Why Did You Start Your Business? Week of March 10th

Each business has a story. No matter if the business is a Goliath like Wal-Mart, or a local business owned by a couple or family, the business has roots in an idea. For each business owner, the story of their journey can range from monetary needs or the passion for a unique project. Each story is different though the reasons may remain the same. No matter the tale, the background behind each and every business is what fuels each entrepreneurship and brand.

To help brands better understand their targeted audiences

I started my passion of taking complex data sources and making them into real-time, decision-making engines while I was in the investment banking industry. I began my career developing complex algorithms and models, then working at companies such as Credit Suisse and Bank of America. Seeing the significance to brands of having a robust platform that they can leverage social and other big data sources to better understand and target their customers with real-time actionable decisions, was a key in founding Relevvant. Our proprietary technology stack leverages dynamic social, location and purchasing data, as well as other big data sources, to power advanced psychographic targeting and interest-based consumer engagement across multiple communication channels, all from a single platform. Our proprietary algorithms allow brands to utilize this data in real-time through push notifications, SMS, email, social and display to better engage with their target audiences. To date, we are the only platform that effectively creates and leverages big data in real-time to help marketers better engage with their target audiences.

Thanks to Craig Davis, Relevvant


Pursuing my passion for speaking about technology

After over 31 years working for the federal government I decided to leave and pursue my passion for speaking about technology to the general public. It is extraordinarily invigorating to educate a variety of audiences that have to deal with a rapidly changing world on a daily basis about the latest developments in a broad range of emerging technologies – nanotechnology, 3D printing, robotics, bionics, home automation and much more. Technology continually evolves and, while it is sometimes a challenge to keep abreast of the latest developments, it also keeps me sharp. The presentation I give this week will be different than the presentation I gave last month. I started my own consulting firm over six years ago and my only regret is that I didn't make the move sooner. And the best thing is that I'm my own boss.

Thanks to Dr. Steve Hausman, Hausman Technology Consulting

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Seeing possibility in the impossible

I think most entrepreneurs will tell you that seeing possibility in the impossible is the fuel that keeps them going! I started my first company in 2005 when I built Hollywood Arts, an educational facility for homeless young adults that used the arts to teach critical life and job skills. I stepped down in 2009 to build my second company in the home decor market. A stretch? My new company was about returning to my artistic roots, the ones planted years before I went into public service. Both companies, however, share a central premise — our lives are better when they are more joyful! I used this concept to reach homeless 20 year old's and joy drives my current mission to make our homes places that make us happy. Starting anything is challenging. But I think most entrepreneurs would agree that the satisfaction found in seeing an idea take life is unbeatable!

Thanks to Dylan Kendall


To disrupt the watch industry

The watch industry is a $4Billion industry and is growing at 4% a year, even during the recession, but it's still a fairly closed industry. Fashion companies will license their name to a watch brand, who will make the watches in China (except at high price points, “Swiss” watches are usually largely made in Asia), then sell through retailers. With license, distribution, and retail markups, that a lot of added cost to a consumer. I created a patented rowing watch while still in college, then entered a career in tech startups. I did research into the industry when I was looking to relaunch the watch in 2010 and saw a huge opportunity for a branded eCommerce play. Cadence now has a full line of watches appealing to a young demographic, marketed and sold solely online, and bought from the same factories that make big name watches. Into our third year, we're growing 10% a month and getting investor interest.

Thanks to Vanya Buvac, Cadence Watch Company


To give therapists an easy way to reach out to new and existing clients

MassageBook is a free business solution so massage professionals can manage their business reputation and control their schedules with a great website that lists the information clients want in order to schedule a massage – services, skills, prices, reviews. MassageBook is all about giving therapists an easy way to reach out to new and existing clients and providing people seeking a massage a very convenient way to find and book a service. As a former massage therapist, I have tremendous respect for my fellow therapists and the work they do. I've been there in the trenches, so to speak, and I remember what it was like to try and promote my massage business while also trying to run it. It's exhausting. And after starting MassageWarehouse more than a decade ago, I also have a deep debt of gratitude for the massage industry as a whole. This is my way of repaying part of that debt. I wanted to make it easy for therapists to do what they’re good at by providing simple tools to not only handle the business side of massage, but give them an easy way to promote themselves in today’s online marketplace.

Thanks to Mark Volkmann, MassageBook


Giving consumers control over their taxes

Taxes suck – everyone hates them. I spent the last three years building consumer technology for online investors, and discovered just how little most people understand their personal finances. When my Co-Founder, Benny Joseph, told me about a horrible experience he'd had with the IRS, discovering he'd missed out on a big deduction because he hadn't planned ahead the year before, we decided to work together on an ambitious goal: help consumers take control of their taxes, giving them confidence they're only paying their fair share, and eliminating April “surprises.” Our first product analyzes your 2012 tax return to determine how much more you'll in taxes in 2013 as a result of the Fiscal Cliff (and other new tax rules), and suggests ways to pay less. Our bigger vision is to create an automated, in-year tax planning service that plugs into your financial accounts and notifies you when you need to pay attention to your taxes, and stays out of your way otherwise.

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Thanks to Mitchell Fox, GoodApril

Related Post: How the Super Rich Avoid Paying Taxes


Doing something more impactful with my life

The idea for my give-back backpack company materialized in 2010 when I hopped on a plane to spend four-and-a-half months volunteering with kids in developing countries. I had recently hit my 40s and after a two-decade career designing products for luxury cosmetic brands (including Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and Sephora), I wanted to do something more impactful with my life. That *something* came after spending time in schools and orphanages in the world’s poorest countries – India, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. At an orphanage in India, I handed out pencils to a classroom of excited students. Their enthusiasm about something so simple blew my mind. Throughout the course of my journey, I realized that the children I met are like millions of others around the world. They are eager for an education but lack basic supplies. I returned to San Francisco determined to help, and partnered with Kalon Gutierrez to put my background in product development to use. We launched in 2011 with a line of spectacular backpacks for kids. Moms couldn’t resist our adorable and ergonomic designs—and we were an immediate hit with the press, too (Today Show, Huffington Post, Parents, even Wired featured our backpacks in their recent 2012 Holiday Gift Guide). Today, we’re making bags and accessories for kids and soon the whole family. Plus, our social impact is growing every day. Because for every backpack sold here at home, we give one schoolbag filled with supplies to a child in need. One Here. One There.

Thanks to Luis M. Garcia, Schoolbags for Kids


To fight isolation

In today's technological world, people are more closed off than ever before. If you move to a new area, there is no good way for you to connect with people who love to do the same things you love to do. Or, if you love to do something that your current friends don't love to do, there is no good way to connect with other people who enjoy that activity. We at are trying to connect people over their shared interests. This way, you never have to feel isolated, you can easily find people in your area who are like you and like to do the same things you like to do. So whether you are getting into a new hobby and want to share it with others, or if you've just moved cross-country and want to get connected with people who play your favorite sport, you can easily do it with KiwiKonnect.

Thanks to Darren Terpstra, KiwiKonnect


To help a family connect

After 20 years designing medical implants and making a significant difference in the world of spine surgery, I was ready for more. I wanted to have a bigger impact in helping make the world a better place and I had a solution at hand. There is a fundamental problem in the world and that is families aren't connecting. We see the ramifications every day with suicides, shootings, bullying, drugs, alcohol, cutting, anorexia and the list goes on. Meanwhile, “decision makers” continue to focus in the wrong areas like gun control, alcohol age limits or passive awareness campaigns to deter the behavior. How effective are these solutions? The answer is right under our nose because all the research shows that when kids feel connected to their parents high risk behavior is drastically reduced. I created my website to reach every family around the world and give them an interactive way to “get connected”. FamilyeJournal is not telling “what” to do; we actually help your family “do it”. Relationships take nurturing and work just like weight loss, fitness, learning a subject or playing an instrument. If you can give your family five minutes a day on the eJournal, we'll get you connected and really make a difference in society.

Thanks to Kevin Strauss, M.E., FamilyeJournal, LLC


To help other people navigate the adoption process

I was in Brand Management/Strategic Marketing for large consumer packaged goods firms at the time of my infertility process. I was quite successful, but also quite miserable at the job. After my personal battle with infertility, I just couldn't go back to something that seemed so meaningless.. And I couldn't justify all the hours away from my kids and the lack of flexibility solely for a paycheck. So I started The Adoption Consultancy helping other infertile couples and singles to build their families. I basically serve as a ‘wedding planner' for adoption helping my clients to navigate the maze and avoid the pitfalls of adoption. We take a proactive approach that enables our clients to adopt healthy newborns within 6 months, on average. Now I do something that honors my personal struggle, that truly makes a difference for others, and that allows me the flexibility & lifestyle that I desire as a working mom. Additionally, after that business proved quite successful, I heard from many people, particularly working moms, who wanted help starting their own business based on their own passion. As a result, I ended up starting Success With Witt to provide actionable tips, information and support.

Thanks to Nicole Witt, Success With Witt & The Adoption Consultancy


Helping companies make better hiring decisions

Both of us had experiences while working at various startups and small companies that were making poor hiring decisions. We saw a need that we thought would be focused on small companies, and we are learning that companies of all sizes are making use of our pool of industry experts. It takes practice and experience to become a great interviewer, especially when a company is screening a candidate for a role that requires a high degree of specialization. The costs associated with making a bad hiring decision are very high, costing companies money, time, opportunities, and damage to their reputations. In addition, there are many great job candidates in the world who do great work when they get into the right role, but they don't perform well in interviews. Some of our customers use us as a primary source of interviewing and screening, and some use us to verify what they're already thinking about a particular candidate. We also find ourselves helping our customers decide between two or three final candidates when there's only one job opening. By providing an objective, third-party opinion on a job candidate from an expert in that field, we help our customers make better hiring decisions for a small fee.

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Thanks to Jon Sterling, Interview Circuit

Related Post: Best Interview Questions


To streamline how things are done

I recognized there was a better, more streamlined way of doing things without falling into the same inefficiencies that I had experienced working in other agencies. The vision from day one was, simply: integration. That¹s why I created STIR ­ I wanted to breakdown all of the traditional ³silos² found in large agencies into one integrated agency that could provide seamless marketing to clients (advertising, PR, creative, web design, social marketing, etc.). With all of their marketing being handled by one firm, clients save money because they no longer need to keep multiple agencies up to speed on their marketing campaign. Many frustrations can come from trying to get these different agencies to work together, especially when, many times, they see each other as competitors.

Thanks to Brian Bennett, STIR Advertising & Integrated Messaging


After learning financial education was still not part of the school curriculum in the US

I started my business after I learned financial education was still not part of the curriculum in all schools in the US. After I left my corporate job at Nordstrom to spend more time with my young children and pursue real estate investing I looked into what was now being taught in our schools to make sure our children are graduating financially literate. I graduated college in 1991 and I was never taught about investing or anything relating money. My dad had a pension and mom did not know anything about investing so I wasn't taught at home either. I was forced to learn about it on my own. I was so disappointed to learn that it has still had not been added to the curriculum. Pensions started going away in the 1970's so I can't understand why this important issue is still not being addressed in ALL schools. I wanted to create a tool parents could use to talk to their kids about money management because if parents don't talk about it then unfortunately the trend of going it alone and figuring it out as you go will continue.

Thanks to Christine Douglas, Money Scholar


While seeking a spiritual mentor in my area

I was inspired to start my business two years ago while seeking a spiritual mentor in my local area. My previous work with therapists, spiritual teachers, and personal life coaches arguably saved my life over a decade before and I wanted more. Finding nothing that really connected with me in town, I turned to the internet and found the search equally frustrating. I wanted a place where I could turn to discover an authentic and legitimate coach. In 2011, my wife and I started CafeTruth, a online destination for personal growth where people can take workshops, read articles, and find their right coach. Looking back, I always knew that my life had to be about more than simply helping my employers make their dreams a reality; grateful as I am for opportunities given. This continues to be my intent and philosophy when it comes to business and life.

Thanks to Kevin Marshall, CafeTruth


To provide small businesses with the same opportunities as big brands with “deep pockets”

As a publicist for more than 15 years I experienced the power of PR firsthand. It is truly one of the most cost-effective means to build a brand, yet those that can benefit most – small business and start-ups – couldn't afford firms or consultants that charge big brand fees. I decided to start PR You, a new type of PR firm that teaches how to create, launch and execute your own PR campaign. I am pulling back the curtain (so to speak!) on this once elusive industry that is somewhat confusing to those outside of the circle, but is actually quite formulaic once you understand the process. I decided to spill some secrets, most importantly that you can and should do your own PR as a small business or start-up! I am passionate about the small business owner and was tired of seeing great ideas and businesses lose steam due to lack of budgets, and created a solution that levels the playing field.

Thanks to Becky Vieira, PR You


To give parents products they can trust

I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease at the age of 27, at the start of my medical career and just as my husband and I were starting a family. Soon after my diagnosis, my father also received the same news. And so, the genetic gun was loaded. As a physician I’ve seen that connection. I know that environmental exposures play a significant role in disease development and severity in people that are either genetically susceptible or not. I've now lived with my own challenge for more than a decade and although I will never know for certain what caused my disease at such a young age, I do know that I would like to reduce any potential risk that my own children have to being exposed to toxins that may pull that proverbial “trigger”. Toxins that are present in our everyday life, in products that are common and although seemingly innocuous, may in fact be risk factors in the development of many diseases both acute and chronic. So when my Parkinson's made clinical practice too difficult to manage, I started a new career of patient advocacy / education and was also inspired to start Hippylicious Inc. This company is committed to providing other concerned parents with personal care products for their kids that are completely all-natural, toxin free, effective and on trend so that they may choose to reduce risk for their own families. As a physician and mother, I want parents to be able to pick up one of our products and know that they can trust that these were developed with the utmost care and focus on the health of their children. Hippylicous is about making educated choices that place our health and that of our family at the highest priority without compromising quality and trend. It’s about communicating with other like-minded individuals who also believe in the power of educated consumerism. It’s also about teaching this concept to our children and adolescents – empowering them to make smart and healthy choices. Although I may have no control over my diagnosis of Parkinson's, how I face this challenge is mine to determine and I am steadfast in my desire to make a difference.

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Thanks to Dr. Soania Mathur, Hippylicious Inc.

To support the little guy

The big manufacturers and distributors have forgotten about the little guy. To them it is just so much easier to ship by the truckload or by the pallet and not have to deal with a customer that only has space for a case of products. Small business in America are an afterthought to the giants. I started DollarDays to help level the playing field and give small businesses a chance to survive and thrive against the chains in their industries. By selling 225,000 general merchandise products by the case at wholesale and closeout prices and giving small businesses all over the USA the chance to access the latest products just by turning on their computer, our company wants to make the buying process easy, fast and fun. And we want the little guy to beat the giants in their community.

Thanks to Marc Joseph, DollarDays International


To help small businesses get noticed

I've always had a soft spot for the “underdog”. My career history included working for large communications firms that generally would not accept a client without a particular budget. I had come across many wonderful young consumer brands that consequentially, I was not able to work with because I did not have the final say. Once I started my own PR firm, I knew that small consumer product businesses would be my area of interest. Small businesses usually only have a handful, if that, of employees to run operations, so having help with public relations frees owners to concentrate on other areas of their business. If there is a brand I truly believe in, I'm more than happy to grow with the client. And because of this attitude, I now have the opportunity to help small yet fabulous businesses get the word out about their product lines!

Thanks to Shari Myles, Polished Publicity


To help small businesses compete with businesses that have large, powerful incentive programs

I’ve always been interested in why people are influenced to choose one product or business over another. This led to an idea after thinking it was unfair that large businesses able to flex their muscles and pay large amounts could create powerful incentive programs, while smaller businesses are left struggling and losing customers favoring businesses with programs because they can earn rewards. My team and I spent 18 months building mplifyr (‘amplifier’), a patented software allowing any business to create and manage their own incentive program to rival large programs, but at a fraction of the cost. They can connect with their customers and create over 50 different combinations of earning, redemption and engagement activities and exclusive benefits such as ‘free Wi-Fi’ or ‘best seat in the house’ privileges to create customer experiences they won’t forget. Customers today demand positive experiences and services and have a voice on social media. BUILDING loyalty begins with customer engagement, positive customer experiences and exclusive benefits that make customers feel special! Our everlasting aim is to provide a solution any business can afford to help them engage with their customers beyond dollars and cents and help them grow to match the big boys!

Thanks to James Duchenne, mplifyr

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Giving all small businesses access to the best cloud applications

When we started our business we had the vision of giving access to the best cloud applications to all small businesses in the world so they could be more productive and competitive. We believe that small businesses are the lifeblood of any economy and that the cloud is a game changer for them. Our mission has not changed since we started in 2009 – we strive to make small businesses successful. We feel that while many in the tech industry understand the cloud – there are many small businesses out there that really don't know all that they can do and GetApp was designed to help non-technical people make better technical decisions. We developed blogs that were informative and truthful about all the applications in our marketplace and we also developed a recommendations feature within GetApp so a small business can easily tell which applications would be right for their business. We know the cloud offers enterprise-class applications at a fraction of the cost and we know how much that can help out a small business trying to compete for customers against larger businesses with more sophisticated technology. I want to be part of this story and help small businesses truly benefit from the innovation that is the cloud.and put them on a level playing field with the enterprise.

Thanks to Christophe Primault, GetApp


To help other Hispanics conduct business

I have been an entrepreneur since I was a teenager when I was given a choice between working in my grandparents store or starting my own business. That is when I created a sports information website where I learned a lot about being in business. Later I went to university and studied law and began my career at Deloitte but found that really wasn't for me. I wanted to do something that would help people. I am originally from Mexico and what I saw in the US is that many Hispanics were being taken advantage of when they wanted to cash a check for example – so I wanted to create a solution that would allow people to transact in a way that was fair – and they wouldn't lose their money. I developed Gross Logic – an online site that would help with e-commerce solutions, dispersion of payments, a POS solution, pre-paid gift cards, loyalty programs and social media marketing…my goal is to help other small businesses be more successful.

Thanks to Fabian Saide, Gross Logic

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