Founders : Regionalism

123 Founders | Page:

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

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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