Founders : Architecture + Design

46 Founders | Page:

Megan Fenno of FENNOfashion


Savannah College of Art and Design

Ken O'Dea of Place Workshop

How did you start your business?  
I was employed at Vivian Llambi & Associates for more than 12 years. I finally realized I wanted to try something new. With the support from my family, I resigned from my positions and started Place Workshop.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
I have thought about this endeavor for a long time. I wanted to create a “design first” company that strives to make unique and memorable places using all of our knowledge.

Sometimes, landscape architects can focus too much on planting design. While plants and trees are a very important part of what makes a place, planting design is only one of many tools that can be used to create a dynamic environment. We leverage our urban design skills to look at spatial form, color, functionality, lighting, color and ambiance.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Springboard was a big help. We needed to create a smart business plan and they helped us get it going. The collaboration with the other entrepreneurs was priceless – it was a big help and a big ego boost to talk to people taking the same leap into business ownership.

Your business is very, very new.  How have the first few weeks been?
It’s been exciting. People told me it wouldn’t be 8-hour days, and they were right.  Right now, I wear a lot of hats – creating marketing material, setting up appointments to talk with clients and more.  Today, I’m putting together our office furniture; I’ve got my arms around the whole company at this point.

What’s next for you and your company?  
I would like to hire one or two new designers within the next year and open a Kentucky location.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Ken O'Dea of Place Workshop


Kim Howell and Somi Javaid of Mamadoc

How did you start your business?
We started the business around the idea of a compression garment to help the pain of engorgement and weaning.  The medication once available to help with lactation cessation has been pulled from the market due to side effects, so physicians currently recommend binding with Ace bandages, using cabbage leaves for pain relief or wearing several tight sports bras—not great options. 

Our current product, Nox, provides a better option.  We covered the elastic with bamboo, a very soft fabric that also has natural wicking capabilities.  We also added pockets on the inside for customized breast icepacks.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
We came up with the idea for Mamadoc during a walk around the soccer field as our boys were practicing.  Somi was weaning her third child at the time and told me about an idea for a compression garment.  I suggested a few fun taglines, and as we laughed and joked about possible names for such a product, we realized that with our backgrounds we could make a good team.  Somi is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Kim’s background is in retail and pharmaceutical marketing.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Family was very involved in our start-up:  Kim’s mom sewed our first prototype. Her cousin, Susan Young (Susan Young Designs) developed our logos and branding; another cousin, Monica Scalf wrote our copy.  Somi’s brother-in-law, Jim Caruso, designed our website and helps with search engine optimization and IT.  We found a local manufacturer to refine the designs and produce the products. 

In addition, we have a SCORE mentor, and we are utilizing the great resources at Bad Girl Ventures.

What inspires you?
 We are inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of this community.  Everyone is incredibly helpful and truly wants us to succeed.  Women in business in Cincinnati are very generous with their time, and ideas, and resources.
What’s next for you and your company? 

We hope to add a few additional products to our mix this year.  We are very excited about the response to our products from one of the largest maternity and pregnancy retailers in the country.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Kim Howell and Somi Javaid of Mamadoc


Katy Samuels, co-founder of Memories of Loved Ones

How did you start your business?  
My brother Scott and I are the co-founders of Memories of Loved Ones, or MoLo. We started our business with loans from our family after a mutual friend of ours, Keith Noble, passed away.  At Keith’s funeral there were many poster boards on display with original photographs.  Several years passed and the poster boards were eventually taken apart.

We started talking about how frustrating it was that Keith’s poster boards didn’t exist anymore and it got us to thinking – what do most families do with their pictures when they plan a funeral?  We found out that there are no good solutions available to families who want to preserve precious photos and memories of a loved one.

Once we had come up with our concept we decided to test our idea by offering our service for free to a friend that had lost his father.  We got great feedback and it confirmed that we had come up with a great idea.   

How did you come up the idea for your business?  
We couldn’t find any company that provided a service like this for a funeral.   There are tons of companies that can help you after a funeral but we are the first that helps you during that painful time. So, between Scott’s and my IT background, my background with Creative Memories [a program that helps convert physical photos and the like to digital images], and many other talents in our family, we were able to come up with a process that allowed us to provide this service to families very much in need of it.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Everyone that works with us is either a family member or close enough they are like family.  We are lucky to be part of a large family with many talents so we have done the majority of the work in house using as much “free help” as we can get.  Without the many talents in our family we would not be where we are today.  

To be honest, I can’t say we utilized many local resources initially.  We are now involved in groups like Bad Girl Ventures, and we’ll be meeting with a SCORE counselor next week.  I am part of a local business networking group called the Westside Referral Organization, and we’re also a part of the Delhi Business Association.

What does a typical day in your business look like?   
Our headquarters is located in my home, where we converted one side of my basement into our office.  When we’re working on projects, we’re usually here.  

Life can be a bit crazy for us!  Since we deal with funerals, our schedule is constantly changing.  When we are meeting a family onsite, we can be found in the “MoLo Mobile,” a bright purple and green, 35-foot RV (it was wrapped by our friends at Advertising Vehicles) – you can’t miss us driving down the street!  

Inside the RV, we have scanners and cameras that allow us to convert everything from photographs and keepsakes to digital onsite while meeting with a family.  

The RV is fun and casual as well – just like us!  There is plenty of diet coke, M&M’s and other junk food all on hand; we try to make the family feel as welcome and at ease as possible.

What’s next for you and your company?
We are still a small business just working toward that “break even” goal, yet the business seems to evolve every day and we’ve come so far in just two years.  We see significant growth potential with our business, and have considered pitching our idea to angel investors and VC firms with the goal of expanding and offering our service nationwide.  

If I had a dollar for every person who has told us this is the best idea they’ve heard of in years, or said, “You need to franchise this fast,” I’d be a rich person!

For now, we are happy to continue spreading the word, growing our local market and helping to make one more family’s life a little easier every day.   

Questions with Katy Samuels, co-founder of Memories of Loved Ones


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