For local entrepreneur Monica Kohler, a simple idea has become a growing business thanks in part to Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem and range of support programs for entrepreneurs.
Like many businesses, Skube
began with a need that led to an idea.
Kohler and many of her female friends and family members were fitting exercise into busy schedules and didn’t always have time to change out of leggings or athletic clothing after a workout and before going out to eat or to pick up a child from school. Kohler wanted an article of clothing that covered from the waist to the knees and transformed workout clothes into fun and expressive casual attire. She had some sewing skills, so after years of talking about the idea with friends she created a skirt in the form of a tube — the first skube.
The prototype Kohler created and wore got so much interest from her own circles that she began to wonder if she might actually be onto something. After nearly a year of wearing her skubes and making them for friends and family, she enrolled in ArtWorks’ Co-Starters program
to explore turning the idea into a business.
That exploration proved to be the first step on a new path for Kohler.
“I had no idea Cincinnati had such a deep, rich pool of entrepreneurs and programs to help someone move into that space,” she says. “I wasn’t aware there were so many people willing to share their wisdom.”
With a background as a nurse practitioner and years of experience in healthcare management, making and selling skubes was a completely different direction for Kohler, but after developing her business idea through Co-Starters she took the leap. She started working more on designs, creating simple reversible tube skirts with a variety of bright, expressive colors and patterns and selling them at street fairs and festivals.
The response she got from consumers inspired her to continue building the business.
“I was encouraged to take the next step, which for me was Bad Girl Ventures,” Kohler says.
She is now a graduate of BGV’s first “Launch” class
, designed to help newly established women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. For Kohler, this intense, focused class was helpful for answering the question, “I have a product that seems to be in demand, now what do I do?”
The class, along with mentorship from Jim Cunningham of Queen City Angels
, helped Kohler lay out the next steps for Skube.
Then, just before graduating Launch, Kohler went to a Small Business Association mixer at Rhinegeist and met John Spencer of First Batch
. Skube is the kind of product First Batch looks for — a manufactured product that’s been tested by the market and is ready to scale up production.
Skube was accepted into the current 20-week First Batch accelerator program, where Kohler will find ways to produce more skubes and begin selling them online through a newly re-designed website (currently under construction).
“I’m a believer in hard work and being where you need to be, but I’m also sort of a believer in serendipity,” Kohler says. “It was always in my mind how much help I received, and I wanted to not lose that.”
Kohler feels she’s received the help of Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem at every step in her journey, and along the way she’s committed to giving back as well.
“Strong women can help young girls become strong women,” she says.
Kohler helps by giving back and sponsoring programs when she can for organizations like Girls on the Run and Mortar, making possible for others the same support and mentorship that have helped her grow her passion into a business.