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CompleteSet’s Gary Darna turned his lifelong hobby into a career

Gary Darna

by Jayna Morris
Assistant Editor, NKU Magazine

Northern Kentucky University grad Gary Darna waited almost two decades to buy the R2-D2 Pepsi cooler he’d been eyeballing since he was 11 years old. He drove hundreds of miles to Pennsylvania to retrieve it, disassemble it (to fit in his car), drive it home, and piece it back together.

Darna’s passion for collecting started with one Star Wars figurine and has transformed into a functioning business, CompleteSet, an online, “shoppable” knowledge base where collectors can digitally document collectors' items they have and want in one central location. CompleteSet users hail from more than 45 countries.

“There are people in countries we’ve never visited—people who speak languages we don’t even understand—who are using a product we built,” Darna says. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

Darna met his co-founder, Jaime Rump, in April 2012 while they were both students in NKU’s INKUBATOR program. They launched their beta site in May 2013 after they won the Cincinnati Innovates competition and received a $10,000 grant from CincyTech.

Their turning point came in 2014 when Darna and Rump raised $650,000 through Velocity, a Louisville startup accelerator program. They grew their team, launched an iPhone app, and expanded their audience.

But for Darna, it’s more than just about the numbers in the archives.

“What is so meaningful about what we’re building at CompleteSet is that there’s a story behind many of the things the collectors own,” Darna says. “What they’re really collecting isn’t objects—it’s memories that remind them of a person, place, or time in their life. It’s great being able to build something people care about and interact with.”

To read about Darna's partner, Jaime Rump, click here.