Founders : IT + High Tech

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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

Company:

Tony Alexander, founder of SimpleRegistry

How did you come up the idea for your business?
My partners and I had a previous startup called Traveler’s Joy that was (and is) a honeymoon registry service.  SimpleRegistry is a much larger extension of that idea into the broader wedding registry marketplace.  In addition, SimpleRegistry adds a baby registry, fundraising, and custom event registration to help capture a customer through various life events instead of “one and done” type of use.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
Through my work over the past nine years and mentoring businesses in the area at places like The Brandery, I was able to build a great network of like-minded people.  When it came time to launch SimpleRegistry and we decided to go after outside investment, it was relatively easy to get in front of the right local folks.  Luckily, it worked out as CincyTech and others have already invested in our seed round.

What would you do differently if you started your business again?
I can’t really think of anything when it comes to SimpleRegistry.  It’s pretty new.  We have plenty of time to make lots of mistakes!  When it comes to my previous startup, I would have tried to start networking more at an earlier stage.  With Traveler’s Joy (started in 2004), I kind of put my head down for a few years getting it up and running and didn’t put myself out there and make many new friends in the entrepreneurial community during that time.

What’s next for you and your company?
We’re using our initial investment to ramp up our marketing and development budgets.  We’re still testing some things out but have seen great growth every month.  We hope to have 10,000 registries created this year and really look to expand that in 2013.

Questions with Tony Alexander, founder of SimpleRegistry

Company:

Phyllis Smith, founder of LSP Ware

How did you start your business? 
LSP Ware is an internet based software system that provides scheduling, tracking and billing for providers of language services. The program has actually been in use since 2008, when I was working as the CFO for a nonprofit that provides language services, including interpretations. The software system we were using didn’t meet the needs of the agency, its customers or its linguists. I knew there had to be a better way.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
My husband is a very talented software engineer with over 20 years of experience in project management, architecture, coding and design. He volunteered his time to help us out as a non-profit, creating the first version of LSP Ware.

We knew that we had some potential when I saw how much it helped the agency. When I began receiving letters from the linguists and customers telling us how much they liked the new system, I knew we were on to something. 

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help? 
When I decided to try to sell the product that we had developed, I didn't know where to start. I went to a SCORE seminar and was paired with a mentor. He has been an invaluable resource and cheerleader for the company. Through him, I learned about Bad Girl Ventures and became a finalist in the fourth class. Taking the classes through Bad Girl Ventures was an incredible experience. Besides making contacts, the class opened up so many resources that I never knew about. 

What inspires you? 
To think that an idea that came from a quick conversation with my husband and is now a product that helps linguists and language-service providers manage their business is pretty incredible.

What’s next for you and your company? 
We are updating our website and will be launching a marketing campaign to introduce LSP Ware to language service providers, hospitals, schools and any businesses with internal language-interpretation staff. As the non-English-speaking population is growing, there is more need for language services. Our program can help the providers in these niche markets operate more efficiently.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Phyllis Smith, founder of LSP Ware

Company:

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