Author Archive

October Amber Grant Awarded to Locker Lifestyle

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

On Friday, we announced our October Amber Grant Finalists.  Today, we’re delighted to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Katarina Samardzija, Founder of Locker Lifestyle. A college student and athlete, Katarina’s career path took an unexpected turn due to one unfortunate experience. Read about that — and much more — in her insightful interview.

WN: Share the genesis of Locker Lifestyle — and how that turned into three patent-pending products

KS: I play tennis for my university. I workout and practice six days a week, while managing my full-time student responsibilities.

My story began when one day after practice my teammates and I went to our gym. All we needed was a key & ID, but our locker didn’t lock, gym cubbies were open, and when we had our valuables stolen, I knew I had to do something about it. I envisioned the perfect product but realized that since it didn’t exist, I was determined to create it.

Before starting Locker Lifestyle, I never designed a website, sewed, or knew what it meant to be an entrepreneur. Lucky for me, my momma and (later promoted as Locker Lifestyle’s “Momager”) owned a successful bridal salon with a talented seamstress staff. I drew up designs and after many revisions, the very first product, the Wrist Locker, came to life!

After enormous interest by individuals of all ages, I knew I was on to something. I changed my major from biomedical sciences to entrepreneurship and marketing that year.

I consider myself lucky having found what I want to do with my life. College is a place to discover yourself and your path, and I’ve found mine through entrepreneurship and this company. I strive to run this business after completing college in less than a year, create new products, and build my team. 

Fast forward to the present. I currently sell three patent-pending products-the Wrist Locker, Head Locker, and Little Locker. All are designed to safely stash small valuables such as your cash, keys, ID, phone & more, perfect for concerts, fitness, traveling, or even walking your dog.

Well, one day this blogger messaged me out of the blue. She said how excited she was to find my products because she was going to buy one instantly and for a very good reason. She went out for her typical run and didn’t want to bring a bulky running belt for her ID. She was hit by a car and knocked unconscious for hours. The police couldn’t identify her, and the hospital couldn’t tell her parents. Thankfully she’s okay, but now she never runs without her Wrist Locker. It was then I realized not only am I providing convenience but safety and a piece of mind.

Locker Lifestyle would not have been possible without my mom’s bridal store. I was practically raised there. In January of 2017, my mother lost her store to a devastating fire. Not only did she lose her business of 26 years, but I lost all of my materials, patterns, and equipment to make the product.

After losing everything, I was back to square one. Even with my low student budget, I’ve since found a temporary place to manufacture, develop my website, and sell almost 2000 units of product without a single dollar spent on marketing.

WN: As a college student, athlete, and entrepreneur, how do you manage your time?

KS: Having so many different responsibilities has made me an excellent planner! I rely heavily on my monthly/weekly/daily planner, in addition to the many lists I make. Every morning I craft a list numbered 1-30 (on an average day) to prioritize the tasks that I must accomplish. For example, I do not move on to number five if I have not yet completed the fourth task. This habit forces me to finish something I may not want to do but is extremely important. On my hectic days full of class and tennis practice, I have a sheet that helps me plan my days by the hour. As crazy as that is, it keeps me on task and efficient.

As crazy as my days can be, I love what I do. I am on a mission to help active individuals like myself enjoy a worry-free active lifestyle.

WN: What distribution channels do you currently utilize? 

KS: Lockerlifestyle.com is my primary distribution channel, and I ship across the country. I currently sell in a few retail locations in Chicago, Boulder, and Grand Rapids. One of my most significant, new partners is FedEx where our team is working on a design to co-logo with the brand for promotional opportunities!

WN: How do you plan to use the grant funds?

KS: I craft everything by myself, with the generous help of family and friends. This grant takes my company to the next level. Locker Lifestyle has grown beyond being my dorm-room startup, where I fulfill all orders. My main problem is that I can’t keep up with demand. Therefore, I need the grant money more than ever.

The $10,000 grant would allow me to invest in the first large-scale manufacturing batch and boost my marketing budget to attend local expos!

WN: What piece(s) of advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

KS: First, my passion stems from the motivation to inspire others. I am not only driven by the hurdles I’ve overcome to develop and market products for the benefit of any individual but to encourage and mentor others to seek their goals, as my mentors have done so for me.

My passion as an individual and a CEO collide because I am working to inspire other young women in business. At a few local pitch competitions I’ve attended, there was a serious lack of female founders. So, I recently created the Locker Lifestyle Ambassador Program. I have 30 incredible women who love to live actively, like me, and even aspire to run their own businesses one day. I am working to provide them the tools to stay fit and learn what it takes to build something out of nothing.

The best piece of advice I would give someone looking to start their own business is to leverage the people and resources you have around you. I would not be where I am with the constant support from my family and mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or feedback because an entrepreneur is continuously improving!

October 2018 Amber Grant Finalists

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

The arrival of November means it’s time to announce 5 finalists for the $1,000 October Amber Grant.

The winner will become the latest finalist for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant, which we’ll announce in December. Look for an announcement over the next week on our website, email list and Facebook page regarding the October recipient.

Congratulations to:

Yali Books

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Locker Lifestyle

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Rival 5

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Third Space Coworking & Childcare

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ROSY

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September Amber Grant Awarded to The Skirted Soldier

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Recently, we announced our September Amber Grant Finalists.  Today, we’re thrilled to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Rhonda Smith, Owner of The Skirted Soldier.  A veteran of the Air Force, Rhonda was kind enough to share her story, from active duty service to entrepreneurship.

WN: How did The Skirted Soldier come about?

RS: I grew up in a small town in Western PA. I left for the military in 1993 (despite never being on a plane before)!

I quickly realized that the military way of life was very structured, organized and demanding — yet rewarding and something to be proud of. I did a little over 8 years of full-time active duty service. I lived in 3 different states and a foreign country. I learned so much about life, duty, honor — and I carry that with me today.

Honorably discharged in 2001, I moved back to my hometown and started working on a graduate degree (business). I had this disconnect with my military life and always wanted to figure out a way to feel that connection and give back to my fellow female veterans. It took me several years to develop a business plan and model that I was happy to stand behind and promote.

I had this idea of owning my own female veteran focused company of some sort. This past March, I finally felt that I was in a position to make this dream come to fruition. Within about a month’s time, I had an entity, business plan, logo, materials, website, social media platform and product. And then we get to the product!

So, I’ve had this idea for years. I had a business name idea. I had names for my products that were military related. I had criteria for the product such as shelf life, price points, shipping concerns, and the packaging designs of sorts. However, I didn’t have a product! In researching veteran owned companies, it was apparent that certain markets were saturated, and naturally I knew to stay out of those lanes. I knew the timing was right and I just needed to have that perfect product that wasn’t too niche, too expensive or seasonal.

One day on our way home, my daughter was talking to my mom on her phone. We drove past a plaza in town and she mentioned to my mom about missing the tea shop that was in that plaza that is now closed. She went on to giggle about us going there and I would order coffee tea. Part of my light bulb went off on the 30 minute drive home and I started to think ‘hmm, if I can replicate this coffee tea blend, maybe that’s my product.’ Knowing that I couldn’t find a similar product in any store or online, the idea just grew from there.

I started researching reputable cooperatives and community supported agriculture groups, as owning a small farm and being conscious to sustainability, I knew that had to be part of my model. I also wanted to find military owned or member owned cooperatives that shared our same passion for sustainable living, fair trade and integrity in their supply chain. I started sourcing in products from a few member cooperatives, one being local, and a great tea supplier to create my signature blend SNAFU- the coffee, tea, chicory blend.

I loved it — and I just kept going from there. The loose tea product fit all of the criteria I had in mind and it was a great product. From there, I researched how to blend the perfect cup of standard flavors as well as seasonal flavors.  I now carry six standard loose tea flavors to include a seasonal deployment that is only available for a short period of time. I have learned so much about tea, herbs and how to create flavors that blend and steep well together. I am really enjoying my craft and I’ve met some awesome people along the way who appreciate not only our business model, but our quality, integrity and product.

WN: How do you differentiate from competitors?

RS: Most competitors in this category are of the large, commercial type. I vowed to stay rooted in my mission, values and philosophy of hand blending each order in small batches. The quality is amazing and I won’t steer from that.

I also perform my own grass roots marketing. I do not have an advertising budget, so I make calls, send emails and I have sent over 200 samples to businesses that I feel are aligned or would be a good fit with our product. I have had several places wanting to place an order just from my email, but I prefer to send my sample pack out first. I want them to see and try the product before committing to a sale. I feel as if this is just the right thing to do.

WN: Share with everyone the female veteran organizations/events that you’ve donated to or plan to donate to 

RS: Shortly after I got started, I received an email from our PA Troops to Tractors leader, called PA Veteran Farmer Project. She was and is an amazing mentor, supporter, marketer, etc. She’s helped in so many ways to share our mission and guide me in the right direction. Our first-year sales donation will be a grant to female veterans that will funnel through the PA Veteran Farmer project. The parameters will focus on some sort of agribusiness.

Each month, I’ve sent a combat care package out to a deployed unit. This will continue.

I was contacted by a group up near the New York border — a group of female veterans that mostly live in the VA home. I will be reaching out to them to supply them with tea for their monthly meetings.

From a local TV interview, my information was passed along to the Governor’s Council on Military and Veteran Affairs- Women’s Veteran Committee. I am now a proud member of that committee.

I have been invited to receive an award on November 12 from the Women’s Entrepreneurial Day event in Philadelphia. I hope to use that award to help other female veterans see that they can successfully start and operate their own business.

Next year, we are hoping to host an outdoor event for female veterans to join together and fish, hike, kayak, and share stories and a meal. We are in the very preliminary stages of this planning process.

Recently, I donated to a local fundraiser called Sweat for Vets, a race event that raises funds for local veterans. I paid for one registration for a veteran or first responder to attend.

Along the way, we’ve supplied gift baskets for local fundraising events and will continue to do so as we are able. This includes a local nursing home, breast cancer awareness event, and a first responder fundraising event.

WN: What goals do you have for The Skirted Soldier, both short and long-term?

RS: My short-term goals are to continue marketing our product. I’d like to be in every state by my one-year anniversary date. I am in the process of turning one room in my house into my shop. This grant will allow me to do that as well as order stainless steel equipment, packaging and product in bulk. I can also organize my inventory and polish up materials.

My long-term goals are to grow into a successful recognizable brand that is able to employ female veterans. I would like to become a well-known tea company, but only if I can continue to support female veterans along the way.

The experience has been surreal. We’ve come so far and we’re humbled by the awards and support just since March. We won’t let you down! This is just our beginning!

WN: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

RS: I continue to live by the Air Force Core Values: Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all you do!

Along with my core values, I feel that in order to be successful, you have to do your homework. You must know the rules and regulations of the industry. You must know how to make smart business decisions, marketing plans, strategic plans, a solid business model and stick to it. Reflect back monthly on your accomplishments and if something isn’t working, fix it. Try another strategy. Don’t give up — work hard/play hard. Starting your own business is hard work and it’s totally worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, reach out for help and find any/all resources to learn from.

***Throughout this document, I say “we” a lot. I can’t fulfill my dream of operating The Skirted Soldier without the support and help of my family. I would be remiss to not include that. They have been amazing (and my husband is retired Air Force).

Thank you for reading and congrats again to Rhonda. We wish her the best moving forward.

With October in full swing, we’re already seeking out the next $1,000 Amber Grant recipient. If you’re searching for funding, please consider filling out an application.

September 2018 Amber Grant Finalists

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

The arrival of October means it’s time to announce 5 finalists for the $1,000 September Amber Grant.

The winner will join 9 current finalists for the $10,000 year-end Amber Grant, which we’ll announce in December. Look for an announcement over the next week on our website, email list and Facebook page regarding the September recipient.

Congratulations to:

Baby Beginnings

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The Dils Center

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Timshel Shop

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VOXAPOD

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The Skirted Soldier

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August Amber Grant Awarded to Wasatch Nectar

Friday, September 7th, 2018

On Sunday, we announced our August Amber Grant finalists.

Today, we’re here to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant. Congratulations to Kristen Moffatt, Owner of Wasatch Nectar. Kristen shares her path to entrepreneurship — and much more — in our interview below.

*You can follow Wasatch Nectar on Instagram.

WN: Share the story of how Wasatch Nectar came to be

KM: I have always been very active and driven by outdoor adventure! This was a major driving factor in creating Wasatch Nectar.

The lack of healthy, trail friendly energy bars and gels available started to deter me from bringing any nutrition with me when I would go out for the day. The artificially flavored sugar syrups were becoming increasingly difficult to stomach. Skipping out on nutrition all together in the summer heat of Utah is not a viable option, which became evident one day while biking. I was out on a long ride, which was getting more difficult as the temperature continued to rise. Just as I was getting off my bike to rest and get a drink of water, I almost collapsed on the trail! I had completely bonked and really felt the results of my poor decision to skip out on my nutrition.

After I got home, I decided I would start packing something I could tolerate on the trail. I have always loved honey, and its unique sugar profile of both glucose and fructose makes it ideal for sports nutrition fuel. I started enhancing honey from my own bee hives with electrolytes. Soon after I was even mixing in other foods for added health benefits and for flavoring. I was so excited to finally have my ideal nutrition product to take on the trails with me. My friends and family all loved it and requested it frequently. This was too good to keep to myself, so I decided to name my product and start a business. My business was named Wasatch Nectar after the Wasatch mountain range in Utah.

WN: What’s unique about the honey — and the products — that you produce?

KM: Our honey is sourced from local beekeepers and is never heated nor pasteurized in order to preserve the healthful properties raw honey has to offer. The natural sugar profile of honey makes it the ideal fuel for sports nutrition. We then enhance the product with electrolytes that are depleted when we sweat.

We offer our product in convenient packets for on-the-go nutrition, which is critical for athletes. Additionally, Wasatch Nectar is offered in jars for home use. This is appealing for anyone seeking healthy and unique products. Each Wasatch Nectar flavor is enhanced with electrolytes and flavored with real food. No artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and no added sugar!

WN: What challenges do you face as the owner?

KM: One of the biggest challenges of being a startup business owner is having the time and capital to scale with it. As with me, many food entrepreneurs spend every waking moment and their entire paycheck starting their business – using the funds for packaging, permits, advertising, etc.

The limited funds leaves further production difficult to pursue. Many companies fail at this point, even though they have an excellent product. The possibility of falling into this category keeps me uneasy. I am currently spending every minute — outside of my full time job as a dietitian — advertising, networking, attending events, and (most importantly) making product, to make sure Wasatch Nectar succeeds!

WN: How will you scale this business?

KM: This question is one that I considered in the very early stages of Wasatch Nectar. I wanted to be able to create a product that was both sustainable and scalable. Honey fit the ticket of sustainability, as I am able to help local beekeepers sell their honey and keep a consistent market demand for it.

Scaling the business was a bit more difficult. I spent many hours researching different packagers that met my requirements, and after many failed attempts finally struck gold with a supplier who had my vision. We have been able to work with each other and establish a simple and easy process for packaging Wasatch Nectar. As demand grows, production of my product will actually become easier!

The most critical part of scaling a business is increasing the demand for it. This is where good marketing strategies and good connections become critical. My main marketing strategy is to get the product in the hands of athletes. I have been getting Wasatch Nectar involved in local races and sporting events and I am continuing to look for additional marketing avenues to help scale Wasatch Nectar. You can only worry about scaling when people are buying!

 

WN: What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?

KM: Starting up a business is intimidating to say the least! My main advice to anyone interested in starting their own business is to take it one step at a time — but always think ahead to the long term goals of the business. The many steps in getting started — then working towards generating sales and growing the business — can be very overwhelming. Taking one step at a time makes your aspirations feel more attainable. I remind myself this each day, and it really helps me remember that I can do this! I would encourage everyone to try this approach.

Another thing I have found to be critical is listening to the people who believe in your product. There are always too many people willing to tell you why it won’t work, or how it’s a waste of your time and money, or how there are too many people that have already done it. In my experience, the people who believe in your product also have the most valuable feedback. Ask them questions of what they liked and why. That’s where my product has developed the most, and for the better. The people who love your idea also want you to succeed, so listen to them!

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do — this is your platform!

KM: Wasatch Nectar is available on WasatchNectar.com and now you can have it to your doorstep in two days using your Amazon Prime account!

August 2018 Amber Grant Finalists

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

September’s arrival means it’s time to announce 5 finalists for the $1,000 August Amber Grant.

The winner will join 8 current finalists for the $10,000 year-end Amber Grant, which we’ll announce in December. Look for a late-week announcement on our website, email list and Facebook page regarding the August recipient.

Congratulations to …

 

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