Founders : IT + High Tech

53 Founders | Page:

Allison Kulage of Bare Knuckle Marketing

How did you start your business?
I started with tons of research on small business, startups, how to get funding, etc. I contacted SCORE for help and advice, and my SCORE counselor helped me get on the right track with building a business plan. He also gave me positive encouragement and some great tips on how to grow my business. The best advice he gave me, though, was to contact Candace Klein of Bad Girl Ventures.

BGV was very new at that time, and had only completed one class in which 10 women learned how to run their business and competed for a small business loan. My initial goal was to teach a class for BGV on digital marketing, but when I met Candace and she heard about my aspirations, she encouraged me to sign up for the classes to be a finalist as well. I did, I was accepted into the second class and the rest is history!

How did you come up the idea for your business?
I worked as an SEO director for another company for almost 11 years and freelanced in that field for about 8 years. During that time, I found that the most successful clients were those who had the drive and determination to work hard to earn their success. As the internet becomes more and more competitive, businesses have to fight for their visibility online, and there are no easy fixes.

I was frustrated with the other so-called SEO companies and fly-by-night businesses who would claim that "this stuff is easy" and charge a lot for very little, or charge very little for a useless service.

I was seeing a lot of success with my freelance clients, and was using a lot of the newest digital strategies, combined with the tried and true strategies, and it was working. So I decided to go out on my own and see where this would take me!

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
 I started with SCORE, which I feel is a great place for any business to start. They have great resources and advice, and can really help with all of the fundamental issues of starting a business, and my involvement with Bad Girl Ventures was another key to my success. It was so helpful, in fact, that my original goal of quitting my day job within a year(ish) and running my business full time became a reality within about two months.

American Small Business Centers (ASBC) has also been a huge factor in my success. The advisors at ASBC helped me understand my profits and loss statement, how to create an employee handbook, and how to be a good manager.

What does a typical day in your business look like?
Some days I spend all day meeting with clients to review their marketing programs and discuss strategies. Some days we meet with prospects or other businesses who we may wish to partner with and we work on building our business. And other days, I sit behind my giant monitors and get into the zone of bringing success to my clients through the variety of digital marketing strategies that we specialize in. I try to spend most of the time behind those monitors, working on client projects. It's exciting and every project is a new adventure. We even have days where we have a strategy session poolside, to promote creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

What’s next for you and your company?
We are growing fast, and with the help of our advisors at ASBC, we are handling the exponential growth well. We have implemented some guidelines and rules, in anticipation of hiring new people this year. We're also meeting and working with new strategic partners to grow our business and offer SEO and digital marketing services to other companies who offer complimentary services but do not have the ability or interest of doing the SEO or digital marketing in-house.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Allison Kulage of Bare Knuckle Marketing

Company:

Gordon Horwitz of Allostatix LLC

How did you start your business?
I typically begin my business ventures by taking a few months to study the subject and pull together the business plan and investment strategy. For Allostatix, it was essential to find the best health researchers and statisticians in the local area. I found that in our chief science officer, Dr. Robert Ludke, from the University of Cincinnati's School of Public Health, and Dr. Ken Rothe, a seasoned statistician and neural network specialist.

Once my internal team was formed, it was necessary to create our Science Advisory Board to establish credibility in the health risk tool we were about to develop, as well as create a defensive moat around the IP we were developing.
It turns out that combination of certain biomarkers, when looked at interactively by a sophisticated analytic tool (which is what we have built), can predict disease and/or death in healthy people with a high accuracy, three to five years in advance.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
I’ve suffered from chronic fatigue since 1992 and just felt lousy most of the time. I have a great family physician, but the challenge for him was that all of my vitals and blood work were within the accepted, healthy range. Added to that, I am a spinning instructor so the question was, why was I feeling so lousy?

I set out on a personal quest to find out what was actually causing my early aging, tiredness, etc. I found what I was looking for when I was introduced to the concept of allostatic load. Allostatic load is the physical damage done to your body by chronic stress.

It was at one of the preliminary meetings with my research staff where we were discussing the allostatic load concept that I had my "aha!" moment; It became clear that my personal health challenges were being caused by the constant triggering of my body's automatic stress response. Once we had our health risk tool developed, I personally took the test and found that I had a high allostatic load. We deliver our Allostatix Load score on a color spectrum of green-yellow-red, and I scored in the red! Although all of my vitals and blood markers were within acceptable range when looked at independently, cumulatively analyzed they were telling a very different story. My body, as a whole, was out of balance.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I relied on my mentor and I believe everyone needs one. He kept me on a defined research track, helped me refine my business approach and led me to the University of Cincinnati. With the help of my research staff, I then developed an "engineering" spec for the screening test I was about to create, setting down the accuracy, sensitivity and predictive capabilities.

Once the allostatic load research was digested and our analytical engine developed, we moved into the Hamilton County Business Center incubator, which provided us with an enormous amount of business, sales, marketing and financial resources. Pat Long and HCBC helped us to refine our sales tool, presentations and investor pitches.

What inspires you?
Firstly, helping people have a healthier and happier life. Secondly, stopping the march toward chronic illness; I consider that a $2 billion, long-term threat to the United States. It is killing the country, no pun intended. Our risk tools can have a lasting and visible effect on this escalating number.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Gordon Horwitz of Allostatix LLC

James Fisher of Roadtrippers

How did you start your business?
We worked on some mockups of our product, a tablet-friendly website, and found a technical co-founder to create a prototype, then searched for accelerator programs around the country to give us a boost to start-up. Eventually, The Brandery pulled us here and Over-the-Rhine made us stay. 

How did you come up the idea for your business?
My co-founder (and fiancée) Tatiana and I spent a lot of time road-tripping around America over the past few years, but were frustrated with the fragmented tools for discovering interesting and independent places to visit. We noticed a huge gap in the market for a platform that sits the center of road travel planning.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
No doubt The Brandery has been the single biggest resource for us. We also have a great relationship with the folks at Cincytech, Taft Law and many other, great forward-thinking firms here in town. We have benefited from funding, legal help, introductions and a great workspace.

What does a typical day in your business look like?
Every day we meet The Brandery in Over-the-Rhine, and work primarily on product development and building relationships with partners, curators and users. We tend to work late, so 4 p.m. is beer o’clock, then we work right into the evening.

What’s next for you and your company?
Roadtrippers is live at the moment, but we don’t bring too many users in at once; we’re still testing betas on batches of users. We plan to close our seed round, increase partnerships with state tourism departments nationwide and create some buzz around our upcoming launch.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with James Fisher of Roadtrippers

Company:
Roadtrippers

Phil Storage of StoreFlix

How did you start your business?
I’m a 23-year veteran of consumer packaged goods industry and clearly understood the need to visually verify retail initiatives. Up until now, there has been no user-friendly and fast way to collect, manage and communicate this information to sales teams.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
We started with the vision of being able to instantly see how products are merchandised at any retail location on the planet from the StoreFlix website. To do this, we invented a patent pending tagging process that assigned tags or labels to images and videos collected at remote retail locations. Once tagged, real-time reports can be created and the visual content collected can be shared on a social network for business.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We used several local resources, including local creative database/web developers and Fusion Alliance for mobile app development. In addition, we partnered with the city of Mason for office space and regional networking. We are providing Mason with the first social network for municipalities.

What inspires you?
We’re inspired to wow clients with our technology and to reinvent how companies manage retail execution. We invent everyday at StoreFlix and love it. 

What’s next for you and your company?
Social, photo and mobile is where the web is going. We continue to innovate around these three key areas. 

Interview by Robin Donovan
 

Questions with Phil Storage of StoreFlix

Company:

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

Company:

Jason Haines of boostchatter

How did you start your business?
My partner, Tommy Tayman, and I are actually still in sort of a stealth mode while things are being developed, but we started putting things together on what we wanted to develop during this past Christmas. We locked ourselves in a small office in Knoxville and spent a few days hashing out the idea. We then spent three weeks locked up building the core infrastructure and getting the basics together.  It took us back to our college days when we would wait until the last minute to do a programming assignment and then spend all night putting something together.
 
How did you come up the idea for your business?
I’m partner of Cincinnati MasterCraft, a local boat dealership.  I oversee the marketing efforts and we are active users of social media.  The idea came from trying to find a way to engage our social media users more.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help? 
We haven’t quite utilized much yet.   But Cincinnati has a large amount of design talent and this is where would could use some love.  After getting some of the final core features implemented our next step will be to polish off some of the user interface and design aspects.

What inspires you? 
First and foremost, my wife and two daughters.  Also, I’m inspired by reading about other startups that succeed and just trying to do something big.

What’s next for you and your company? 
We will be launching a private beta soon.  We’re also looking to join a startup incubator to help with the launch.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Jason Haines of boostchatter

Company:

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