Earlier this month, we announced our July finalists. Today, we’re delighted to finally introduce you to the recipient: Eyra Abraham, Founder/CEO of Lisnen.
View Eyra’s video for the Voting Page and read her interview below to learn more about her mission.
WN: Share some background on yourself and how Lisnen was born.
EA: My name is Eyra Abraham and I’m the founder of Lisnen. Lisnen Inc. was formed due to a problem that I was experiencing in my own life. I was born with a severe-profound hearing loss since I was a child. When I went to live on my own, I slept through a fire alarm in my condo building at the time. While I was safe and nothing happened, I knew that I needed an assistive alerting device to help me with hearing things when I do not have my hearing aids on. What I found was a number of impractical solutions for an active and mobile individual like myself. So, I decided that I was going to take on the challenge and bring a better solution to market.
WN: How will the Lisnen app function?
EA: Lisnen is a mobile app that is paired with a smartwatch to help the deaf and hard of hearing users know that there’s a fire alarm, doorbell or siren sound, to name a few, in the nearby environment. It uses the microphone from the mobile phone to listen for these specific sounds and using advance methods in AI/ machine learning, the app looks for a match with the available alerts. When a match is found, the user sees and feels a flashing and vibrating alert to inform them of the alert in real-time.
WN: What are your plans for marketing the app?
EA: The company will reach our customers both online and offline. There are many social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and online forums that are great sources for connecting with the deaf and hard of hearing community. For offline strategies, we believe that our customers can be reached at events that tailor to our niche market. Also, we are leveraging partnerships with other brands to reach customers.
Our marketing goal is to build a community of like-minded deaf and hard of hearing individuals who want to be empowered to live their lives fully – the core mission of the company. Through this community we will be able to market our app as an added benefit.
WN: Do you have competition in this space? If so, how do you differentiate?
EA: Yes, we have seen other similar apps in the space over the last 4 years. All apps saw the potential of using AI and machine learning to help the deaf and hard of hearing community. With the right intention they each have their own take. However, some features are not intuitive for the deaf and hard of hearing community and could improve using the latest advancement in technology.
Lisnen is differentiating by improving the quality of our app using the latest research, branding, user experience, design and marketing. The hearing devices and alert devices market often are operated as medical devices, and companies don’t have the habit of connecting and building relationships directly with the customers. Our app is a lifestyle/security product. Lisnen can gain advantage by investing in marketing and branding to reach the deaf and hard of hearing communities around the world.
WN:What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?
EA: Get started, show up, build a team of supporters, and persevere. In the entrepreneurship world, there aren’t a lot of people who look like us that we can relate to. It can make us feel uncomfortable when we don’t have anyone to lean on. Show up anyways. Comfort only comes after repetition and what becomes unfamiliar will become our new normal. Your team of supporters will help you along the way to help you fulfill areas where you need help.
We all have a tremendous opportunity to build our businesses around our strengths. Your strengths will add value to someone’s life and makes the world a better place. So that is why you need to show up and stay for the long haul. You’re needed!
As a new week begins, we’re thrilled share with everyone the winner of the June Amber Grant: Good Morning Bedlam.
This midwest folk band blends immense energy and musical talent to create something truly special. Visit their YouTube page or play the video above to get a taste.
While you listen, learn the story of members Isaak Gill Elker, Victoria Elker and Sophia Mae — plus much more — in the interview below.
(A special thanks to Sophia for taking the time to answer our questions while touring!)
WN: Share the story of how Good Morning Bedlam began.
SM: Isaak and I grew up in a theater company together and spent all our pre-adolescent energy on connecting with our communities through stories– old, new and made up. We watched faces light up, and gave it everything even when there was only one person in the crowd. I absolutely loved it. Our main repertoire were Shakespeare shows that we would perform outside, riding on homemade caravans with fold out stages. The costumed, mostly barefooted company would push the caravans down mainstreet and Isaak and I, along with the other musicians, would perch precariously on the top playing our tunes to announce our arrival. There I developed a deep love for Shakespeare and language. I found that I was capable of accomplishing anything with a bit of learning, failing and determination. I learned how simple it is to connect deeply with anyone just by filling a need for honestly told stories. And when the time came for us to continue with our adult lives, grow up and get a job, it was only natural that we took the route we did — we became musicians.
Starting with that theater troupe, Isaak and I have been writing music and playing together since we were 13 and 11. We went on our first brief semi-national tour at ages 17 and 19. Obviously our parents were thrilled, and not nervous in the least…
But we survived, and the band began to grow. We were recommended to and picked up by a B-Corp record label in Minneapolis, Last Triumph, who we are still with today. But the group was not complete until Tori Elker (formally Tori Smith) entered the picture.
About 10 days before our 1st full length tour, Isaak and Tori were married. When faced with the decision to stay home for the honeymoon, work a nine to five job, care for the house, (also get a house), while her husband toured across the country for two months Tori said, “Hell no. We can be technically homeless for a little while,” and she packed up and came with us.
She didn’t play an instrument. But that wasn’t going to stop a woman with immeasurable determination to help people and an incredible ability to improvise her way through just about any situation. She started by running the merch table, dealing with the obnoxious drunken men and charming people into spending more than they planned to.
After that summer, our bass player left. Tori had decided she was going to continue touring so she said “Yeah. I can learn bass in two months.”
The crazy thing is, she did, all while finishing her theater degree. She’s now the owner of our LLC, manages the accounts, heads our marketing and branding and belts it out every night on stage with us and with her bass, Mr. Jones, thus becoming the head of our predominately female band in a male dominated industry. She kicks butt at it, all because she refused to stay home.
WN: Listening to your music, watching performances and reading reviews, one component that’s abundantly clear is your collective energy. Does that come from a genuine love for performance?
SM: Oh absolutely it does! It also comes from a genuine love for each other, our audiences, and the stories we are telling. We need a lot of sources for energy since we use so much of it, and we want each of our performances to be unique and earnest.
And when we perform together, something invigorating happens. We sync up. There is an unspoken connection that forms immediately between us. This has required hours of practice and hard work, but the unification goes beyond playing technically well. It’s its own breed, living and breathing, giving our music distinctive life each time it is played. It is exhilarating and it is exhausting. But we love the stories we are telling, and want them to come to life for us and our audience. They’re something outside of ourselves, something we can help foster, and that we can nourish. So, when we are too tired to love the performing alone, there is something outside of us to take care of that.
WN: What’s the process like for getting in touch with and eventually playing at venues?
SM: Repetitive, tedious, frustrating, discouraging, and necessary! You need to be ready for rejection, or no response at all, and let that propel you forward rather than drag you down. The more venues you are rejected by the closer you are to booking one.
Luckily we have a booking agent now who does a lot of this, and he has connections and knowledge about venues that are looking for our type of music. My bandmate Isaak is now hired by our record label and books bands himself as well. Often we route out where we want to go, and find multiple venues on that route for each stop. If you strike out, you reroute. And we are continually working on new ways to find the most successful shows possible with our record label. It’s a constant learning process.
Playing at so many different venues across the country is a mixed bag to say the least. We’ve played anywhere, from classy listening rooms with wine and coffee on tap, to tiny bars with mannequins and stuffed squirrels on the wall, to dark vintage rooms in Montreal with free poutine and broken conversations in French. We have days and days worth of stories and wish we could tell you more.
WN: Tell us about your first professionally recorded album, Like Kings, and what went into the recording process.
SM: We are so excited for our new album, Like Kings.
Our music is boisterous, precise and wild — and we’ve had the opportunity to expand our sound with this album. We collaborated with local Minneapolis musicians to add trumpet, trombone, and cello. Due to our short attention spans, we pull from a lot of different genres including gospel, klezmer, jazz, blues and pop, but we still have unity with our central three part harmonies and sound rooted in folk and story telling.
Our previous album, Prodigal, explored the process of being lost, and returning to a place where you feel at home. This one picks up where that left off saying, “Now what? I went on this journey, but Im still struggling. What’s that about?” These were written from a personal standpoint but we recognize this struggle as something very universal to people. Struggles continue — there are triumphs and joys but we continue to live after those. There is always something new to face, but similarly there is always room for growth and yet unexplored questions to be answered. This is tiring, but it is also beautifully human.
The recording process is repetitive, and at times discouraging. When you come to the studio with parts you’ve worked out and have been fine tuning from show to show it’s easy to feel very sensitive when those parts are put under the microscope of being recorded individually. But you learn quickly to be less attached to ideas, and more focussed on how those ideas truly play out. It’s a fine balance between precision and reputation, and knowing when to be satisfied. It’s very easy to become tunnel visioned when recording. But once the tracks are finished, and the mixing process begins there is nothing quite as exciting. Working with a professional sound engineer has given us freedom to explore nuances in our sound that we’ve mostly imagined up till now. We’re so grateful to have had the opportunities we’ve had with this album.
WN: What are some of the venues you’ve enjoyed playing at the most, and do you have a “dream venue”?
SM: About a few months ago we played at First Avenue, the premiere venue in our home city (Minneapolis, MN), Prince’s home venue, and a Minnesotans musician’s dream.
When we played there, we were the opener for the opener’s opener and were playing so early in the evening that we weren’t sure if anyone would be there. We went out onto the stage, shaking a bit behind a large projection screen that hid the crowd, or lack there of, but when the screen lifted the room was packed with around 500 people pressed near the stage, faces turned towards us, not towards the bar for once (extraordinarily enough). It was such an exhilarating show and an honor to play there.
My other personal favorite “venue” is the home of Isaak’s brother in law in Philly. We stay there some tours and whenever we do, the family sets twinkle lights on their porch in their shared garden that spreads over to their neighbor’s far rose bushes. They call over their friends, neighbors, a few friendly strangers and we play a barefooted show for a quiet group of people in the soft grass and holy leaves. And we sing and talk while the mosquitoes eat at our legs. And the sun goes down on the primroses and the little fountain halfway between their house and the neighbor’s.
Our two dream venues would be Red Rocks Amphitheater and NPR tiny desk concerts. RedRocks is an amphitheater with miraculously perfect acoustics in Red Rocks Park where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. This is a dream venue for many folk musicians, and if we play there someday, we’d be following such inspirations as Punch Brothers, Avett Brothers, Joseph, and more.
Tiny desk concerts are also full of our inspiration with an intimate setting that celebrates the tradition of connecting through live music.
WN: What advice would you give someone aspiring to break onto the music scene?
SM: Be hopeful, but by all means don’t expect a Big Break. The most productive way to think of growing your band is little by little, year by year, and placing the power where it belongs — in your own hands. If you want to be a musician, really want it, be prepared for frustration, uncomfortable living spaces, endless amounts of gas station coffee (if you can afford it) and a good deal of disrespect. But most importantly, love what you do, and do it for the love of it. If you get swept up in the pursuit of success you’ll be miserable, as that takes time and a considerable amount of failure.
Two things I’ve learned about growth in pursuing this career…
First, it is not linear — you don’t start to grow and continue on an level uphill trajectory. There are ups and downs, valleys and peaks. That is natural, and if you despair because you are in a valley, you won’t realize the valley you’re in is leading to a peak that’s just a little higher and wider than the last one.
Second, you can’t always see growth when you are so close to it. Just as a little child will lament over how they never get any taller, only to find the next time they’re measured they’ve shot up a whole two and a half inches. You can’t always see yourself growing but you are, and it will become apparent with a little space. So take a breath, work harder and harder every day, be disciplined, plan meticulously and don’t worry. Because contrary to the belief of that little voice in your head screaming at you that it’s all you can do, it won’t help. It will only distract you.
Congratulations to Veronica Crafton, Owner of Amazingly Uplifted. Veronica’s mission is to support children, educators and families through school consulting and in-home therapy. She shares her story with us in the interview below.
WN: Tell us your background and how that motivated you to launch Amazingly Uplifted.
VC: In 2006 I fell in love with children with autism while working at Emory’s Autism Preschool in Atlanta, GA. Two years later I became a teacher for students with autism and severe behaviors. By 2013 I recognized flaws in our education system, particularly how some students did not receive effective support from their previous classroom. I’d just won teacher of the year and knew my talents weren’t to be contained in one classroom. I applied for a teacher trainer position but was encouraged to take a more administrative position — a position that I absolutely did not want!
As it turns out, being rejected for the trainer position was the best thing that happened to me because that’s when I decided to quit. I left my teaching career, closed on a house and started a business on the same day. Sounds crazy, but I knew everything would work out and it has. We have continuously grown every year and year 5 is on track to be the biggest year yet!
I was also motivated to leave because I knew children with autism needed more support at school and at home. I’ve seen how much support families need. I’ve been working with families privately in addition to my full time job since 2007 and even lived with an autism family for a year and a half while in grad school. Children with autism are often FAR more capable than we give them credit for. Our name, Amazingly Uplifted, describes how the children I’ve encountered inspire me as an educator. They are amazing and keep me uplifted every single day!
WN: What kind of feedback have you received from schools?
VC: Our teachers mean the world to us and their feedback has been encouraging. They have been very appreciative of the support we’ve provided in their classrooms and often request that we return the following school year. Please feel free to head over to our website to see some of their testimonials!
WN: What type of competition do you face in the Atlanta area – and how do you stand out?
VC: There are several companies that provide the same services as AU. As cliche as it may sound, I don’t consider them to be competition. Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means that children are affected by autism in a variety of ways and no two children are just alike. The spectrum also refers to families. Just like children are different, families are different and may have different needs. The other businesses may be able to meet the needs of some families that another can not and with the current prevalence of autism (1 in every 59 children according to the CDC) we need as many providers as possible.
Amazingly Uplifted does have some unique qualities that separate us from other service providers. We presume competence for every child that we encounter. We understand that just because 1 child may not be able to communicate in the way we are accustomed to doesn’t equate a lack of intellect. An inability to speak does not equate to an inability to understand. The treatment plans and goals that we set for our clients focus on skills that lead to independence.
Part of our success in schools has been the ability to relate to the classroom teacher. All of our consultants have worked in the classroom either as a teacher or role that supports teachers. This builds trust with the educators we serve because they know we can identify with the challenges they face. The plans we develop for classroom and behavior management are often plans that we used and know to be effective not only from our education but from our experience in the classroom. There are also very few companies that offer classroom coaching after professional developments. This type of wrap-around service helps teachers implement what they’ve learned immediately due to the direct support they receive from one of our consultants shortly after the training.
WN:How do you plan to use the grant money?
VC: The first thing we would do with the grant money is use $1,000 to start a scholarship initiative for families that can not afford in-home therapy for their child with autism.
Should I win the year-end Amber Grant, part of the $10,000 would cover approximately seven months of office space. Having seven months of free office space would allow us to save funds to insure sustainability. The remaining funds would go directly to materials needed for the children that would receive our services in the clinic (.i.e. sensory items, toys, educational games, etc.).
The clinic would be used for multiple purposes. Aside from providing one-on-one support for children we will be able to facilitate social skills groups as well as parent training. Social skills groups are essential in assisting children with autism learn appropriate play skills and social pragmatics. Unfortunately it is difficult to capture authentic opportunities to practice these skills. Having a designated and controlled environment will significantly help us serve our children more comprehensively.
Having a clinic would also give parents an opportunity to connect with other parents. Despite how skilled and experienced professionals are, parents learn the most from other parents. We want to create a space that is just as supportive for parents as it is for children. We will offer parent trainings and reach out to our mental health partners to facilitate individual, group and family therapy.
WN: What advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.
VC: 1. Use your job to build your value and habits. If your job offers training courses, take them. If they offer to pay for certifications or degrees that would benefit you, take advantage. It’s also important to build your habits. Get that report in early, train a new hire, get in a management position, turn things in on time, keep your appointments, and work with integrity. Many people say, “Well if I were working for myself I would care more and get my work done.” While this is true to some extent it’s important to remember that you do what you practice and correcting poor habits is harder than learning something new. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!
2. Learning what not to do is sometimes just as important as learning what to do. Find people who are doing it the right way AND the wrong way so that you don’t make those same mistakes. Research people who have failed, find out what they did, and don’t do that. It will save time and money!
3. Speaking of money…SAVE SAVE SAVE. Entrepreneurship is really sexy these days. Some people will try to convince you that you aren’t serious about your dream if you aren’t willing to quit your job today. Wrong! Take as much time as you need to save money for your household and business. Risk will always be there but there are some things you can avoid by having a financial plan. I saved for six years and I’m glad I did! To this day I have not borrowed a single penny and plan on keeping by business debt free.
3. Mentorship is essential. Obviously you should find someone in your field but don’t be afraid to have multiple mentors for different areas of your life. The sooner you learn balance the better because entrepreneurship is all consuming. You don’t want to end up despising what you once loved because of burn out.
4. We are women and we are powerful. We can do absolutely anything. Don’t doubt yourself because you are capable and the world needs everything you have to offer. You and your gifts are valuable so please share them!
*A huge thank you and congratulations to Veronica for taking the time for our interview. We’re already reviewing applications for the June Amber Grant, so if you’re interested in applying, pleasetake a look at our application.
Congratulations to Barbara Hanna, Founder of Cyant. Barbara and her talented team have a goal of connecting art and tech to foster learning and creativity.
So… how are they attacking that goal? Let’s get the lowdown from Barbara.
WN: Share some background on yourself and how Cyant came to life.
BH: I bring a technical background, with a PhD in Computer Vision. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of technology and application areas, and in recent years my attention has turned to 3D printing and related technologies.
This is a very disruptive field, one that uniquely bridges the gap between digital and physical. It also brings together all types of people, backgrounds and disciplines, from art to engineering. It is always inspiring and exciting to read the latest advances in the field, which is already giving rise to tremendous innovation. It’s also a fast growing industry, which is poised to reach ~$20bn by 2020, with potentially significant impact in industries from fashion to medical to space exploration, in addition to creating new paths for design, production and sustainability!
So, this area is bringing great opportunities — and for the next generation of creators and builders in particular. Nonetheless, it is also raising a few challenges and needs to address. For example, making 3D modeling and 3D printing accessible and intuitive, which are two of the problems that are a focus at Cyant.
With a mission to foster learning, creativity and engagement through the connection of art and technology, our goal is to develop software products and services that can empower a diverse community of young “cyantists” to learn and create new things in new ways. Our first product, Cyant’s Lab™, is an app that lets kids of all ages easily create 3D models.
WN: Explain what functionality the current app provides.
BH: Our iPad app enables kids to create 3D models by doing something known to humans since prehistoric times: drawing! The app automatically turns those drawings and writings into 3D models. Models can be free drawn, but the app also offers a selection of templates as guides.
To make it particularly accessible to younger kids, the base version of the app has an intuitive, simple interface, with the possibility to add more tools and features in the future. Since not everyone has a 3D printer, 3D Prints of the models can be ordered and delivered via a partner 3D printing service. The app also provides articles to learn more about 3D printing, as well as pioneers in the field who can be inspirational models for young cyantists. So Cyant’s Lab™ can be used to very easily create and 3D print designs, from ornaments to components of more involved arts or crafts projects or educational activities.
WN: How long does it take the product to reach the customer once a design is submitted?
BH: For the first version of Cyant’s Lab™, the assumption is that not everyone has a 3D printer. We have been working with a partner 3D printing service (Sculpteo) which can achieve a rapid turn around. They can fulfill the order and deliver it within a week if there is a need for fast handling and shipping. This service offers a range of materials (including metal) and 3D printing technologies. So in general, the exact handling timeframe may depend on the order, but the prints are high quality, professional grade right off the bat.
This being said, for those who have a 3D printer, we plan to offer the ability to have access to the 3D model files. And depending on the model and print settings, the printing time can be fairly rapid. That’s critical in a setting like a classroom.
WN: Talk about the educational workshops you offer. Beyond those events, is there potential for partnering with schools?
BH: By nature, there is a significant focus on STEAM learning at Cyant and throughout the educational workshops we organize. We work to create art-meets-tech experiences that are project driven, and allow for individual creativity to be stimulated, while maintaining a level of collaboration. And while learning about 3D printing is weaved into the workshop, true to our mission, other areas maintain an important place too. It’s always wonderful and fun to see what kids (including the big ones known as grown ups) learn and create!
We have had the opportunity to explore educational activities in school settings and have received great feedback. So yes, there is definitely potential for partnering with schools!
WN: What advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?
BH: First, don’t hesitate to try. Try not to let self-doubt get in the way. Entrepreneurship is a journey with ups and downs. There may be 10 no’s before there is one yes, and there may be unexpected, time consuming roadblocks.
So it is important to persevere and draw lessons for the next steps. And try and find networks, friends, mentors who can provide input, feedback and guidance. Along the way, make sure to keep sight of the internal passion, or idea or mission that made it all start in the beginning! Oh, and, it may be hard, but remember to switch off from time to time, too.
Thanks to Barbara for her time, and congratulations once again on earning the April Amber Grant. With May in full swing, we’re already considering candidates for the May Amber Grant. If you’re a woman-business owner, please consider applying today or sharing our grant with someone in need.
Norma’s mission is to empower women to take charge of their breast health. How are they doing so? And how can you get involved? Read our interview below and view their quick video to find out.
WN: Share with our readers some background on yourself and the genesis of Norma.
LD: To say Norma came out of nowhere is an understatement. Seven weeks ago, only two of the six women who co-founded Norma even knew each other. Our team formed in mid-February at Techstars Startup Weekend Women in Denver and we were drawn together after hearing Amelia pitch her idea to create a breast health app. From Friday night until Sunday afternoon, we researched breast health trends, identified market gaps, tested our product ideas with women, and finally came up with a solution to build an all-inclusive breast health app with a connected breast self exam reminder device. On Sunday afternoon, nine teams from the event pitched their company ideas to five judges and Norma was the unanimous winner.
As Denver’s Startup Weekend’s winning team, we won a trip to Paris to compete in a Global Startup Weekend Women pitch event on Mar. 7, 2018. Over the course of the next three weeks, we worked hard to build out our business model, better understand women’s breast health needs, and launch a basic breast self exam journal app before the competition. Of the 22 teams from 15 countries that participated, Norma took home third place!
While in Paris, we learned that we had been accepted to participate in the University of Colorado’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) in March. The three-week competition wrapped up on April 4 and we took home three awards: Women’s Entrepreneurship Prize, 3rd Place in the IT track finals, and audience choice award. Not only that, of the 117 teams that participated in the competition, we were awarded the third highest amount of prize money, which is invaluable as we bootstrap Norma and work hard and fast to bring her to life.
Needless to say, the past seven weeks have been a whirlwind, yet we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only are we a majority-student team, but four of us have personal family experience with breast cancer and we all know we are working on a problem much greater than ourselves. Something really special and unique happened that cold, snowy weekend in February that’s left a team of six women on a mission to help women around the world take control of their breast health and learn their ‘normal’ so they can detect something that’s not.
WN: Take us through how the app currently works. What upgrades do you have planned for the future?
LD: We launched a basic breast self exam journal app in early March as a way to test our concept and understand how women use the app. Over the course of the next few months, we will expand the journal’s functionality, as well as build out new features to include adding a breast health resource section, a community connect tab, and an ability to share data and journal entries with a doctor. In the future, we’d like to incorporate telemedicine so that no matter where a woman might be, or whether she has health insurance or not, she can always connect with a medical professional if she has breast health concerns.
As we build out our app, we will also be building an app-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) device that signals a woman to perform her exam. In our interviews with hundreds of women, we learned that the biggest reason they don’t perform exams is because they forget. We know an app notification doesn’t always spur action and that’s why we are building this simple piece of hardware to help women form a lifelong habit of monthly breast self exams.
Further, we are determined to have Norma be an all-inclusive breast health resource. While breast cancer and other breast health issues primarily impact women, men and the LGBTQIA community are affected by breast issues, too. Additionally, when someone receives news they have breast cancer, they aren’t the only ones touched by the diagnosis. It’s our hope that Norma also becomes the go-to resource for minority groups battling the disease, as well as for the countless friends and family members supporting loved ones battling breast cancer.
WN: What is your marketing strategy?
LD: Our goal is to launch a fully-functional app and begin taking IoT device pre-orders in October 2018, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is six months away and we don’t want to wait until then to start helping women change their breast health habits. That’s why we launched the Norma Network of Breast Friends on Apr. 1! Each month on the first, Team Norma and our Breast Friend brand advocates text the women in our lives a reminder to perform her breast self exam and to #feelitonthefirst.
Through this grassroots campaign, our goal is to get women to start taking a proactive approach to their health, while also building brand recognition and loyalty. We love the work our Breast Friends do to instill healthy habits and will be featuring them on our blog and inviting them to test our app and IoT device before we launch.
We’re actively seeking more Breast Friends so please send us an email if you’d like to join: firstname.lastname@example.org
WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?
LD: The next six months are a sprint for Norma as we build, test and iterate (and repeat!) our products with the goal of launching in October. It’s certainly ambitious, but we have proven our ability to work together to achieve milestones and we’re confident we can meet the October deadline we’ve set for ourselves. It’s pretty rare to have as large of a co-founding team as ours, but the amazing thing about it is that we have nearly all the tech and business skills required to bring Norma from idea to reality. With help from WomensNet, we are able to start reaching out to manufacturers to build our IoT device prototype and to better understand mass quantity production costs. We anticipate raising a seed round starting in mid-May, but with this Qualification Grant, we can address the business needs now that all companies face when starting out.
Thank you, WomensNet, for your help in making Norma come alive!
WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.
LD: Show up, put yourself out there, and find a team to support you in your journey. There are going to be highs and lows and you need a solid network around to get you through trying times. If you ever have doubts, think about the regret you would feel if you didn’t take a chance on yourself or your idea and just keep driving forward. You can do it and there are so many women ready and willing to assist you!
February marked another exciting and competitive month. Today, though, we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Qualification Grant recipient of 2018 — Lisa Buie, Co-Founder of Don’t Forget The List.
DFTL is a unique company that specializes in planning Surprise Travel, Mystery Group Tours and Bucket List Tours. Lisa shares much more in our interview below.
WN: Share the story of how Don’t Forget The List came about
LB: We first had the idea for our unique travel company at a moment in our lives when we were stressed out from the daily grind. We wanted to go somewhere, but didn’t know where, so we threw a dart at a map and set out on a weekend adventure. After recovering from a spontaneous road trip involving The Mothman, a haunted hotel in West Virginia, a dead cave and an epic horseback ride into the mountains of Kentucky, the light bulb lit and we decided we HAD to plan trips like this for other people.The idea has grown and developed to now include group Mystery Tours as well.
The same spontaneous trip inspired us to start a yearly Bucket List of items that we add to and check off every year.Our yearly Bucket Lists include items like skydiving, swimming with sharks and performing at an open mic night.We believe that if you focus too much on the destination you miss the ride, and our company has been developed around inspiring others to have the same experiences.“The List” in our company name refers to all of our Bucket Lists!
Our adventurous travelers have told us that waiting to know where they are going is one of the best parts, which tells us we are on the right track
The full story of our first epic trip can be found on our blog.
WN: Where are some destinations you’ve worked with and how do you decide on those destinations?
LB: While we don’t want to give away all our surprises, we can say that we love to craft unique surprise experiences for individual travelers as well as our group tours! We look for off the beaten path and unique locations to pleasantly surprise our customers.For example, imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse or snowmobiling to Old Faithful!We meet with Destination Managers and Tour Suppliers from across the country to identify and select the places we send our travelers.These colleagues ensure the locations and activities we send our customers to live up to our high standards.
WN: How do you strive to separate Don’t Forget The List from market competition?
LB: While offering Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours sets us apart, we also have other pretty awesome reasons we stand apart from our competition.
We love our amazing planet and want to ensure it is healthy for the next generation to explore.Because we know the travel industry is inherently “dirty”, with all the carbon emissions involved in car, bus, train and air travel, we purchase carbon offsets for all of our trips, so our customers can rest assured that when they travel with us all they leave behind are their own footprints!We work with a company called TerraPass that helps us offset the carbon footprint from each of our trips by investing in various earth-friendly projects and companies.The amount we invest is calculated by the number of miles our busses and individual customers travel.
We are also dedicated to working with local small businesses in the geographical areas we visit. We aim to book accommodations at highly recommended local hotels or bed and breakfasts, and always supply travelers with a list of recommended local restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues to visit during their stay.
We also strive to make every trip Bucket List worthy.While we are not the only company that offers Surprise Travel, we are the only one that custom creates journeys designed to ensure our customers don’t forget their Bucket Lists!We strive to make sure our travelers are still sharing their epic experiences with their friends and family years after they travel with us.
WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?
LB: We have some lofty goals!With a successful marketing campaign, we believe we can inspire a large audience of customers to live their lives fully and in the moment by restoring their sense of adventure through Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours.
Many of our colleagues believe Surprise Travel is the key to reaching the next generation of travelers. We want to be a major player in bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers, and in boosting the travel industry as a whole.
Also, with some development and partnerships we plan on establishing a non-profit charity to fulfill the Bucket List items of terminally ill adults.
As a startup, reaching the public has been our greatest challenge by far.Since gaining exposure is our biggest hurdle and as a startup we have limited funds, the qualifying grant we just received would be dedicated to marketing and promotions.The money will help us get directly in front of potential customers at some larger travel shows as well as allow us to sponsor Surprise Travel trips for promotional events.It will also help with printing expenses, video production and paid advertisements.
While the grant funds are a major benefit, the PR boost we receive from winning the grant is, in itself, super valuable!Since exposure is what we need most, we are super excited and grateful to have been chosen for the qualifying grant and look forward to competing for the additional Amber Grant as well.
WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur
LB: Go For It, Girl!
My business partner Holly and I came to the realization that while we were working hard for other organizations and corporations, we were spending our valuable time and resources working towards other people’s visions, not our own.Never doubt your greatness and ability to realize your dreams!Take one day, one task at a time and before you know it your ideas that seem huge and crazy may one day set you up to inspire and transform your whole industry.
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Our judges pick a $1,000 Amber Grant recipient each month.
One of our 12 monthly winners will be awarded our $10,000 Amber Grant at the end of 2018.
"Thank you so much Womens net for selecting us as the grant recipient for December 2014. It means a lot and this money will quickly be put to work as we begin testing the user experience for Stretch in January with our Veterans and Active military." - Lauren Foster, Founder of Stretch Recipes