Bad Girl Ventures welcomes first Launch class of eight startups

Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) welcomed its first Launch class last week, part of the business accelerator organization’s revamped three-tier Explore, Launch and Grow programming.
“We had over 50 applicants for the class,” BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz says. “Our volunteer selection committee chose the class based on stringent criteria. The eight companies represent completely different industries. They’re energetic and engaged, and we’re excited about them.”
Nancy Aichholz 
The 18-week program began last week. Since all of the participants are also running their companies, classes are offered alternating weeks with the off week providing time to do homework and meet with mentors.
“BGV’s job is to cultivate these companies and help them be as successful as possible,” Aichholz says. “They are competing to receive a $25,000 loan from us, but just as importantly they will learn how to access capital elsewhere to meet the needs of their business.”
Members of the first BGV Launch class are:
Meaghan Dunklee, Wedding Bags: creating custom gift bags for weddings
Debbie Immesoete, Route Fifty Campers: offering vintage camper rentals
Melyssa, Michele and Christine Kirn, Grainwell: making wood-centric home décor
Monica Kohler, Skube.Me: sewing modern tube skirts with American sourced fabrics
Lynn Love, LL Spirits: an adult lemonade stand at Findlay Market
Cullen Meehan, Wish Pretty: a line of accessory bags
Sara Swinehart, SRO Prints: a social enterprise screen printing business
Kimberly Turnbow, Hair Gem Elite Salon: restoring hair damaged by chemotherapy and chemical treatments
“We have all the right ingredients for our first Launch class,” Aichholz says. “The right staff, the right volunteers, the right sponsors and absolutely the right women. We’re very excited and hopeful for the quality and potential in this class.”
The first week of class included presentations on corporate culture by Steve Martin, Vice President of Organizational Development at Hubert Company; pitch practice with actress and coach Elle Zimmerman; meeting their mentors; and connecting with peer counselors from Northern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati law schools as well as BGV’s legal counsel partner, Cors & Bassett.
Aichholz credits the quality and diversity of the Launch class with BGV’s efforts to recruit applicants for the class.
“We were more focused and intentional in our marketing,” she says. “Instead of just letting people come to us, we were more proactive in going out, meeting and getting to know women who were starting and running really neat businesses. We engaged them with BGV and got them interested in the program.”
Two Launch participants are graduates of BGV’s first Explore class held last fall, Debbie Immesoete and Meaghan Dunklee.
“Megan was using Etsy to sell her bags,” Aichholz says. “During Explore, she created her own website and she’s since hired her first employee. Debbie wants to raise capital to buy additional campers because her current inventory is booked all the time.”
BGV is accepting participants for the second Explore class through March 8; the nine-week class will begin April 7.
“The Explore class is meant for anyone, including men, who is thinking about going into business for themselves,” Aichholz says. “Our hope is that people who go through Explore will have a basic business plan at the end of the class, go and grow their business for a year or so, then come back and Launch with us.”
The third phase of the BGV program, Grow, which offers stand-alone workshops for established business owners, will begin in the spring. That’s also when BGV hopes to be located in its new permanent office space in Covington.
“BGV is different from other programs,” Aichholz says. “When women begin our program, they aren’t just taking an accelerator class, they’re joining an organization. This isn’t a ‘quick go in, get a business plan and find funding’ program.
“We want to see these women be successful. Five years from now they can call us and ask for help. We want to promote these business once they’re launched. And we hope they want to stay connected to BGV when they’re successful. It’s a unique value proposition BGV offers our members.”

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.  
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