Founders : Quality of Life

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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:

Eric Corti, founder of Air Cork

How did you start your business?
I assembled a working prototype made of toy balloons which I tested on several open bottles. When my wife tasted one that had been air corked for three days and enjoyed the taste, I knew I was on to something.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
My wife and I would each enjoy one glass of wine and then use a variety of wine preservers available to store the wine for a day or two. We found that all of the current wine preservation devices were not retaining the flavors and aromas in our wine. We were throwing away just as much wine as we were drinking, so we decided that there must be a better way -- a way to seal the wine at the surface of the wine within the bottle.

We diagnosed the problem and I saw a need to create a solution.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I contacted and asked advice from Cincinnati-area experts and consultants on how to manufacture a product which included design and trade-marking. Also, I sought the advice of a patent lawyer on the patenting process and how to get one.

What inspires you?
I enjoy solving problems and creating solutions that others can enjoy as well. Also, my love of wine helped.

What’s next for you and your company?
The next phase for Air Cork is growth and creating a presence in the wine market. After the International Housewares Show in Chicago, the company has received many orders. We are currently shipping the product to retailers in California, New York, Texas and many other locations across the country.

Interview by Robin Donovan

Questions with Eric Corti, founder of Air Cork

Company:

E. Aretha Ford of ETP-FunParty

How did you start your business?
Having more than 18 years as a party-sales consultant for Fun Parties/Good Time Parties USA, I enjoyed learning, inspiring and seeing that “awww” look on women’s faces as they learned new healthy, intimate facts about themselves. I started ETP-FunParty about three years ago.

How did you come up the idea for your business?
There are numerous FUN party [home-party] companies out there. My company’s niche is to welcome everyone to speak freely about their experience, to ask questions they may not been able to ask family or friends. We offer parties not just for women but also welcome LGBT customers and receive questions from men about health issues and how to keep passion alive.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I’m an alumna of Bad Girl Ventures’ fourth class. This is a nine-week business development course taught by successful business owners and professionals from the local community. I learned so much, including accounting, attorneys, social media and much more. I was paired up with a Score mentor through BGV. Months after completing the course, my mentor and I are still working closely together.

What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from my customers. After we play games, share stores and get to know each other, it’s priceless to see the look upon the ladies’ (of all ages) faces when the educational section of the party begins. There’s nothing to describe receiving a phone call or text message from a customer who purchased an enhancer, and her overjoyed expression is, “He loved it – no, we loved it -- thank you for the suggestion!”

Once, I was at an event and a customer’s husband hugged me tightly and whispered into my ear, “That was the best purchase my wife ever made. Thank you so much!” To see couples rekindle their spark is my everyday inspiration.

What’s next for you and your company?
For the past three years, I’ve run both the front and back ends of the business, from booking parties to hosting them. This year, I’ve transitioned and re-launched as a full-fledged, direct-sales, party-planning company, and plan to hire sales consultants both locally and nationwide.

Compiled by Robin Donovan

Questions with E. Aretha Ford of ETP-FunParty

Company:

Austin Lutz, Jamble Granola

Think of granola gone viral. Or at least that’s what Jamble Granola in Mt. Lookout hopes for. Using an old family recipe, the company’s founder Austin Lutz is trying to launch a new business.

Questions with Austin Lutz, Jamble Granola

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