Austin Martin

Rhymes With Reason Spotlight

Austin Martin

Music and education are an interesting combination that can help spark interest in today’s youth and allow them to learn in a more compelling way. This is what Austin Martin noticed before he launched his company Rhymes With Reason. His company aims to help improve literacy among kids in schools by using their favorite rap and hip-hop songs.

Austin’s story starts when he was a child. All the way up to the age of 15, teachers and others told him he was an underachieving student. However, Austin was very intellectually curious. He would research everything there was to know about music, artists, and sports. He became a walking human encyclopedia on these topics because he was able to connect to these things more naturally. He felt that school was just a system that didn’t work for him, because it didn’t build a connection to the outside world. He became very studious towards music and lyrics, and this was one of the reasons he developed a good work ethic.

Storytelling really captured Austin’s interest, but school put him in a box that suppressed his creativity and potential. Once he entered high school he was able to focus, as his love for music shaped him into a more hardworking person. This led to his acceptance into Brown University. This really hit Austin hard because he felt like the reason why he got in was to do something bigger with his life. He had this idea to help other kids similar to him that were also suppressed by the current education system.

Rhymes With Reason’s mission is to educate kids through the genius of pop culture. There is a misconception that things like music and hip-hop lack substance and intellect. Currently 65% of students in 4th grade and up are reading at a lower level than they should be. The goal of Rhymes With Reason is to raise the reading level of students. For example, if you are in a low-income family, you are still able to listen to music because of how accessible it is. Music is a cultural source that is filled with words and language that can be utilized.

Literacy has a lot of power since it determines the socioeconomics of groups in America. For example, 70% of prison inmates perform at the two lowest levels of literacy. People that are born into working class families are exposed to thousands of less words than those who are born into professional families. This is a cycle that keeps repeating itself because lower classes lack access. This is where Rhymes With Reason comes in. It makes literacy more equal among the classes via popular music—a resource that happens to be uniquely accessible across social classes.

This literacy market is pretty vacant at the time being. There are other companies that create rap songs to help kids memorize the periodic table or other things like that. However, Rhymes With Reason takes advantage of current popular music that kids already enjoy. Millennials actually listen to music 40+ hours a week, whereas kids are spending 35 hours a week in school. The competitive advantage Rhymes With Reason has is that their approach happens to be more authentic and resonates with the students because it doesn’t feel forced like the current education system.

Rhymes With Reason has had its share of challenges along the way. One obstacle has been that it can take a long time to receive the payments from schools. Since the aim is to help these underfunded schools, it just comes with the territory. Developing new models, strategies and tactics to deliver to their customers has also been challenging. The way Austin has mitigated these challenges is by having a large support system. Austin also faces some adversity because he is a young founder who has never done this before. There were many lessons to be gained from the inexperience. These obstacles have not stopped Austin though; he is excited about overcoming adversity. The journey of achieving more and more with Rhymes and Reason has humbled him and built his confidence at the same time.

The Elevate My Business Challenge (EMBC) was appealing to Austin because he wanted some guidance and support to help build more structure in his business. Since most entrepreneurs see things from their perspective, sometimes they can gain more when they can look at their business through another lens. The reflection of his business in the EMBC helped him hone in on where to focus on. A big part of being an entrepreneur is to reflect on what is and isn’t working. Austin said, “The challenge can get you to reflect and take a look at areas that you may not think of on a day to day basis.” Sometimes entrepreneurs lose sight of the bigger picture due to the fact that they are in too deep in the weeds of their business.

In the next three years, Austin wants to have an impact on over 3 million students and to develop the brand to become synonymous for being an educational music streaming service. Since winning the Fall 2018 South Bay EMBC, Austin has accomplished a lot more by being accepted as a member of the 2019 Echoing Green Fellowship. Austin explains that it is a perfect fit for him and what he is trying to accomplish. This group is an incubator that aims to help companies that have a direct social aim. This year they had over 4,000 applicants, but only accepted 34, so less than 1% made it. This group has a large network with financial resources that helps fund companies using recoverable grants. Some famous alumni that have been a part of this program include Michelle Obama and Van Jones. Additionally, Rhymes with Reason just confirmed a collaboration with Chance the Rapper’s SocialWorks non-profit, which will launch in October 2019.

Also, since the EMBC, Rhymes With Reason has increased their revenues 3x and have added more members to their team. Austin would like to go into secondary markets by teaching English using hip-hop and popular music around the world. The next big initiative for them is to launch their individual student package (non-school) that places an explicit focus on test prep.

Austin had some key words of advice for fellow business owners and to those who may want to open up their own business. Passion is the key, because you have to want to be doing this, otherwise it will feel like a chore and you will eventually burn out. Self awareness allows you to realize what you are good at and what you need help with. Without self awareness it is easy to become delusional. Also, if you make your company bigger than you, then it becomes easier to get past the roadblocks.

Here at LIFT we are super proud of Austin’s accomplishments and we are excited to see where his journey takes him. Be sure to check out Rhymes With Reason at Rhymeswithreason.co.

Founders Bootcamp Alumni Spotlight: Quality Interactions (S18-FBGB)

Quality Interactions is a leading healthcare education company aiming to improve health outcomes as well as  returns for many medical practitioners. Michele Brown joined the already-existing company back in 2014 as a consultant. The company was founded by three medical doctors who were experts in health disparities and the difference between how some Americans receive health care treatments versus others. Michele has actively helped build the company and is currently the CEO.

People of color, people with low health literacy, and people who do not speak English in the U.S. are more expensive for the healthcare industry, costing. $30 billion each year. There is a desire to reduce costs, which results in medical errors. The non-financial costs are that people are getting sicker more frequently and possibly dying.

Quality Interactions offers training for frontline health care workers with culture competency and the skills and communication required to improve the growing diverse patient population. They train doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers to focus on customer service and how to understand their patients better. They have many courses training on LGBT populations and on unconscious bias that shows up in the healthcare system. Their interactive courses offer real patient scenarios with audio to allow these learners to gain skills, strategies and approaches to improve their relationships with their patients. The mission is to democratize healthcare and level the playing field for everyone to receive the best quality healthcare. Research has shown that the same quality of care is not given to minorities and Quality Interactions stands up for those who may be initially treated differently.

This is extremely personal for Michele because she has faced this discrimination and unfair treatment from healthcare professionals. When Michele was younger she went to the emergency room because of a stomach ache. Immediately the health care professionals started to speak to her slowly and question if she was pregnant since she was a minority. In reality, her appendix ruptured and she was being screened for pregnancy. This ordeal left Michele hours away from death. Even though she had full insurance,she was not immune from experiencing this health care disparity.

When Michele found out about what Quality Interactions was trying to do, she was struck that others saw the need to solve healthcare disparity. She admired the mission and the value of the content, but saw the unique opportunity to have industry experts to try to solve this problem. Compared to other healthcare companies aiming to seek improvements in the industry, Quality Interactions has a competitive advantage in cultural competency. They believe that the most important thing to develop is trust between the patient and the healthcare providers, especially if their religion does not permit certain practices to be done, if there is a language barrier, or if health care practitioners are not  making sure their patients understand all their options.

Obstacles still arose for the company. Some prospective customers  try to develop their own content. Prospects think it will be cheaper than hiring an instructional designer. In order to overcome this challenge, they have a pre and post test to show improvements from communication and other skills learned.

Michele joined the Founders Bootcamp because she is a firm believer in capacity building, and she was intrigued to join a program that focused on developing a recurring revenue model. It was important for Michele to implement this learning on her own pace and each module provided a different perspective. One of the biggest values was the opportunity to explore a recurring revenue strategy, where she gained actual tactics to apply them to their business.

Prior to the Bootcamp, Michele was a part of other growth accelerators and she has a background in banking. She had a sense of business growth, but she said that once you are an entrepreneur you come across things that you cannot know from the outside looking in. Since the Bootcamp, Michele has successful secured $350,000 in investment capital. The company has hired new employees and a VP of Sales who will be of big help to them. They are negotiating their first seven figure deal and have developed a number of recurring revenue deals. In three to five years Quality Interactions aims to be a $20 million company. Michele’s advice for entrepreneurs is to look for help to grow, while putting more emphasis on overall strategy rather than doing minute day-to-day tasks. Be sure to check out Quality Interactions and what they look to accomplish in the near future.

Alumni Spotlight – SiMMo3D (ATX18 – EMBC)

Year in and year out, the health tech industry is constantly evolving. SIMMo3D has emerged, as a new player in health training to meet new market needs. Their 3D printed organ models are used to better train physician on new medical devices.

Founder Ryan Quinn went to school at the University of Texas-San Antonio and majored in entrepreneurship. In 2015, his school hosted a large pitch competition where he was introduced to engineers who wanted Ryan pitch their product the EyeMatic, which could lubricate, store, and sanitize contact lenses. He won the competition and learned a lot about the medical industry, along with 3D printing technology. He pivoted into the company he has now by noticing that there was a market for surgical training tools. The technology and the need was there for simulated models because cadavers and other medical devices are time consuming and costly. The biggest goal for Ryan was to reduce the number of adverse effects from medical devices and provide better training for physicians.

Competitors in the industry that use 3D models tend to have high costs, but SiMMo3D has a specific modular design for cardiovascular training that allows them to use replaceable aspects that competitors do not use. These models are able to cut down time while having a wider range of approaches so that they can get a better hands-on approach with their training.   However, the company has faced some roadblocks early on raising money because of their niche market. Ryan had to look for specific investors, which was difficult because bigger investors simply do not pay enough attention to businesses focused on a niche market.

As a member of the Winter 2018 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge (EMBC), Ryan was eager to be a part of a program that could break down his business model. According to Ryan, it was a straightforward accelerator that was able to help him build an overall guide and plan. Being able to receive real feedback from the other entrepreneurs and subject matter experts made everything a lot easier. Since Ryan had a formal education on business growth he was aware of the basics, but the EMBC was able to give him a more in-depth analysis of his business. In 3 to 5 years, Ryan wants to develop partnerships with some of the larger medical device manufacturers. He also wants to dive into different markets outside of cardiovascular work in order to expand. There is a possibility of trying to exit the market through acquisition by a larger company. The company can either grow organically or they will need to search for more money to be commercialized before being attractive enough for acquisition.

With the help of the EMBC program, SiMMo3D was able to take a step back and analyze the company with guidance from key experts. Since the program, their business model has helped them get key investments, which will helped them reach their growth goals. The guidance from the individual coaching from LIFT Development Enterprises was able to push SiMMo3D in the right direction. In the near future, Ryan is developing their pilot program and trying to focus on the bigger picture. Delegating more tasks to a larger team will help Ryan accomplish more of their growth goals.

Ryan wanted to offer some advice for small business owners, especially for those who are starting their company. He said it’s crucial to have supplemental income outside of your company. When you initially first start off it will be hard to generate revenues, and most of the money you do end up making you end up investing back into your business.

The LIFT team is extremely proud of the progress that Ryan has made in the last year, and it is clear that in 2019 SiMMo3D will continue to thrive. If you want to learn more about SiMMo3D, check out their Facebook page here

 

Founders Bootcamp Alumni Spotlight: Lacti-Cups (W18-FBGB)

Lacti-Cups is a company designed to help mothers with their breastfeeding goals. Founder Diana Osorio had worked as a Clinical Lactation Consultant for over 17 years in the Postpartum and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She has provided care and support to over 40,000 babies and their families. During that time, she had a realization when she noticed how much breast milk was being wasted with traditional breast pads in between feedings. She created Lacti-Cups as a one-of-a-kind breastfeeding product that will collect all of the leaks between breastfeeding sessions. The product has received numerous awards and recognition for its top-of-the line quality.

In Diana’s experience, mothers struggle to collect breast milk and their perception is that they do not have enough to pump. Breast shells have existed for over 37 years, but they were their not designed to collect the remaining leaks. Many moms feel like they do not have enough milk and quit breastfeeding even earlier than they are supposed to do. Four million women have babies every year, and 30% of those women quit breastfeeding after 6 weeks. Diana’s mission is to reduce this number to 5% with her state-of-the-art product. Mothers will be able to overcome the early challenges of breastfeeding and be empowered to  provide for their babies.

Diana has always been a risk taker and it was in her personality to go for it and start Lacti-Cups. She knew it was useful and necessary, and it has never crossed her mind that the business would not work. Before Diana entered the market, there was nothing similar to what she was doing. Unfortunately, the first product that she came out with was copied by many businesses, especially across Amazon.com where copycats began selling similar, generic products. However, she understood that people only copy what is great. The first design of the product was a little too generic and it was easy to copy, but this gave her the options to improve the product to be more differentiated. In the future, Diana wants to diversify by bringing education and insight about the product and the differences it can make. Part of the competitive advantage that Diana brings to Lacti-Cups is that she has been a health care expert with the knowledge necessary to create the best breastfeeding products. Adaptation has also been important, since Diana was able to take the reviews she was getting on Amazon to alter her product.

Diana’s success did not come without any roadblocks. The first challenge was all these other sellers copying her product. This caused her to become more creative in her approach in sales. She took her products to other alternatives besides Amazon to diversify and spread her eggs across many baskets instead of just one.

She also used her problem-solving skills to overcome manufacturing and expense issues related to new tariffs imposed by the current presidential administration.  Diana thought outside of the box to think more creatively.

This is part of the reason why Diana joined the Founders Growth Bootcamp. Previously, she had no knowledge at all about business. With the Bootcamp, she was able to take the information and implement it in her business immediately, especially the small business model improvement canvas. In the next three to five years, Lacti-Cups looks to expand internationally, but she must wait until her patent applications are approved.

Her goal is to produce more products while reducing the costs of each individual product. Since the end of the Bootcamp, Diana has been able to increase her price point, which has led to an increase in revenues. She was able to receive a loan once her finances were cleaned up at the Bootcamp. This loan will help with her product expansion, which will be a big help the future goals of Lacti-Cups.

Diana’s key advice for other small business owners is to think ahead about who will be buying your product or service. Even though there are a ton of great ideas for businesses, it is essential to create the business plan and show how it will work. Bootstrapping is the smartest way to get started, because you do not have to be concerned about paying back business loans and accumulating debt.

To learn more about Lacti-Cups and there future endeavors, check out their website here.

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $250K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on Founders Business Growth Bootcamp interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below!

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Founders Bootcamp Alumni Spotlight: FIT Solutions (W18-FBGB)

FIT Solutions is a one of a kind company that aims to provide IT consulting and support to businesses between 10 – 2000 employees. Ephraim Ebstein is the CEO of FIT Solutions, and along with co-founder, Joel Richey, started their company to fill the gap of high-quality customer service in the IT industry. Ephraim began his career as an engineer and worked for a number of companies across San Diego County.

Before they began their venture, getting IT service was a long, painful a process. When clients called for IT support, they would first be connected to the help desk and then assigned a Tier 1 Technician where they would try to troubleshoot and solve the issues. If the technician wasn’t able to solve an issue, a client would be passed along to the Senior Technician, and then to a Senior Manager and so on. This bottleneck could cost the client anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.

 Ephraim took what he learned from the different business that he previously worked for and created FIT Solutions. They have sped up this process by skipping the help desk altogether and only hiring the highest level Engineering Consultants to work for them. Every time customers call in, they speak to an Engineer from their dedicated support team. It’s similar to having a personal concierge. FIT Solutions provides faster resolutions and a better customer experience by offering the highest-quality service and a level of familiarity between client and Engineer. Their vision and mission is to make IT support a wonderful experience, and they are accomplishing this by hiring A-players.

Ephraim and Joel took the risk to open FIT Solutions because they felt they could do a better job after already working with other businesses that were not focused on certain aspects of excellent customer service. They saw it more as an opportunity to excel than a risk to fail. FIT Solutions’ main competitive advantage is that they have a faster process for IT support by having high-level engineers act as consultants. With a faster IT support system, the employees are able to perform better, which then translates to happier customers for them.

However, they have had some challenges in the past. FIT Solutions once had a customer terminate their contract due to their budget limitations. The customer went on to sign a contract with another IT company, but after six short months, they sought out FIT Solutions again because of their impeccable customer experience and ability to reduce downtime for their employees, compared to their competitors. Another challenge for FIT Solutions is to be patient in their hiring process for A-players only. They are growing very quickly and need to make more hires, but they never want to compromise talent because of time constraints. Each hire is an investment in the company’s success, so they try not to rush their decisions. Ephraim, Joel, and Executive Director Kelly Denham joined the Founders Growth Bootcamp because they saw an opportunity to improve their business processes. They wanted to focus on restructuring their accounting department and developing a sales team. Each program module was able to give them certain gems that they had not necessarily been looking for,but found extremely valuable. By investing more into their accounting department, they were able to transform it into a profit center while also determining the best way to structure their sales department which has led to a year of exponential growth. Before joining the Bootcamp, FIT Solutions knew how to manage one monthly recurring revenue, but now it’s discovered more opportunities to increase its number of revenue streams with help from the Bootcamp’s business mentors.

At the end of 2018, FIT Solutions will be a $7 million company. In three years, they expect to be a $25 million company and in 5 years $50 million. They look to expand their Procurement and Professional Services offerings while also putting a heavy focus on their successful healthcare, legal and finance verticals. Since graduating from the Bootcamp, they have increased their revenues 40% by increasing volume of sales. Within two quarters, they nearly doubled their workforce. In the near future, they will be adding a sales and marketing team, which will help FIT Solutions scale even larger. Kelly’s advice to small business owners:

“Stay true to your vision. If you stand strong behind your business mission, you will succeed.”

-Kelly Denham, Executive Director at FIT Solutions

To learn more about FIT Solutions, check out their website here.

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $250K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on Founders Business Growth Bootcamp interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below!

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Alumni Spotlight – CarAudioCare, Inc. (NC18-EMBC)

CarAudioCare, Inc. is one of the leading repair service centers in Southern California since 2007. Founder Robert Cruz has led this venture from the bottom up by investing in quality customer service that cannot be topped. More and more customers choose to go to CarAudioCare rather than their automobile dealer because of Robert’s more affordable prices. Not only is CarAudioCare more affordable, but they also bring you the best service that is on par with dealerships, if not better. Robert’s attention to detail has allowed for his business to boom. Robert won first place at the Spring 2018 North County Elevate My Business Challenge, where now he will be able to take that momentum and newfound knowledge and begin scaling his business.

Robert founded CarAudioCare after he was laid-off about twelve years ago to be his own boss and completely avoid the same situation from happening again.  With his brother as his first entrepreneurial mentor and influence, Robert gained the confidence to open his own business in Southern California to provide quality service, which was lacking in the market at that time.  Being able to offer top-of-the-line customer service and high quality repairs have been the company’s mission, and has made CarAudioCare stand out from its competitors.

How to Work ON the Business, Rather than IN it

The biggest obstacle for Robert when establishing CarAudioCare was trying to grow on his own. To overcome the adversity of being a solopreneur, Robert took charge of doing extensive research and learning from experienced entrepreneurs to implement their advice to grow and scale his business.  A key reason why Robert decided to participate in the Elevate My Business Challenge was because he thought it would push him in the right direction of growing and working ON his business, rather than simply IN it. The Challenge offered a new mindset of how to scale up and implement tactics that will lead to business growth. Trying to do everything by yourself can be very stressful, so that’s why Robert has hired those who may have more expertise, such as a professional, certified bookkeeper who will keep CarAudioCare’s finances in order.

Taking the Right Steps to Scale a Business

In the next 3 to 5 years, CarAudioCare’s main focus will be to have a minimum of 5 locations with many more technicians and administrative staff. Robert wants to first expand throughout Southern California and then eventually open locations in nearby states. It is important to not try to grow to quickly or you can crash and burn. Patience is the key when growing and trying to go region by region. Prior to the participating in the Challenge, Robert had some knowledge about business, but his eyes have now been opened to growth strategies such as lowering the cost of goods, increasing number of customers, and selling more to your current clientele.  After winning first place for the Challenge Pitch Day, Robert is starting to see more changes to his business. He has expanded his team to add a part-time technician who will be transitioning to full-time soon. Robert believes that his revenue growth this year will be up 15% compared to last year, as he begins applying what he learned in the program. Robert wants to use more of his cash flow to invest back into his business in order to see bigger growth. Robert’s advice for other small business owners who want to grow would be the following:

“You have to know your industry, and if you don’t know, seek experts or mentors who do.”

– Robert Cruz

Robert stated that he has been operating his business for 11 years and has talked to many people who have offered advice and tried to help him grow, but no one has compared to Kim Folsom, founder of LIFT Development Enterprises, and their team of subject matter experts that have deep experience supporting companies like his.  The Challenge helps small businesses by guiding them with implementing innovative methods to reach the next level. LIFT Development Enterprises team is extremely proud of Robert and his commitment and actions taken to grow his business exponentially. If you want to learn more about CarAudioCare, check out their website at www.caraudiocare.com.

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $50K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on the Elevate My Business Challenge interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below.

Join our Elevate My Business Challenge Interest List!

Alumni Spotlight – Elite Sweets (A18-EMBC)

The Entrepreneurial Drive

Amin and Amir Bahari, Timothy Cole Jr., and Caleb Bluiett are co-founders of Elite Sweets, where they aim to deliver healthy alternatives to satisfy sweet cravings.  The company wants to redefine the standard American diet with healthier sweets that are gluten-free, keto-friendly and protein-packed. Prior to Elite Sweets’ start in 2017, the founders entered the food/nutrition industry after being heavily involved and deeply passionate in health and fitness. After Amin Bahari lost 140 pounds, he felt inspired to deliver healthy donuts to people who may have restrictive diets. Since graduating from college, they encountered many “healthy sweets” and nutritional bars that did not taste very good, and realized that this was a missing link which led them to experiment in making their own donuts, testing it in the market, and collaborating with a nutritionist to find the right balance needed for a healthy donut.  After several trial and error, Elite Sweets was able to find the perfect flavors for their donuts.

During their last semester in college, the Baharis determined that they did not want a traditional corporate job, but rather aspired to be entrepreneurs.  Therefore, the brothers teamed up with colleagues, Timothy Cole Jr. and Caleb Bluiett, to start Elite Sweets. Although they were taking a risk to start their own business, their competitive advantage has been their expertise in the nutrition realm. Amin and Amir’s mom suffers from Type 2 Diabetes and it has been a personal mission of theirs to serve those who cannot eat traditional sweets like their customers who have a limited diet due to certain diseases. Therefore, Elite Sweets has made it possible for them to enjoy certain pastries they would not be allowed to eat otherwise. Their donuts are especially unique since they are protein-packed and are popular for those who need a healthy nutritional snack, breakfast option, or even a post-workout pick-me-up. Elite Sweets has gained credibility and quite the following from customers drawn to not only their knowledge about nutrition and fitness, but also to their personal mission statement. Compared to other companies that just want to make a sale, Elite Sweets wants to make a positive impact on their customers and communities.

 

If You Don’t Know, ASK

A major challenge this company faced while growing their business has been shipping products to consumers.  After doing their own extensive research, the team has recently figured out the logistics for the best delivery method and processes on how to ship across the state of Texas.  The founders constantly researched and networked with many different people and companies to try to figure out how to ship, specifically refrigerated shipping, until they became experts on this matter themselves. 

“If you don’t know, ask and do your own homework.”

– Amin Bahari

By obtaining as much information possible and weighing out all the possible options, Elite Sweets has narrowed down the process for which they will utilize and begin marketing to larger regions to expand their business.

Elite Sweets joined the 2018 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge because they wanted to be surrounded by like-minded and driven entrepreneurs, and learn how to tell their story in front of potential investors, key partners, and the public. The team gained insights on how to pitch their company’s story, which is important when it comes to requesting funds and marketing the business. Amin Bahari stated that the company lacked structure and organization before joining the Challenge. It became quite clear that they needed to become more detail-oriented and learn how to organize their vision into something more coherent, after going through several exercises in the program. In 3 to 5 years, Elite Sweets wants to become a health industry leader, similar to Muscle Milk. Here are some additional advice from the founders for other small business owners:

“It is all about the mentality and putting in the extra work to try to learn what you don’t know. It is best to research, learn, and then execute.” – Amir Bahari

“Do not get stuck in one phase or idea for too long.” – Amin Bahari

“It is important to focus on a niche market and try to dominate, rather than trying to do too much. Work smarter, not harder, and be patient.” – Timothy Cole, Jr.

 

The Triumphs of Hard Work & Dedication 

After participating in the Challenge, Elite Sweets has prospered in many different avenues. They recently hired 1 full-time employee and 3 interns. Elite Sweets has doubled their revenue in the span of a few months with little to no marketing. They are profitable at the moment, but are preparing to add more costs in order to grow further. Not only did Elite Sweets win the “Audience Choice” award at the 2018 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge Pitch Day, but they gained even more recognition at the WeWork Creator Awards in San Francisco this past Spring season. They were the only participating company outside of California and took away the second largest prize of $180,000 after taking the tools from the Challenge to precisely present their company in 45 seconds!  With this win, they were able to receive more media attention, which has been very important in getting their brand awareness out across the country. They are still growing and scaling up, but it is very impressive to see how far they have come in just one year. Make sure to go check out elitedonut.com to continue following their journey.

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $50K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on the Elevate My Business Challenge interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below.

Join our Elevate My Business Challenge Interest List!

Founders Bootcamp Alumni Spotlight- NailSnaps (S17-FBGB)

Discover the Missing Link in a Niche Market

Angel Anderson is the CEO and co-founder of NailSnaps, which has changed the beauty supply industry with her one-of-a-kind custom design nail art. It is a platform that allows nail enthusiasts to transform their Instagram posts into wearable art in the form of salon-quality nail wraps. While shopping in the nail supply aisle of a drugstore, Angel had the inspiration of creating a line of nail art after spending time staring at the shelves filled with tacky nail art that didn’t represent her personal style, nor of many others she knew.  With her career background including digital user experience, Angel gathered feedback from consumers about the lack of originality for nail art at an affordable price and less time-consuming application, which led to NailSnaps becoming a new solution for a gap in the beauty supply industry. The free mobile app transforms any live or stored photo on your mobile phone into a nail design, making it a creative, DIY, affordable activity for consumers in the market. The nail sets are $19, which is a much more affordable option than the salon experience. Angel’s business core impact is to change the face of beauty, as she states competitors to be prescriptive and repetitive when it comes to designs for each season.

Hire “A” Players on Your Team

NailSnaps was featured on Apple’s best new apps immediately after its launch, which proved that the market was in need of an innovative user experience such like this.  With success came some challenges, including licensees who misrepresented themselves. Another obstacle was one of their printers holding the company down in a bad pricing contract that would prevent it from selling wholesale. Angel and her team were able to overcome this adversity by finding the right vendors to create more healthy working relationships for her business.

Angel decided to join the Spring 2017 Founders Business Growth Bootcamp because she was not gaining enough traction on her sales channel and wanted to implement a pipeline to attract more customers.  Prior to the Founders Bootcamp, NailSnaps was selling directly to consumers, but Angel had the desire to increase revenue by selling as a unique solution through business to business channels. Angel learned that she could take advantage of certain Research and Development Tax Credits and how she could hire “A” players.  Angel did not have any prior education regarding business or business management, but enjoys learning about different parts of business every day. With the guidance from top Subject Matter Experts of the Founders Bootcamp, NailSnaps was able to develop leadership with her product in a niche market and acquired an increase in revenue and major brand partnerships, including Nike, MTV, Turner Broadcasting, Corvette, Marc Jacobs, Adidas, and Metlife.

Plan For an Exit Strategy

In a couple of years, Angel envisions NailSnaps becoming a target acquisition to a large beauty brand or brick-and-mortar and is beginning to explore for the right partner. When asked to provide advice for other small business owners:

“Nature never rushes, yet everything is accomplished”

-Angel Anderson

The journey for business growth is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.  Be sure to connect with the right partners and team members just like Angel, and your business can achieve success similar to NailSnaps.

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $250K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on Founders Business Growth Bootcamp interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below!

Join our Bootcamp Interest List!

Alumni Spotlight- San Diego Premier Party Rentals (SB17-EMBC)

Elevating from DJ to CEO & Founder

San Diego Premier Party Rentals (SDPPR) is one of the leaders in the party rental industry based out of California, as they go above and beyond in building a strong relationship with their customers. The company provides a memorable and high quality experience for clients by holding the utmost standards to making all its events a huge success. They are looking to scale as an outcome of the owner’s graduation from LIFT DE’s South Bay Fall 2017 Elevate My Business Challenge (EMB Challenge) cohort.

In 2015, Jose Miranda evolved from a DJ to CEO & Founder of an all inclusive party rental company, after receiving feedback from his clientele to expand his talents and start his own small business that would cater to making all facets of a wedding and corporate event perfect with his touch.  During his eight year career as a mobile DJ, Jose witnessed party rental vendors having hiccups in their deliverable. He would come to the rescue by providing chairs, tables and other party supplies at a moment’s notice, making the celebration go on without a hitch . Without any prior experience in this industry nor business management, Jose stumbled upon this endeavor due to his desire to excel in running a business, provide exceptional customer service, and become a community leader.

 

Learn How to Scale without Losing Customer Relations

Prior to attending the Southbay 2017 EMB Challenge,  SDPPR had been in business for 2 years. At the start of the business, Jose operated out of his home garage in National City, CA.  Within 1 ½ years, the business moved into an office in Chula Vista. Although SDPPR gained an increase in clientele and transitioned into an office, the company faced one major challenge: not knowing how to reach the “next level” of business without adequate knowledge on how to run a business.  Similar to a hamster on its running wheel, SDPPR was a business driven by the demand and orders, with an emphasis in creating a customized experience for each individual client. Initially, Jose joined the EMB Challenge to learn how to run a business from experts since he did not have prior knowledge nor business experience. However, the time spent with his mentors and the LIFT DE team taught him that there was more to growing their company than working in the business.

Under the guidance of LIFT DE Team, SDPPR gained insights on how to work ON the business, not just IN the business.  Matters such as workers compensation, taxes, and insurance was all brand new to Jose. During the EMB Challenge, Jose acknowledged the importance of creating jobs, hiring/retaining talent, and networking in hopes to gain more customers and partners as a funnel to scale the company to the next level.

“I’m proud of developing & growing my team members, improving their lifestyle.” – Jose Miranda

 

After completing the EMB Challenge, implementing new processes, and learning to work on the business rather than just in it, SDPPR has seen tremendous company growth.  They have created 5 jobs and expanded into a 6,000 sq foot warehouse in National City, which can store and organize much more equipment rentals and creates a larger workspace to produce custom works upon clients’ requests.  

 

From Hamster to Zebra

SDPPR is currently on the journey to dominate the party rental market, by growing to $500K in revenues next year, and up to $3M within the following years.  As Jose has experienced during the time of the program, he recommends that all small business owners network and meet people with different expertise to gain some more perspective on how to improve on yourself and the services provided to the communities you connect with.

“To my other entrepreneurs: It is okay to ask for help and not know all the answers. Plan accordingly.” – Jose Miranda

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $50K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on the Elevate My Business Challenge interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below.

Join our Elevate My Business Challenge Interest List!

Alumni Spotlight- Jackie’s Jams (SB17-EMBC)

Jackie’s Jams shoot, for Risa and David Baron, 20110522, Normal Heights Farmer’s Market, Ted Walton Photography

Selling Sweet Spreads to Healthy Lifestyles

Jackie’s Jams, a California-based manufacturer of artisanal jams and jellies is blazing the trail in the food industry for producing local products that are all natural, with little to no sugars and no preservatives added.  The company is scaling to provide healthy yet delicious fruit spreads, as an outcome of the co-owner’s graduation from LIFT DE’s Elevate My Business Challenge, Fall 2017 cohort.

In 2010, husband-wife duo David & Risa Baron purchased Jackie’s Jams from the founder after David had a desire to make a career change from public relations and government affairs to being involved with the food industry.  After Jackie’s Jams retained The Barons as loyal customers, primarily influenced by their son’s sole demand to eat her handcrafted jams and jellies, David came on board as an employee.  When the time came for Jackie to retire, the couple made a joint decision to buy the business and operate a family-run company.

Since becoming a co-owner of Jackie’s Jams, Risa is a member of the pre-established community of the company, such as local farmers markets, and continue to maintain all of the recipes and its handcrafted process.  In addition to keeping true to the existing company, Risa and her team have made great efforts to elevate the business through rebranding, creating a prominent presence in San Diego County, and acquiring more partnerships.  The current climate includes an ever-growing trend by consumers to eat healthy and support local businesses, and Jackie’s Jams does exactly just that with its scrumptious jams and jellies.
Learn To Work ON Your Business, Not Just IN Your Business

Prior to attending the Southbay 2017 Elevate My Business Challenge (EMB Challenge), Jackie’s Jams had been in business for about 8 years. Although their business gained an increase in clientele and interest for all natural and local foods, the company faced one major challenge: not knowing how to reach the “next level” of business without adequate tools.  Similar to a hamster on its running wheel, Jackie’s Jams was a business driven by the demand and orders, a small but committed group of customers, but struggled to keep up with it, especially operating in a shared kitchen with restricted operating hours and making every jar of jam by hand.

Initially, Risa joined the EMB Challenge to learn how to run a business from experts since neither her nor David have prior knowledge nor business experience. However, the time spent with her mentors and the LIFT DE team taught her that there was more to growing their company than working in the business.

Under the guidance of EMB Challenge, Jackie’s Jams gained insights on how to tell their story to win new stakeholders, customers, partners, talent and/or funders. The Baron’s know if they are to grow the business they will need to operate their own commercial kitchen facility.  This will allow them to grow the business and to secure customer orders without stressing about time restraints and lack of storage space.  The program allowed them to obtain the tools for making a successful pitch to request funding from investors, which was a great lesson for Risa and David.  Knowing specifically what potential funders are looking for is a key strategy in creating more partnerships and expanding, and for Jackie’s Jams, the short term goal is to expand in California and with the long-term goal to reach a national level.  A key part of the program for Risa was learning how to use new strategic tool Small Business Model Improvement Canvas to evaluate and implement improvements to address her company’s deficiencies and strengths.  This will enable them to get to that next level by creating solutions to such deficiencies by leveraging the strengths quickly and efficiently, which may lead to an automated form of operations to feed the masses sooner rather than later.

“The program was very helpful and provided me with a clear understanding of how to present my company in front of people to gain interest to attract new relationships. I have never pitched my company to anyone before and the process was invaluable.”

-Risa Baron

After completing the program, implementing new processes, and learning to work on the business rather than just in it, Jackie’s Jams has seen tremendous company growth,  they recently have attracted the largest customer in the history of the company, feels comfortable on serving them as well as formations of more key partnerships, retaining loyal customer relations, and gaining public recognition.  


From Hamster to Zebra
The company’s ultimate goal is to become the “zebra” business”.  Jackie’s Jams has discovered its niche market of customers who are pre-diabetic, diabetic, or have chosen a diet without artificial sugars or sweetners.  It is currently on the journey to reach at least $1-3 million in sales and dominating the market.  Risa sees this goal being achieved in the near future with the focus to build a strong online presence, allowing more accessibility and visibility to consumers on a national platform.

“Ask for help. Go get the resources that are needed.  I need help, and I know there are things that I don’t know about, so I would rather go to the experts and that’s why I came to the Elevate My Business Challenge”.
-Risa Baron

 

Have a Burning Desire for Business Growth?
We’re looking to you to give business founders the opportunity to expand their businesses and receive the guidance you were provided by our mentors and program. Our goal is to assist small businesses with revenues of at least $50K with a strong desire to grow more sustainable businesses, especially those founded by women, minorities, and military veterans.

If your business or a business you know is ready to grow to the next level, sign up on the Elevate My Business Challenge interest page to be in the know of upcoming schedule programs.  See below.

Join our Elevate My Business Challenge Interest List!