National Entrepreneurs’ Day: Celebrating 10 More Creative Minds in Business

 

Yesterday was National Entrepreneur’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the brilliant entrepreneurs who turned a simple vision into an extraordinary business.  In part one of our National Entrepreneurs’ Day round up we shared 12 inspiring stories from 12 incredible entrepreneurs, but why stop there?  Due to the overwhelming number of entrepreneurs eager to tell their story, we’re sharing 10 more interviews with creative entrepreneurs making waves in the business world.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayGavin Bell, director of Blue Cliff Media

Tell us about your business.
I run a social media agency. We help consumer brands grow through creative campaigns. We have a virtual team that’s based across the world so our clients are able to get access to the best talent in the world at a fraction of the cost – because they’re not paying for a big fancy office!

How did your business get started?
I launched the business 18 months ago, after reading the 7 day startup book. I had been working with personal trainers, helping them with their digital marketing, after running a fitness company and decided to go all in on the digital space. I haven’t looked back!

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
I only moved to Edinburgh 2 years ago, and launched the business 6 months or so after moving here. Therefore, I had a very limited network. It’s been a huge challenge trying to build that network – but thankfully I’m able to do that much quicker due to social media.

Secondly, being a young guy (22), I don’t have the business experience that others have and so I’ve relied on hard work to grow the business to where we are now!

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
I don’t – but this is something I’m sorting out now. I need one and totally understand the importance of them.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
I look up to Gary Vaynerchuk and I’m a huge fan of his books. Crush It is probably my favourite one, where he talks about how anyone can build a brand and business through hard work online.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Do everything you can to get your brand and your name out there.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayMelissa St. Clair, founder of Paper Chaser

Tell us about your business.
Paper Chaser helps small businesses grow by handling a variety of administrative tasks remotely.

How did your business get started?
As a military spouse and administrative professional, I was looking for a flexible, portable career. Becoming a Virtual Assistant (VA) was an ideal option that works with the demands of my military lifestyle.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
At the time (2006), Virtual Assistance was a new way of performing old school secretarial work so a lot of legwork and education were required to help business owners understand the how any why benefits of working with a VA.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
Mentorship for me came in the shape of a staff of professionals at the Small Business Development Center at Coastal Carolina Community College as well as business coaches, colleagues, and mastermind groups along the way.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski . I read it at a time I was considering raising my rates. Mika’s message definitely helped me take action. I now recommend the book to daughters of friends who are attending college as I wished I would have heard this message in those formative years.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Have a plan, a support system, and invest in a proper website from the start!

 


national entrepreneurs' dayMatt Edstrom, Head of Marketing at BioClarity

Tell us about your business.
BioClarity is a naturally-derived, 3-step treatment system designed specifically for teen and young adult skin. Fusing nature and science, our formula harnesses the soothing elements of chamomile, cucumber, green tea, and oat kernel extract and combines these ingredients with chlorophyll and the highest allowable concentration of salicylic acid to create a powerful and effective solution that treats acne naturally, while soothing the skin of any redness or irritation. Our proprietary formula is dermatologist recommended, patent-protected, and certified cruelty-free.

How did your business get started?
We saw the opportunity to disrupt the acne treatment market with a better product offering. We use a patented, proprietary ingredient Floralux which is naturally derived from chlorophyll (the green stuff in plants). Floralux is what makes our Restore Gel green. The three-step regimen is designed to address the issues of acne-prone skin during treatment including redness, dryness, and irritation.

In preparation for our launch in August 2016, Adigica Health, Inc., headquartered in San Diego, has completed a round of seed funding for BioClarity, led by Founder and Chairman David Hale plus Board Member Cam Garner, and a number of investors focused on the e-commerce and health care industries.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
Typical early stage start-up issues. Growing fast and getting our first customers so we can achieve some scale. A need to build everything fast, but still provide a great customer experience from day one. Wearing many different hats at the same time to keep progress on track in so many different areas at once. It’s a huge challenge, but also where a lot of the fun and satisfaction comes from.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
I’ve been lucky to have worked for very many, smart, driven, customer-centric bosses in the course of my career and can say I’ve had career-molding mentors at each of the companies where I worked before deciding to launch BioClarity. From a product development and marketing perspective I worked with others that taught me the value of understanding the needs of a consumer and then delivering a product or service that was superior at meeting those needs. I’d also say I’ve been influenced by the success of e-commerce subscription models and in evaluating the potential for BioClarity the success of other start-up in the space certainly influenced how excited I was about this opportunity.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
The One Minute Entrepreneur by Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson, and Ethan Willis.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
It’s critical that you surround yourself with an extremely high performing team and that you initially agree to something of a company culture and that you put effort toward building and maintaining that culture. I’d also recommend being overly aggressive in seeking out help and advice in areas where you are not an expert, or even if you just want another opinion. Finding the right network that will mentor and provide advice is critical to an early stage start-up because you can’t succeed without the help of others.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayMegan Kubasch, co-founder & Millennial Mindset Mentor at Shield Sisters Initiative

Tell us about your business.
The Shield Sisters Initiative is THE hub for millennial female entrepreneurs. We provide support through forums, mentorships, coaching, and interactive courses.

How did your business get started?
We started the Shield Sisters Initiative because we realized it can be a real pain to scour the internet looking for what you need. We wanted to create a one-stop-shop for female business owners that would allow them to support all aspects of their business, from support to education to inspiration.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
The biggest obstacle was narrowing down our offerings. We wanted to give our supporters ALL of the things; but we knew this wasn’t possible. Trimming down our initiative to the essentials was difficult, but it was necessary to providing the most beneficial offerings to our clients. We’ll definitely expand in the future, and we’re currently in the middle of an expansion.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
My personal mentors, even though they might not know it, are Katy Blevins-Calebrese and Somer Chambley of Modern Femme. These women are such phenomenal supporters of mine, and so many others. Katy and Somer always have encouragement and support to share. They’ll tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s not something you were expecting.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
This is a tough one…. considering books are my EVERYTHING. If I had to pick one, I would have to pick F**k It, Do What You Love by John C. Parkin. Parkin says what we’re all thinking, and I have mad respect for that.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Get a support network that will truly support you. Real support means giving you creative freedom while keeping you grounded by playing devil’s advocate. The people who blindly support you and offer nothing but “That’s awesome you should totally do that!” and nothing else are the ones who don’t actually have a plan. Talk to the people who will support you and tell you your idea is awesome, is crap, or has potential but needs some tweaking. That is true support.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayKathryn Starke, founder & CEO of Creative Minds Publications, LLC

Tell us about your business.
I am an urban literacy specialist, author, and founder/CEO of Creative Minds Publications, LLC, a global literacy educational company. This company creates books and services that motivate children, support parents, and inspire teachers to love literacy at home and in school. CMP is the leading company in providing quality reading education for all children.

How did your business get started?
I started this company while working full-time as an elementary school teacher in order to help improve literacy rates in our country.  I originally started this business as a teacher for teachers.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
I can definitely stay I have had to overcome obstacles in my path to business.  I started my company as a 25 year-old female without a business degree. I absolutely had to prove myself on a daily basis in my work, results, speaking engagements, etc.

Did you have a mentor?  If so, how did they help you succeed?
My dad, a businessman, is who I went to for many questions/advice starting out. However, I read a lot of books, articles, and bios of business leaders.

Do you have a favorite book or entrepreneur biography?
I never miss an issue of Forbes Magazine and always learn from the articles and interviews from entrepreneur Kathy Ireland.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
For any new entrepreneur starting out, I first say to develop a thick skin and don’t let people’s doubt or negative comments deter you from your role as a business leader.  Make decisions that feel right for you, and remember that you are your biggest advocate starting out.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayBret Bonnet, founder of Quality Logo Products, Inc.

Tell us about your business.
We are experts in the field of promotional products (that means we sell personalized items like the pens, stress balls, or sports bottles you see companies giving away). We help companies expand their brand through the distribution of promotional items.

How did your business get started?
I’ve been involved in the promotional products industry since an early age (16). It was very good to me. I had the house, the cars, and toys – all before I was a legal drinking age. By the time I was a freshman in college the company I worked for began to make some poor financial decisions, and I was more or less forced to set out on my own in order to maintain the quality of life I had become accustomed to.

My termination was sudden and unexpected. Heck, it took place the same month I closed on my first home!

I immediately started to lean on my network of friends. In particular, I leaned on my good friend from North Central College, Michael Wenger. Armed with a refurbished laptop, internet connection, and a cell phone, he and I set out to create a promotional products company like no one had seen before.

Fast forward 13 years later and Quality Logo Products is going strong and does sixteen times the annual revenue of my previous company!
What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
I know this response is probably cliché by now, but the biggest obstacle I faced was gaining capital. We were two kids in college with ZERO savings competing against hundred million dollar publicly traded companies. We eventually secured a grant, but prior to that, things were definitely a little sketchy. We built the website on a hand-me-down laptop whose keyboard was missing several keys. We only had one phone, and neither of us knew how to program, yet we were building an online ecommerce business. In retrospect, we should have NEVER started this company; we were very ill prepared. However, we did build the company, and here we are today with an estimated $40M in revenue!

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
Not in a traditional sense, but yes. Dr. Gary Ernst, professor of entrepreneurship played an important role in the development of Quality Logo Products. Armed with ZERO cash and literally thrown into this venture with zero planning or notice, Dr. Ernst helped Quality Logo Product secure a grant for $10,000.00 courtesy of the Coleman Foundation. This loan allowed us to build the basic infrastructure we needed to succeed. Allowing us to miss class without hurting our grades helped a bunch as well! 🙂

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I didn’t stumble across this book until later in my journey, but the simple concept of WHY in the context of why should anyone care has allowed Quality Logo Products to craft a website. While it may not be the prettiest, our website gets the job done because it answers the question WHY. In a business where there are latterly 30,000+ people who do the exact same thing as Quality Logo Products, it’s important that we stand out, and we do so by making sure everything we do answers the age old question, why should anyone care?. If you can’t reasonably answer why, you shouldn’t even consider doing, investing, or offering your services at all.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Start young and don’t feel as though you have to go to college. It doesn’t matter if you go to an Ivy League school or a community college, information and technology move SO fast that by the time anything gets printed in a textbook, it’s already out of date. Keep in mind that going to college is an investment that may affect the pursuit of your professional ambitions. Student loans are an anchor, and unless you’re REALLY lucky, you’ll have to carry that debt around with you for a large chunk of your adult life. Take the risk now, and don’t consider college your only option. Even if you fail, you’ll still be ahead of your college bound peers in the experience department.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayKeith Shields, partner at Designli

Tell us about your business.
Designli builds apps for startups and established companies, with a focus on injecting certainty into the otherwise uncertain process of developing custom software. We do this by assembling unique teams around each of our clients’ projects with the targeted skill sets required based on the project’s specifications.

As a company, we then guarantee the defined scope of work ‘deliverable’ that the client will receive at the conclusion of their engagement with us; we guarantee the fixed price for building the product; and we orchestrate that team all the way through to completion, focusing on making the process as seamless and painless as possible.

How did your business get started?
We got started with a startup company of our own, named Applits.  With the creation of this startup, we were pledging to build 1 unique app each month with the help of our community, and quickly realized how tough it was to build apps with this sort of volume. We also quickly understood the lack of a solid guarantee as far as getting the outcome you were hoping for. This prompted us to roll out Designli as a service company – an agency – that helps add this certainty to those looking to build apps and custom websites.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
Plenty! Most importantly, with our initial Applits.com concept, we discounted how hard it was to consistently build great mobile apps. We tried outsourcing, paying hugely expensive New York City app development firms, hiring college student developers – the whole nine yards – and consistently had trouble getting the deliverables we were hoping for.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
Absolutely. We’ve been lucky enough to find mentors for Designli that have helped us tremendously, especially when it comes to building an effective, scalable business in a service industry such as ours. This is a hard business to perfect, and a hard industry to ensure consistent top-notch results to clients, and this is the area in which our mentors have helped most. Helping to optimize our internal processes, and to pick us apart when needed.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
My favorite business book of all time is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. If you’re a business owner – whether startup or small or medium-sized – you must read this book.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
My first piece of advice to any entrepreneur just starting out would be to have a straightforward path to monetizing your startup. This was one of our biggest learning experiences as we came into the world of startups and small business, which was the fact that we operated our first startup for 3 years – putting in a heck of a lot of time and resources – expecting monetization too far down the food chain of workflow, after all the real time input was spent. We should have monetized the place where the real work was being entered – the operation of our free community, for instance – to prove value earlier in the cycle.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayJudah Schiller, founder & CEO of Schiller Bikes

Tell us about your business.
Schiller Bikes designs and manufactures the world’s best water bikes. They can reach speeds of 8 mph, are easier to ride than road bikes and are a great way to explore our primarily blue planet. Schiller bikes are the only boat you can bring on a plane as the pontoons are easily inflated and deflated..

How did your business get started?

After making two historic first crossings by riding a bike on water in San Francisco Bay and on the Hudson River in 2013, I wanted to share my experience of biking on water with everyone. I set out to transform the way we experience and enjoy a planet that is more than 2/3 water. I left my job in advertising and assembled a team of the best and brightest – all-star industrial designers, mechanical engineers, bike experts and brand wizards to design the first generation of Schiller water bikes. With over 1 billion bikes built for land, Schiller Bikes is now pioneering a new, aquatic frontier in water biking. These sleek, modern high performance water bikes are now found in over 30 countries and at a growing roster of premier hotels around the world.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
Almost everyone I knew was skeptical. There is no point of reference for a water bike, let alone an established category. Raising seed capital was very challenging in the early days. Similarly, engineering a bike to work smoothly on the water also proved very difficult and there was no broad established set of data to guide us along the way.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
I had a number of great mentors along the way. Susan Griffey-Black, the Co-Founder and CEO of EO products, was my first believer and really gave me tremendous feedback on many fronts. Mitch Thrower, a 22x Ironman and Founder of Triathlete Magazine and Events.com, has been an unwavering advocate for Schiller Bikes and fantastic mentor.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
My favorite business book is Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar: Modern Lessons from the Man Who Built an Empire by Phillip Barlag. Amazingly well written and really casts a new perspective on the art of leadership. I would recommend to anyone just starting their journey or in the depths of their challenge.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Be prepared for naysayers. There will be many. Expect the unexpected and be conservative with your projections. Often times new businesses take twice and long and twice as much money.  Get a group of trusted advisors and mentors from day one. Every CEO needs this and benefits from the wisdom of people who have already made many mistakes – hopefully they’ll help you avoid the costly ones.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayAshley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s

Tell us about your business.
Capriotti’s is an acclaimed sandwich concept with more than 100 locations across the United States. The concept remains true to its 40 year tradition of slow-roasting whole, all natural turkeys in-house every day to contribute to our signature subs and salads. Made with the freshest, top-quality ingredients, our menu items have won numerous accolades including ‘The Greatest Sandwich in America’- which was awarded to our fan-favorite sub, The Bobbie.

How did your business get started?
Founded in 1976, Capriotti’s was originally established in Wilmington, Delaware by Lois Margolet and her brother, Alan. I was first introduced to Capriotti’s by my very good friend (and now business partner), Jason Smylie, while attending college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was love at first bite! After that first visit, I began eating there regularly- and even got out of my apartment lease at the time so I could relocate to be walking distance from Capriotti’s! After college, while also working as a Financial Advisor for Wells Fargo, I opened up my very own Capriotti’s restaurant in Las Vegas. That one location turned into three, and eventually made the decision to purchase the company from its original owners in 2008. Since purchasing Capriotti’s, we’ve grown the business from 40 units to over 100 units today.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
The biggest obstacle I faced was taking the brand from regional recognition to a national, well-known concept. We’ve now expanded to more states and more locations – but if I had a do-over, I would have spent more time focusing on learning the best corporate structure for the organization. We’re just tapping into this now, but had it been done years ago, we might be miles ahead of where we are now.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
Over the years I have had many mentors. Some, I have sought out, while others have fortuitously come into my life. In each instance, my mentors have helped me grow my business acumen, challenged my thinking and decision making, and provided a sounding board for me to think through the long term effects of my choices. They have significantly sped up my success, and have helped me minimize mistakes. I am truly grateful for each of them.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
Selecting just one business book as my favorite is tough, because I really enjoy a number of Gino Wickman’s books. Specifically, Traction, Rocket Fuel, Get a Grip, and How to be a Great Boss. Another all-time favorite would be Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Never let the “How” of your vision be a limiter. Rather, focus on the “What” and never stop until you get it, despite the many hurdles that stand in your way. There are infinite ways to accomplish your vision, and the “How” will work itself out when your commitment to your vision becomes the driving force of your organization. Also, make sure everyone in your organization knows and believes in your vision. They should be able to recite that vision anytime and to anyone who asks.

 


national entrepreneurs' dayTyler King, co-founder & CEO of Less Annoying CRM

Tell us about your business.
Less Annoying CRM is a customer relationship manager software designed for
small businesses. Our software is built to be simple, intuitive and customizable, so small business owners from independent travel agents to local bakeries can track their contacts however they need.

How did your business get started?
At my previous job, I had a chance to interact with small business owners and I realized that many of them didn’t use CRMs because they were too complicated or expensive. My co-founder and I love building simple software that everyday people can understand, so this seemed like a great opportunity. We knew we wanted to bootstrap a business (rather than raise money from investors) so to get started, we both kept working our old jobs part time while we built the product and started growing our customer base.

I wanted to build a CRM made specifically for small businesses. Most of the CRM options out there are too bulky or complicated for what small businesses actually need, so I explored the opportunity for a small business-focused CRM. In Less Annoying CRM’s early stages, my co-founder and I made a careful decision to bootstrap the company, and we became profitable within months.

What obstacles did you face while starting your business?
One of the hardest parts about growing Less Annoying CRM was moving from a remote lifestyle business to a structured company with employees. We had to learn how to pass the reins from us, the co-founders, to our new team members without asking them to reinvent the wheel. We lost some momentum getting everyone on the same page, but from that learning experience, we were able to develop a dynamic training curriculum.

Did you have a mentor? If so, how did they help you succeed?
My primary mentor is my co-founder. Whenever I’m trying to solve a problem, he can always tell me where I’m going wrong, and come up with new creative ideas. Aside from that, I seek advice from my parents, friends, and employees. Understanding that everyone has different perspectives and there are rarely one-size-fits-all solutions has been a big help for me.

Do you have a favorite business book or entrepreneur biography?
I’m working on Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg. It’s an accessible read, and while his tips aren’t for everyone, he gives you actionable advice that you can try implementing in your own day-to-day workflow.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs just starting out?
Listen to your customers. You can spend all day drawing up what the ideal product might be, but stay grounded and pay attention to what your customers like and what they dislike. Work to improve the product in a way that benefits the people who actually use it — and on that note, use your own product! The more you’re in-touch with your users, the better your service becomes.

 


Celebrating National Entrepreneurs’ Day

National Entrepreneurs’ Day is meant to remind us all that the businesses and products we take for granted would never have been made a reality without the vision, creativity, and drive of the entrepreneurs behind them.  We’d like to thank these entrepreneurs for sharing their stories, pursuing their passion, and pushing the creative envelope in their careers.

Be sure to check out part one for even more inspiring entrepreneur stories, and leave yours in the comments!

 

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About
Keyword-cruncher, customer-collector and web designer extraordinaire. Adam is the Founder of Creative Click Media. If he's not in front of the computer marketing your business, he's playing with his son, Miles. Tweet him at @AdamBinder_

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