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10 Inspiring Small Businesses Launched by Women Entrepreneurs

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

As we kick off the New Year, we can’t help but take a look back. As we reflect on the past two years at WomensNet.net, we get even more excited about what’s to come. It’s an incredible cycle.

2013 introduced us to some brilliant emerging small businesses and thousands of bright hardworking women entrepreneurs.

We were able to give out more than a dozen small business grants and truth be told, selecting a recipient has become increasingly more difficult – but only because there are so many worthy endeavors to choose from.

We wanted to share 10 of the grant winners who have inspired us over this past year because we know they’ll do the same for you.

Business: ReFresh
Founder(s): Eliza Becton
Website: http://www.re-freshwater.com/
What they do: The ReFresh 2-way water vending kiosk filters, flavors, carbonates, and bottles water at the point of dispense, instead of in a bottling plant, cutting out operators’ variable costs and reducing CO2 emissions by 80%.

Business: Dsg.nr (“Designer”)
Founder(s): Nancy Quan
Website: http://www.dsg.nr/
What they do: Dsg.nr is a low-cost way for small interior design businesses to collaborate with clients, vendors, specialists, CAD artists, and everyone else. Think of it as a cross between Pinterest, Houzz, and Polyvore for millions of independent designers, craftspeople, contractors, students, and individuals who are decorating on a budget.

Business: Go Go Games
Founder(s): Alexis Hiniker
Website: http://go-go-games.com/
What they do: Go Go Games is an award-winning suite of iPad games designed to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) learn to quickly notice multiple features of the objects in the world around them. All of the games are grounded in Pivotal Response Therapy, a behavioral intervention known to have broad benefits.

Business: Nighty Night Nursing Light
Website: http://www.nursinglight.com/
Founder(s): April Lowell and Patricia Gilbert
What they do: NNNL is a one-of-a-kind safety product for breastfeeding moms designed to help make nighttime feedings easier and reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Business: Build & Imagine
Founder(s): Laurie Peterson
Website: http://www.buildandimagine.com/
What they do: Build & Imagine is developing a line of constructible play-sets that girls (and boys!) love. They’re putting the child in the role of designer and architect, and providing a launching pad for imaginative play that helps to build the spatial and design skills needed to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Business: Tillie Polish
Website: http://www.tilliepolish.com
Founder(s): Andrea Matillano-Funkhouser and her 2 sisters Amber and Alexa Matillano
What they do: Tillie Polish is an organic, toxin-free nail polish start-up. The three founding sisters used their passion for trendy colors, a long-lasting formula, and toxic-free ingredients to create a fast drying opaque formula that they can share with other nail polish fanatics. Even better, customers can buy Tillie Polish with a clear conscience because all of their products are animal cruelty free and 4-Free, meaning they do not use the 4 main toxic ingredients found in other brands.

Business: Kiddologic
Founder(s): Laurie O’Nion
Website: http://www.kiddologic.com/
What they do: Kiddologic’s mission is to offer “the best of basics” – innovative products that are smart and practical solutions to the universal challenges of parenthood. Their core offering is the bibit-all http://www.kiddologic.com/shop/bibit-all/, a fashionable full-coverage bib that even has sleeves!

Business: Sitter Cycle
Founder(s): Helen Adeoson
Website: http://sittercycle.com
What they do: SitterCycle provides online classes for nannies and caregivers to learn from the best experts in childcare.

Business: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm
Founder(s): Robin Major
Website: https://stones-throw.herokuapp.com/
What they do: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm is redefining local, sustainable food in the Twin Cities. They convert vacant lots in St. Paul and Minneapolis into beautiful, productive micro-farms and grow food for a CSA, farmers markets, and various local wholesale accounts.

Business: Cambria Equine
Founder(s): Hannah Rivard
What they do: Hannah teaches her self-developed, completely unique, unheard-of method of horse training through in-person services (ex., lessons, clinics, and seminars) as well as online. Her training is focused on empowering people to train horses intuitively, through beauty and joy, rather than generalized techniques. Her website caters to the artistic equestrian and even has a marketplace for people to buy and sell horse-related products.

Key for Women Entrepreneurs: Let Your Passion be Your Guide

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

by Marcia Layton Turner

A week ago, I was talking to my friends at WomensNet.net.  When your friends give out grants to women business owners, you can always expect them to ask:  “Hey – Marcia, what business ventures are you up to?”

This was my chance to tell them about my latest e-book.  I guess they must have noticed the spark in my eye, the lilt in my voice – yes, the general sense of excitement I get when talking about… ready for it?  Couponing!

You see, by day I’m a freelance writer of magazine articles and author and ghostwriter of bestselling books.  But during my free time, I’m an extreme couponer. No, not as obsessed as the folks on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” TV show…but close.

While I do enjoy writing – researching the topic, thinking through how to organize the information and then sharing what I’ve gathered from interviews – there is nothing like the high of getting $110 worth of groceries for next to nothing. Believe me, I’ve done it.

Although writing is how I earn a very good living, coupons are my passion.

I’ve been writing professionally for more than 15 years, during which the publishing process has stayed much the same, until a year or two ago. In the past, I would come up with an idea for an article or book and then propose it to an editor, who then decides if they want to pay me to write about it. In other cases, because I’ve worked with an editor before and they liked my stuff, I’ll get a call or an email asking me if I’d like to tackle a particular topic for an upcoming issue or book. If I like the topic, I generally say yes.

As I said, I’ve been doing this for a while, but a couple of years ago, I started to hear more about e-books and how they were the future of publishing. Then last year there was news that sales of Amazon’s Kindle books had overtaken hard cover and paperback books. That’s the point at which I decided I needed to explore this. But what would I write about? I usually write about marketing and entrepreneurship, but nothing came to mind that would be new and noteworthy.

We’ve all heard that the best businesses are those based on the individual’s passion – the subject about which they know more than just about anyone else. So, for me, it followed that the best e-book I could write would be about my passion, couponing.

I tried selling traditional publishers on a couponing book as soon as I heard there would be a TV show on the topic. Perfect timing, I thought! They were skeptical that the market was big enough (are you kidding me?!). In fact, 78% of shoppers in the U.S. now use coupons – that’s millions and millions of Americans. At that point, I was fired up. More than any other book, I wanted to write about how to save money with coupons. Then I saw a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing,” in which the shoppers on the show were using the same techniques I’ve been using for years, and was sure that an e-book on couponing was what I needed to write next.

I told my agent I was working on the book and she mentioned she had a publisher friend who had started an e-book publishing venture. When she talked to him about my couponing book, he was sold.

We moved quickly to get the book formatted and edited and as of last Friday, Extreme Couponer: Insider secrets to getting groceries for free, was officially available for sale for $2.99. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to produce a book as quickly. Part of the speed was due to the new digital publishing process. But the other element was passion. I was so excited to share information about couponing that I wrote morning, noon and night. I was in the zone, completely enjoying what I was doing. And in a matter of days, the manuscript was done.

I think my situation isn’t unusual. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, whether it’s writing computer code, selling on eBay, supervising children at a daycare or something else entirely, time passes more quickly. And because you are giving that work your complete attention, the quality is higher and your chances of success much greater.

So if you’re still considering what kind of business to start, begin with what you love most. That will give you your best chance at success.

Oh, so back to my friends at Womensnet.Net.  They also wanted me to remind you that the deadline is August 30 for the latest $1,500 Amber Grant for Women.  Please take a few minutes to tell them about your business passion.  It might just lead to a juicy $1,500 grant for your women-owned business.

 

February Amber Grant Winner Assists Children with Austism

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Congratulations to February’s WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner, Alexis Hiniker! Alexis is currently a grad student and researcher at the University of Washington in the Human Centered Design and Engineering program. Together with her team of two other women, Alexis has founded Go Go Games©, a suite of iPad games developed to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Working closely with co-founders Joy Wong Daniels and Heidi Williamson, Alexis has seized the opportunity to create a truly unique product. After realizing that there was a strong market need for their concept, the trio raced to get started. They have already released their first product, and have received glowing feedback from customers and the media. We interviewed Alexis to discover more about her team’s incredible mission.
alexis
WNN: Alexis, congratulations on winning the February Amber Grant.

AH: Thank you so much — this absolutely made my day! In addition to being a great honor, this will enable us to take our research much further. Thank you again for supporting Go Go Games Studios in particular and women entrepreneurs broadly; we are proud to be associated with your great work!

WNN: Describe for us the basics of Go Go Games in a nutshell

AH: We translate evidence-based therapies for autism into video games that are engaging for our target users. Behavioral therapy is expensive and time consuming (on the order of 25-40 hours a week) and our supplemental therapy can help close the gap between the amount of therapy kids need and the amount they actually receive.

WNN: How did you meet the other women involved in the project?

AH: The three of us met as graduate students in the Learning, Design and Technology program at Stanford University. The program brings together educators, engineers, designers and other innovators who all share an interest in leveraging technology for educational purposes. Together we built a joint master’s project, which subsequently became the foundation of the business we co-founded.

WNN: What was the inspiration behind aiding children with ASD?

AH: I became interested in autism when I was pregnant with my first child and reading about warning signs of different developmental delays. I was surprised to learn how useful technology has been to this particular group. Given my background in computer science and software engineering, I saw potential for me to make a contribution in this space. Joy and Heidi’s backgrounds in interaction design and user research were the perfect complement to mine, and all three of us felt that together we had the necessary well-rounded skill-set to create innovative educational experiences. We all went back to graduate school with the goal of using our technical and design skills to support underserved audiences, and we saw Go Go Games as an opportunity to do just that. For each of us, our commitment to this community has been continually strengthened as we’ve worked with our inspiring user testers over the past year.

WNN: What are your long-term goals going forward with the project?

AH: We are excited to be working on our next product and to be planning out a long-term product line! These will all involve gaming and play-based learning, leveraging evidence-based practices, and supporting individuals with autism in leading rich and independent lives.

For those in the OuterBanks NC area…not doing anything today

Friday, March 1st, 2013

If you are in the area today…….

Outer Banks Entrepreneurs is pleased to announce the first OBX Women’s Winter Expo, set for Saturday, March 2nd, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ramada Inn in Kill Devil Hills. The Expo will feature 53 vendors, including women artists, crafters, direct sales vendors, service providers, and more. National guest speaker, Camille Allen, reinvention strategist, results coach, branding buff and marketing maven will be the guest speaker; sharing “Coastal Climate Change – It’s All About Attitude.” Raffle prizes will be drawn every ten minutes, so be sure to mark your calendar for March 2nd at the Ramada Inn. For more information on the Expo, please visit www.outerbanksentrepreneurs.com or contact Kim Twiddy at KIM182@aol.com, or Lindsey Truesdel, at LindseyMarieTruesdel@gmail.com. The Expo is a free family event for all to come out and enjoy.

It is February 1st, how have your New Year Resolutions been going?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

This article just seems to fit for February 1st. While you wait for our staff to go through the January applications for the Amber Business Grant, you can enjoy this article.

Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make And Then Keep

Crowdfunding: ALow-Risk Way to FundWomen Start-Up Businesses

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Opportunity for your woman-owned start-up business is just a website away. We are awash in opportunities, thanks to “crowdfunding” and the government’s approval for the practice of crowdfunding in the United States. Have you heard about this? If not, you could be missing out on a great way to find financing for a new product, business or creative endeavor.

Congress and President Obama enacted the JOBS Act, which includedcrowdfunding provisions, in April. Crowdfunding basically entails asking a crowd of people to donate money to your project. There are a variety of crowdfunding websites where you can submit your proposal that outlines your project, your deadline, what rewards you may offers to your donors, and your fundraising goal amount.

Benefits of crowdfunding

Small investments work: The great thing about crowdfunding is that it can make it easier for women-owned businesses to find money. Instead of requesting thousands from a few wealthy contributors, you can draw small amounts, potentially as little as $1, from a large number of people. Because the donations can be much lower, people are more willing to support you.

Low-risk for donors: Crowdfunding is relatively low-risk for donors. For one thing, they probably don’t have a large chunk of their savings involved. On many crowdfunding sites, if you fail to meet your fundraising goal by your deadline, the donations will revert back to the donors. This means that if they support your effort, but no one else does, they won’t lose their money. Some sites do have a “keep-it-all” model where creators get the money either way, so it’s important to read the guidelines before participating.

You still own your work: The big perk for you is that unlike traditionally large investors, these people really are donors, rather than investors. They will not be financially rewarded, nor will they own a stake in your business or product rights. That will belong to you. Many websites offer opportunities for you to offer a reward to donors – most often that will be a copy of the CD you made, the toy you invent or something of that nature.

Where to find crowdfunding opportunities

We’re awash in crowdfunding sites just now. There are a variety of platforms available, but here are a few you might consider.

Kickstarter: This funding platform is for creative projects – films, games, music, art. The site launched in 2009, and more than $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people. A look at statistics on the site shows about 44 percent of projects are successful in their fundraising goals.

RocketHub: This international community has helped thousands of artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists raise millions of dollars. If you want to proceed cautiously with crowdfunding, this is probably one of the safest sites to use. RocketHub actually testified to Congress about crowdfunding and has since also published a whitepaper about the future expansion of crowdfunding in the United States. Alon Hillel-Tuch, founder and CFO of RocketHub, believes “social funding is going to dominate the online space for the next five years,” according to a Forbes article.

We Funder (business start-ups), Startup Addict (no niche needed), Quirky (inventors), New Jelly (arists/films), Cofolios (small local biz) – the list goes on and on.

Tips for crowdfunding campaigns

Get an early start: Before you set up your project on a crowdfunding site – which will require a deadline for fundraising – try building some support on social media beforehand. If you can get commitments for about 50 percent of the project before you ever put up your proposal, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

It’s all in the marketing: As with anything, it’s all in your pitch. Make sure the video you make to introduce your campaign captures your passion and vision. Convince people that this is a project that is going somewhere. Remember: Creativity sells! The more unique you are, the more attention you’re likely to get. If you tell a great story about why you’re pursuing this goal and win people’s hearts, you’re on your way.

Get social! As noted earlier, crowdfunding works best when used in concert with social media. Work to build support on Facebook, Twitter and so forth. If you’re not a social media user, you will struggle to build a successful crowdfunding campaign. If you’re not taking advantage of social media, now is the time to get with the program – crowdfunding or not – as it is a top business marketing tool these days.

Help your supporters: Give your supporters the tools to fully back you. One suggestion is to provide emails or posts they can give to their own friends to expand your network of support.

Work really hard: Crowdfunding and building social media support take work. Don’t expect it to be easy. You need to invest time, energy and creativity if you want to see it pay off.

Kevin Lavelle, CEO and Founder of Mizzen+Main, an apparel company took advantage of crowdfunding when invited to do so. In a Forbes article, he recommended that you consider these questions before pursuing crowdfunding.

Is this the sole method of sourcing capital for your business or a part of your overall strategy?

Are you using crowdfunding for a specific initiative or to build your entire business?

Can you handle the increased demand for your products if your campaign takes off?

Will you be able to fulfill the rewards or perks you are offering to those funding your business?

Lavelle points out that it is important to understand the rules of the crowdfunding platform you use, and the ins and outs of the perks being offered to donors. Be sure your business can meet whatever incentives are offered.

If you’re a young woman-owned company, crowdfunding can be a fantastic opportunity because it does not require you to give up your business equity. And while building your support for your funding, you may be building a following for your business, as well.

The SEC is examining crowdfunding, and there are more changes likely to result. So be sure to keep an eye on the regulations as they surface, and be well-versed in the crowdfunding platform rules so that you can make the most of the opportunity to win capital without finding yourself in a difficult position.