Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized’ Category

November Amber Grant Awarded to Music Therapy St. Louis

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Last Monday, we announced our November Amber Grant Finalists.  Today, we’re delighted to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the first qualifier for the 2019 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Jaime Wilhite and Tracie Sandheinrich, owners of Music Therapy St. Louis. MTSTL’s talented team offers board certified music therapy services and consultation to their community. You’ll learn about their incredible work — and their plans for the future — in our interview below.

MTSL

WN: Share how Music Therapy St. Louis came about

JW: As a child, Jaime was always a dreamer: a kid with big eyes and big ideas. Too often she was reminded those dreams were too grandiose and unrealistic. But, what is our reality? It’s what we make it.

At the age of 30 years old, with a successful career in marketing, Jaime found herself at a life roadblock. She had done everything perfectly and followed the path of opportunity with the privileges she had. She did what she was supposed to do. At the end of the day, she found herself feeling empty, like what she did didn’t really matter. This feeling was a constant reminder after she lost her mother suddenly at the age of 24. She asked herself, “What did I want to do with my life? How can I make a difference?”

A year before, Jaime shadowed a board certified music therapist in a phase 4 school working with a child with autism. The child walked in, head down, and did not use words to communicate. By the end of the session, the child was making purposeful eye contact; he was engaged and energetically said, “Bye!” That moment changed Jaime’s life. She, literally, cashed it all in for two more degrees: one in music and a Masters in music therapy. She is officially an MMT, MT-BC.

Eight years later, Jaime had the honor to work in various populations: disabilities, memory care, psych, education, brain injury, and the hospital setting. She is also trained in NMT (neurologic music therapy), the study of the brain and music therapy interventions based on scientific outcomes and practice. Specifically, she is one of three board certified music therapists currently working for a non-profit 501c3 under Maryville University’s Kids Rock Cancer. In joining the team, Jaime met Tracie Sandheinrich MA, MT-BC, who helped spearhead Kids Rock Cancer nearly ten years. To say they “hit it off” would be an understatement.

At a very young age, Tracie found herself sitting on a stack of books and magazines just high enough to reach the piano keys. She grew up in a musical family, actively singing and playing music in her home church, and singing at the nursing home where her grandmother lived. It is without a doubt that Tracie knew and valued the power of music. After a chance meeting and introduction to the field of music therapy, Tracie never looked back. Tracie finished her coursework, followed by completing a clinical internship at St. Luke’s Hospital (Adult Rehab) and BJC Hospice. She graduated from Maryville University with a bachelor’s of science degree in music therapy in 2008.​

After her internship, Tracie was hired on with BJC Hospice in Farmington, MO (2007-2009) where she brought music therapy to patients who were diagnosed with terminal illness. In many cases, patients were seen in the home or long-term care facilities. Tracie was able to provide tailored music therapy interventions and work closely with an interdisciplinary team, which has helped groom her formal approach to providing quality services. Tracie believed that even in an unfortunate situation like impending illness, music therapy at its finest, can not only bring physiological and psychological comfort to the patient, but to the family as well.​

In November 2009, Tracie received the offer to help jumpstart a program called Kids Rock Cancer, a non-profit organization affiliated with Maryville University, whose mission is to help children and families facing the challenges of cancer and/or blood disorders through the process of therapeutic songwriting. As the senior music therapist, Tracie actively sees patients, supervises additional KRC team music therapists, supervises practicum and internship students, and enjoys community outreach and program development. Tracie continues to be inspired by these participants and families, and ultimately encourages each and every participant to write their own story. She believes, no matter what shape or form, everyone has a song to sing. In Tracie’s professional years of practice, she was also determined to better her counseling skills. Tracie completed her master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University in December 2018 and will continue to work towards finalizing her clinical licensure.

Jaime and Tracie both had private practices specializing in different populations before they met, but shared the same concern for quality care and woes of the contract-driven side of the music therapy world in our community. In many late night conversations, they asked themselves, “How can we take care of music therapists so they don’t burn out? How can we provide consistent and quality care? How can we be the most reliable resource to our community? How can we advocate and let people know music therapy is a “thing” and it is very much a clinical practice?” Well, no one else was doing it, so they did just that – a brand new company was born.

It felt as if the stars had aligned and they joined forces to create Music Therapy St. Louis, LLC, where the company now serves nearly every population: geriatric, memory care, individuals with disabilities, children fighting cancer, hospice, rehabilitation/TBI and much more. Music Therapy St. Louis is the first company in our area to hire an all women team of board certified music therapists as employees to co-treat and support clients as a team. When the team is not seeing clients, you can find them speaking, advocating and supporting community groups. They have big eyes and high hopes for 2019.

WN: What type of programs do you offer?

JW: Music Therapy St. Louis offers quality board certified music therapy services and consultation to patients, clients and families on both sides of the river of Missouri and Illinois.

They have a hand picked team of therapists specialized in working with children and adults with disabilities, hospice and palliative care, geriatric support, mental health/wellness and medical-related illnesses. Our philosophy is quality and a client-led approach, using music to aid in rehabilitation, enhancement and maintenance of cognitive, physical, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual functioning.

The team travels to facilities, homes, schools, agencies, hospitals, communities, care facilities and more, to bring quality services to the community. They have listened to our community and have heard the need for a space to host group music therapy programs and support services for children and adults of different abilities, especially to enhance our services and partnership with the Pujols Family Foundation.  Private families, agencies like St. Louis Arc and communities have expressed an interest for group services at our future building. This goal is part of our big dream in 2019. For long term, we envision having a safe and carefree environment to host other creative therapists.

Our Programs

Abilities Programs

MTSL works with all ages of all abilities in a variety of settings: private in-home, private small groups, agency hosted groups, employee after-work programming, education and more. They also work in inter-community relationships to coordinate and lead events like Creative Music Making, involving the St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis Arc and Maryville University’s Music Therapy students. Furthermore, they have developed and continue to grow services in the vocational setting in facilities such as Lafayette Industries in Missouri and SAVE in Illinois (St. Clair Associated Vocational Enterprises).

Children Programs

Music Therapy St. Louis works with children of all ages on goals using music therapy in private 1:1 and group settings. Facilities range from integrated early childhood centers like Childgarden Early Childhood Center to the privacy of your living room.

Their philosophy is client-led, meaning every child is unique and requires a custom session plan/goals and objective based on their learning and music preference.

It’s not a one-size fit all. Now that numerous research studies show there is no music “center” of the brain — people’s brains become active in multiple areas with music allowing them to achieve skills where, perhaps, one path of getting there appears to be
a challenge. Essentially, music may get the client there faster. The company also openly welcomes collaboration with other specialties: OT, PT, SLP, ABA and more.

Private sessions are 100% customized to clientele. Therapists bring everything to any site or home, and schedule a time that is convenient for client and family. When they go to homes, they start with an assessment. After the initial session, the MT-BC works with the client to define goals and will recommend a music therapy plan. Therapists have worked off of IEPs and have also customized a tailored client achievement plan based on the family/MT-BC’s goals.

Geriatric/Memory Care Program

Music Therapy St. Louis works within private 1:1 sessions, group settings, as well as specializing in memory care settings in Illinois and Missouri. Group settings range from communities to abilities with non-profit agencies.

Music therapy enhances quality of life and helps prevent or slow mental and physical deterioration. Music is a stimulus that can be adapted to the client’s needs and reach patients in ways other modalities cannot.

Palliative Care/Hospice Program

When working in hospice and palliative care, we focus on specialized support to meet the needs and comfort of clients and family in the home and/or long-term care communities.

Medical Program

Music Therapy St. Louis works with leading hospitals and medical support centers to bring Maryville University’s Kids Rock Cancer program to children and families.

Kids Rock Cancer is a non-profit organization directly affiliated with Maryville University’s Music Therapy Program. More specifically, board certified music therapists, specialize in assisting in therapeutic songwriting sessions with children, teens, and young adults that are facing the challenges of cancer and/or blood disorders. The program also serves participants who are directly affected by a cancer diagnosis, meaning that they have a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, or a friend dealing with cancer.

Kids Rock Cancer officially started back in November 2009 at the St. Louis Pediatric Cancer Centers (inpatient and outpatient), but has since grown rapidly to various community partnerships such as the Cancer Support Community, the Ronald McDonald House, the Washington University Proton Center, SLU Cancer Center, and numerous support camps in MO and IL for children and teens that are coping with some of the obstacles that come with a cancer and/or blood disorder diagnosis. With the affiliation to the Maryville University music therapy program, it’s allowed the company to have music therapy interns and continue to be a clinical site for upcoming music therapists in the program.

Both Tracie and Jaime are trained in NMT (Neurologic Music Therapy) and use these specific skills when working with individuals with TBI or other neuro conditions.
 They welcome prescriptions from neurologists and any other clinical staff. The company also conducted a pilot study providing music therapy in Washington University’s Botox Clinic for children. In addition to Botox, Music Therapy St. Louis, coordinates, collaborates, and leads BeatNF (Washington University’s Neurofibromatosis Center) children groups at Jazz St. Louis.

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

JW: So much happened so quickly in 2018 with the merge and Music Therapy St. Louis is rapidly growing! The more Jaime and Tracie stay focused on the quality of care; it seems to uncover the true demand and need for this service in the area and surrounding communities. Music Therapy St. Louis is hoping to have a brick and mortar home base where the company can host music therapy and community groups. More and more facilities as well as families have inquired a need for this type of space. With a fast pace of growth, it is instrumental to get this piece of the business in place to meet the needs of our community and continue to grow our quality services.

Furthermore, we are working towards building a scholarship program for families and organizations that may not be able to afford services but could significantly benefit from them.

With Kids Rock Cancer, Pujols Family Foundation, St. Louis Arc, Lafayette Industries, St. Francis of Assisi, a plethora of long-term care and hospice organizations (and more), Jaime and Tracie find themselves grateful every day and continue to strive to offer consistent and quality care on both sides of the river in MO and IL. All of this would not have happened without their big eyes, big dreams, and big ambition for a new paradigm shift in local music therapy programs, which ultimately allowed Jaime and Tracie to cross paths.

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

JW: So much has happened in 10 years. Dreamers are dreamers. Doers are doers. It wasn’t an easy road but both Jaime and Tracie say, “It’s worth the reward.” During trying times, it’s important to seek out support systems. Surprisingly, not everyone in your life will be understanding of your life choices, but it’s important to make the best choice for you. We had to work hard to digest and accept those feelings and be okay with the idea that people are sometimes disapproving of our decisions and to follow the path, even if it means taking a huge leap.  Create your own path.” A favorite quote written by Mark Twain that continues to inspire them, “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” You never know where your dreams may take you.”

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!

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.

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!

July Amber Grant Awarded to Lisnen

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

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!

June Amber Grant Awarded to Good Morning Bedlam

Monday, July 9th, 2018

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.