Founders : Diversity

69 Founders | Page:

Megan Fenno of FENNOfashion

Company:
FENNOfashion

College:
Savannah College of Art and Design

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

Mary Beth Knight, Get Your Back on Track

How did you come up the idea for your business?
For the last two years, I have worked with many people suffering from back pain, some for a short time, others for years, even decades. Over time, I realized that many of these clients’ pain was coming from, or made worse by, some of the same tight, weak and aggravated muscles. Once the proper muscle length and strength were restored in the body, the pain ceased altogether.

I was so thrilled that the steps to recovery worked that I couldn’t wait to share the program with everyone in pain. Because there are only so many hours in a day, I decided to create a program that could be done at home to alleviate back pain and prevent recurrence. The Get Your Back on Track program began in February 2012 and launched in April 2012.  

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I am very lucky that Dr. John Tew of the Mayfield Clinic trusted me with his patients for whom surgery wasn’t an option. He knows the importance of flexibility, mobility and core strength, and sent me a number of his clients whose lives were defined by back pain.

Dr. Tew encouraged me to study, learn and implement a program for low backs. Without his trust and encouragement, I never would’ve taken this professional leap. He also encouraged me to create an at-home program because he had more patients to send, but my schedule was full.  

I have some amazing success stories, such as a client who couldn’t play golf for a decade due to back pain who now plays 18 holes, no problem. I have a lovely 83-year-old client whose back hurt so badly that she hadn’t slept through the night in 5 years; and now she does! The smiles I see -- and the tears of joy and gratitude from my clients who now can live life without restriction and the weight of pain -- are phenomenal! I’m thankful to have worked with them.

What inspires you?    
My clients inspire me. I cannot stand it when someone is in pain or is unable to travel, play sports, exercise or play with their kids or grandkids because of pain or other physical problems. When they come to me unable to live the life they intended, I feel it’s my duty to return them to a place of strength, balance and happiness.

I had back problems years ago, including sciatica and a back injury from a car accident I was in.  I was in a body that worked against me, but someone taught me how to make it work for me, and now that is my job, which I love! This is the gift that I was given, it’s my mission to pass it on.  I am inspired by people’s willingness, trust, hope and success!

What’s next for you and your company?
The Get Your Back on Track program needs exposure. That is our next step. I am thrilled with the opportunity to be in SkyMall magazine October through December, and I am thinking through and researching avenues such as the Home Shopping Network and perhaps even an infomercial.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Mary Beth Knight, Get Your Back on Track

Company:

Megan Gourlie of Dogtown Cincinnati

How did you start your business?
I started Dogtown Cincinnati with an idea and hard work. After writing a solid business plan and finding the best location possible, I worked with the city to maximize the use of our proposed site and convinced Huntington Bank to fund our startup with a loan. There was a long construction process, but in the end we opened with a strong start and are thriving.  

How did you come up the idea for your business?
Dogtown Cincinnati is a pet care business that caters to exactly what I needed before I opened it. I had struggled to find a place to take my dogs that was centrally located, had flexible hours and would actually make me feel comfortable about leaving my dog there. The concept I had was built to address the specific needs of who I was. I was sure that other people had similar needs and desires for pet care, so I did some early research to confirm that.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I worked with the local SCORE chapter (SCORE is the Service Corps of Retired Executives), which specializes in helping small businesses start up and succeed. In March 2012, I was named the SCORE featured client of the month. My SCORE counselor is C. Dennis Murphy.

Now that Dogtown Cincinnati has been open for a year, we are in need of expansion. I applied to be a Bad Girl Ventures finalist and am currently attending their classes which are geared toward teaching women the ins and outs of business by recruiting professionals in different fields to provide education on different topics.

In addition, Huntington Bank believed in my business plan. They decided to fund my startup company through the federal SBA loan program which supports small businesses.

What does a typical day in your business look like?
Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., our lobby is busy with drop offs. You’ll see on our valet camera – we have 15 webcams online -- that some of our customers pull up in front and don’t even need to get out of their cars because we come out to them and bring their dogs inside. Throughout the day, the dogs go from our inside daycare playroom to our outdoor playground at regular intervals and are pulled out of daycare for their meal times. They play with toys, on our playground equipment, and with each other.  

From 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., the dogs go to nap time in our bedroom-like boarding rooms and sleep while we clean the other areas of the facility. In the evening, starting around 5 p.m., it gets busy in the lobby again with pick-ups. Customers can resupply with dog food, toys and treats in our small shop before they go home for the night with their well-exercised dog.  

The dogs who are with us in the evening, or who are staying overnight, go to the boarding rooms to sleep and watch TV around 9 p.m. At this point, they are very tired and sleep like a charm!

What’s next for you and your company?
Dogtown Cincinnati is very successful. We have a building that is 1/3 finished, and our first goal is to expand our daycare within the building. Eventually, we also dream of turning our addition space into a 24-hour emergency veterinarian with its own entrance from the street. This part of the business will have all of the same ideals as our current business, but will offer the expanded services of pet health care. Once Dogtown Cincinnati is at full capacity, we will look at other ways to expand, such as additional locations in the suburbs and in nearby cities.  

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Megan Gourlie of Dogtown Cincinnati

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:

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