the company’s 15-person team, including six other Mustangs:
- Samer Abousalbi – MBA ’13
- Kristin Barnes – MBA ’13, Master of Arts ’13
- Staci Brinkman – MBA ’10
- Chris Panoff – Bachelor of Science ’03, Master of Science ’04
- Matthew Wood – MBA ’08
- Peter DeNicola – Bachelor of Science ’15
“We’ve got quite an SMU community here in Deep Ellum,” Carson jokes.
The young entrepreneur’s academic career began a little differently than might be expected. It started on the tennis court. As a high school tennis star, she was awarded a full scholarship to the University. A three-year captain of the SMU women’s tennis team, she led the team to their first NCAA tournament win in over two decades. She also was an Academic All-American and an All-Conference student-athlete.
Thanks to support on and off the court, she excelled in academics. Carson remembers Head Coach Carl Neufeld as “a constant guiding force.
“He treats all of his players like family and makes sure they have every opportunity to succeed on the court, in the classroom and post-graduation,” she says.
In 2004, Carson graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Cox School of Business.
For five years after graduation, she focused on tennis, circling the globe on the professional circuit. But a career-ending injury brought her back to Dallas and SMU.
While the door closed on tennis, another opened in business. She entered Cox’s MBA program and connected with professors she calls “instrumental” in her development as a business leader. Two teacher-mentors stand out to her: Dennis Grindle, former director of MBA Career Management, and Ray Balestri, adjunct professor.
“I had the benefit of having Dennis as my career counselor and also took a career management class taught by Dennis,” she says. “He truly has an unparalleled gift for connecting the right people.”
Balestri now serves as corporate counsel for Tantrum Street.
“I first met Ray in class. I recognized instantly his tremendous depth of knowledge and experience in startups and the legal aspects of starting, running and growing a business,” she recalls. “He has a fantastic teaching style, and his class was the most valuable class I took during the MBA program.”
Now over two years old, the company she started while still in graduate school is growing. The Tantrum Street team is currently working on a merchant dashboard that will help Cartwheel Register users better understand their customers and sales trends. They also are building Android app versions of Skip Wallet and Cartwheel Register.
“Great things are yet to come,” Carson says.
– Leah Johnson ’15