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A Jamestown native who’s in his first season as the place kicker at the University of Rhode Island, Harrison Leonard took the elements commonly associated with getting a startup business off the ground and drilled it directly through the uprights.
His vision of creating a more efficient way of learning was officially launched on the first day of September. Two months later, Leonard can only smile due to the significant traction gained through the creation of Caktus, lauded as the future of education per its creator. This week, the website received 70,000 questions to bring the total to 200,000 since the curtain was raised on a venture that has relied on grassroots efforts and social media to spread the word of what’s available with one click of the mouse.
“For me to see this working, and helping so many students on a daily basis, it’s awesome,” Leonard said.
Listed as a redshirt sophomore, Leonard joined the Rams after spending the past three seasons as a backup kicker on the Notre Dame football team. Why he chose to head down the educational path with an emphasis placed on saving time stems from personal observations of what’s taking place and what should be the modus operandi when it comes to schooling.
“Right now in college, you’re either going to get an education or get a degree. The majority of people of going to get the degree. They’re not learning anything. You’re just getting all this information thrown at you and it’s impossible to remember it,” Leonard said.
“Simply type your question in, and boom, there’s your response. It quickly simplifies it rather than going through 2,000 pages of reading,” Leonard said.
What Leonard has created is an educational safari that’s the anti-Google. The days of seeking the essential “needle in a haystack” upon asking a question and being directed to other websites to find an answer have ceased. Caktus represents one-stop shopping doubling as a time saver.
“Say you need to provide an opinion on something. Maybe you don’t know the exact answer or the direction you want to head down. Caktus will provide those examples on how to get started,” Leonard said. “What takes you six hours can now take you half an hour.”
The target audience for Caktus is student-athletes like Leonard and fellow URI special teams contributor Davey Schaum-Bartocci, who was brought on board to handle the marketing and publicity for this subscription-based website. Schaum-Bartocci reached out to the fraternities and sororities on the URI campus with his boots-on-the-ground approach yielding instant support.
“Once they see it, they’re all super impressed. We’ve received a lot of great feedback on how it works,” said Schaum-Bartocci, the Rams’ punter.
Noted Leonard, “The first thing we thought of is the target market as far as those crunched for time and needing to get things done quickly. It’s athletes and Greek life people.”
The popularity of Caktus soared to greater heights when Schaum-Bartocci recorded a video that showed off the software and was posted to his personal TikTok account the night before URI staged an epic seven-overtime victory over Monmouth.
“Instead of sifting through a bunch of pages, follow this tip,” was the hook that Schaum-Bartocci utilized, a passionate plea that clearly resonated with the audience. When the URI redshirt senior woke up the next morning, he was astonished to learn that 75,000 folks had checked out his TikTok post on Caktus’ behalf.
The popularity of Leonard’s quest of lessening the strain of seeking the desired answer that puts the searcher on the right path is reflected in Caktus recently surpassing 22,000 users spread among 28 countries. Given Leonard’s current status, it shouldn’t register as a shock to learn of Caktus’ popularity among today’s college football players – even those at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level.
If Caktus was able to get off the ground in the fashion that it did while Leonard was in-season, the sky appears to be limitless pertaining to the next evolution of the site once the offseason arrives and in theory more time is available.
“We want to continue to develop the platform and see where it goes,” said Leonard about his business venture that’s rooted in simplicity.
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).
Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.