Founders : Talent

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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


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