Despite any challenges brought forth from ever growing competition in the entrepreneurial marketplace, the following five entrepreneurs
have developed ideas that are too good to ignore. Keep an eye on the 2014 Ones to Watch. They are poised to beat the odds in business while improving the community.
Empowering Women to Accomplish Goals, Andrea Robertson
In the summer of 2009, Andrea Robertson went from competing at the USA Triathlon National Championships to competing on stage representing Missouri at the Mrs. America pageant two weeks later. Robertson earned a spot on Team USA for USA Triathlon Age Group World Championships and won the national title of Mrs. America 2010. With these successes under her belt, Robertson continued on competing. At the starting line of her next race, though, she found one major flaw. “I was dressed in a men’s trisuit because the option of a fashionable women’s trisuit was not available,” she says.
That’s when Robertson’s wheels began to turn. She wanted to provide other female triathletes, and herself, with fashionable trisuits. Two years later, with the encouragement of my family and friends in the fashion industry, Triflare was born and Robertson jumped right in. “I applied for and received an Arch Grant,” says Robertson. “With that money awarded through the Arch Grant Program we were able to launch the Triflare brand.”
Today Roberson’s goal is to be the inspirational brand that women look to when choosing what to wear while accomplishing their personal fitness goals. “We want to be the statement piece that women look to wear while working out or racing,” she says. “Perhaps they have entered their first triathlon to conquer their fear of open water, their first 5k or are participating in a race to help raise money for cancer research. Whatever their statement is Triflare embodies the bold goals of female athletes, captures our adrenaline-filled pursuit of competition and empowers all to live life boldly.”
While working to build Triflare into a powerful athletic brand, it has signed three pro triathlete to represent Triflare on the pro-race circuit for 2014: Alicia Kaye, Morgan Chaffin and Jillian Petersen. “We know that with exposure comes distribution” says Robertson. “We signed Alicia Kaye in July 2013. She went on to win the Lifetime Pro Triathlon Series, The Lifetime Triple Crown Series and was named Pro Female Triathlete of the Year 2013 by Triathlete magazine while representing Triflare. We would say that is great exposure. We are currently preparing to raise outside capital during the first quarter of 2014.”
Creating a Solution to an Industry-Wide Issue, Steve Young
While working as a stock market retail analyst, Steve Young’s thought process was unlike other analysts. Instead of being concerned with what the stock did, he became obsessed with why his companies succeeded or failed. It was that fascination of seeing the whole picture that allowed him to discover the problem in the craft beer industry. “About a year and a half ago, I met with a financial client at a Portland craft brewery,” says Young. “The brewer overheard us talking numbers and asked, ‘Are you in finance?’. I replied that I was. He ran into his office, came back out, threw a binder on my table and asked us what he was doing wrong.”
When Young opened the book, he was surprised to find out that the brewery wasn’t profitable, and its sales had flattened for the past five to ten years. “This was one of the ‘best’ breweries in Portland,” says Young. “I saw the frustration in his eyes so I told him that I would look into it for him even though I knew nothing about the beer industry.”
Over the next month, Young spoke with several other craft brewers across the nation and discovered that they were dealing with the same two issues. “As an analyst I saw it as an epidemic – something none of the more than 2,500 brewers had a feasible solution for.”
For Young, the solution would come in the form of product innovation. He created Sinek, a kitchen dispenser that will allow craft beer to be served fresh, chilled, on draught, inside your home. “Our mission is very simple: to connect the world of craft beer,” says Young. “We want to solve the packaging crisis by making beer easier to fill and distribute for brewers, and increasing the access to beer within consumers’ homes.”
Young’s challenge to getting that, like a Keurig, beer can only be extracted out of the Sinek cartridge with a Sinek Dispenser. “Brewers don’t want to fill their beer in Sinek cartridges if there are no Sinek dispensers in consumers’ homes and consumers don’t want to buy a Sinek dispenser if they only have a limited beer selection,” he says.
With a new strategy to circumvent this challenge and a focus around variety, Young’s goal is to give consumers access to 10,000 plus different types of craft beer on their kitchen counter.
Building Meaningful Connections Between Artists and their Fans, Rick Pernikoff and Tom Pernikoff
Whether they were playing music as children or getting signed to the William Morris talent agency and touring as the Pernikoff Brothers, Rick and Tom Pernikoff have always had an eye on the music industry. So when they saw an opportunity to help close the gap between artists and their most passionate fans, they seized it. “We’ve been in the music industry as artists, but we also spent four years in Silicon Valley working on a startup,” says Tom. “As a touring act, it’s difficult to identify and reward your most loyal and influential fans but we knew that we could build something to help bands do just that,” says Tom.
As an MIT graduate and programmer, Rick built Tunespeak, a musician-to-fan loyalty platform. Through Tunespeak, fans win prizes, like meet-and-greets and concert tickets, for listening to music, watching videos and sharing it all with friends. “Our mission is to help artists and bands engage and grow their fan bases,” says Tom.
In the fall of 2012, Tunespeak was a part of the St. Louis Capital Innovators accelerator program. After the company’s launch in January of 2013, the brothers raised $500,000, led by Cultivation Capital, and they have been growing rapidly ever since. “We’ve run over 500 campaigns for national and international artists, including Kings of Leon, Zac Brown Band, John Mayer and My Morning Jacket,” says Tom.
Despite this success, Tunespeak’s greatest challenge has been getting people comfortable with this new type of service. “Tunespeak is a true merit-based platform, which is a new concept for both bands and fans,” says Tom. “Instead of having your name drawn out of a hat to win, fans win for their loyalty and influence.”
With a service through which artists and fans both benefit, the Pernikoffs look forward to even bigger growth in 2014 while closing the gap that inspired them to create Tunespeak. “We want to help connect artists to their fans in a more meaningful way,” says Tom.
Connecting Chefs to Local Food, Jolijt Tamanaha
While a sophomore at Washington University working as a busser and a kitchen intern at Ibby’s, a campus restaurant, Jolijt Tamanaha had a conversation with the chef that was soon to have much more of an impact on her direction, and on many others, than she could have known. Ibby’s chef told Tamanaha about the many phone calls he had to place every day to source from local farmers. “At the time of the conversation I wasn’t very interested in local food because I thought it was a bit of an empty detail,” says Tamanaha. “But then I went to a screening of American Meat in December 2012, which is a documentary about the struggles of small farmers, and I realized that the local food movement is about eating food that supports families, strengthen economies and tastes delicious.
Tamanaha also realized that both chefs and farmers struggle because they are all buying and selling as separate entities. That’s when she decided to sign up for an entrepreneurship class and bring an elaborate plan to aggregate purchases and deliveries from small farmers through a single company to fruition. “In the class I teamed up with my current partners, Andrew Lin and Drew Koch and they took my elaborate idea and turned it into Farmplicity, which is not only more doable but also more true to the values of the local food movement. Through Farmplicity, farmers still have the autonomy and the relationships with the chefs that give their food such value but they can harness the efficiencies of selling as one.”
Since its launch in April 2013, over 200 farmers and chefs have signed up for Farmplicity. “We won the People’s Choice Award in early stage tech at Startup Connection, and we won the Social Impact Award at Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA),” says Tamanaha.
Today Tamanaha is focused on figuring out what needs to change to meet the busy growing season head on next April. “Our mission is to make finding and ordering locally grown food easy enough that it can be a regular component of any restaurant’s food purchases,” she says. “That can’t happen if chefs have to spend hours calling farmers to figure out who has what in stock and how much they’re charging for it. Local food will remain a luxury item that only shows up on fancy menus or as specials. We take the time and the intimidation out of ordering from area farmers so that chefs can maximize the portion of their menu that’s sourced locally.”
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