Pit Crew IT Services Spotlight

February 2020 FastPath Alumni

Company Website: https://pitcrewit.com/

Company Bio:  Pit Crew is the fastest growing provider of managed IT services specializing in small and mid-sized businesses in and around the Texas area. Since inception, we have strived to challenge the status quo and develop an organization that focuses on customer service just as much as we do technology. By combining best of breed technology with a passion for customer service, we are able to provide reliable, cost-effective, scalable solutions at an affordable price point.

Their crew members and culture play a big part as well. They hire a very unique group of people that have a rare mix of people skills and technical skills. As a team they make it their mission to constantly improve the level of service provided to clients.

Pit Crew IT Services was doing very well as a business, but they wanted to achieve a higher level of success. Lack of strategic guidance as it relates toward a path to growth proved to be a big challenge, and their business model was not scalable. After completing the Founders FastPath program, the company was able to implement improved productivity strategies that increase overall customer satisfaction, and maintain a seven figure revenue, despite Covid-19 challenges.

Pit Crew IT Services has been providing information technology services to small and mid-sized businesses in San Antonio, TX since 2005. Starting as a hobby for Eric Murica and his brother-in-law, the company quickly grew and became successful. Pit Crew’s goal is to provide the same level of IT support to smaller businesses that larger companies receive. Smaller companies tend to have smaller budgets, so affordability is key to their survival. With several long-standing customers spanning 10+ years, Pit Crew understands that their clients’ success means success for them as well.

Pit Crew had a vision of reaching the next level of growth, but they didn’t have a path to get going about getting there. Being a diverse business owner created challenges with finding mentors, and also affected company sales. In addition, their business was not scalable, and it was taking tremendous effort to achieve good results. Their business methods were unsustainable.

One of the biggest issues Pit Crew faced was in the area of productivity. It was taking 500% effort to achieve good results. 18-20 hour work days/ 7 days a week were common. With a limited number of hours in each day, the business could not grow beyond a certain point. This also created a poor work-life balance for the owners.

Pit Crew realized they would need mentorship to reach the next level, and that the FastPath “Founders First Growth MindSet” aligned with their company’s core values. The FastPath program provided the education and guidance needed for success. The simulator exercise was key in highlighting how a small change in one area of the company can strongly impact other areas.

Pit Crew was able to quickly implement their lessons from FastPath. They were able to reduce the hours they spent working by almost 2/3, while increasing productivity. Necessary personnel changes were made. The company is on track to generate >$1M in annual revenue despite Covid-19 challenges. Within 2 months of completing
the program, their client satisfaction rate rose by 12%.

Through the Founders FastPath program, Pit Crew IT Services was able to quickly increase productivity and customer satisfaction while reducing hours, all within a challenging business climate. If you are a diverse business owner generating $1M+ in revenue wanting to reach the next level of success, please contact Founders First FastPath today at foundersfirstcdc.org/fastpath.

On-Sight Safety Optics Spotlight

North County 2019 Challenge Alumni & 2nd Prize Winner

Company Website: https://www.onsightsafetyoptics.com/

 

Company Bio:   On-Sight Safety Optics LLC provides prescription safety eyewear products and services to businesses and consumers in need through a unique mobile, onsite service model. Centered on convenience, improving safety compliance, and building lasting relationships. By partnering with industry leading optical manufacturers, we are able to offer our clients the latest technologies in prescription lens options as well as fashionable, comfortable, and functional frames. Our onsite service model allows our clients to focus their valuable time on staying safe and productive in the workplace. Additionally, by employing seasoned opticians, our clients can trust that every experience is backed with over 12 years of knowledge and expertise. Whether it’s a personal pair of safety glasses for your favorite hobby or managing a 50 employee manufacturing operation, On-Sight Safety Optics LLC is your #1 choice for protecting your vision.

Ginno Carreon is the CEO and founder of On-Sight Safety Optics. He started his optical career working at LensCrafters in Reno, Nevada, and while simultaneously going to school for business. As he progressed with LensCrafters, he transferred to San Diego in 2011. He became an optician for a private optometry practice where he learned more about the optical business and the overall industry. Owning a business was always in the cards for Ginno, since he’s a 3rd generation entrepreneur, after his grandmother and mother. Their experience motivated Ginno to start up a business in order to live life on his own terms. Initially he went into business with his partner from a past optical practice. They had an idea to sell glasses through a mobile service model, which eventually led to the company named Mobileyes. In 2015, prescription glasses were getting cheaper and more accessible due to online retailers selling direct to consumers. This was a big blow to their company, however their safety glasses sector was still a big hit. After stepping away from the business for a year, Ginno went back to working for LensCrafters. With the safety glasses business on the rise, Ginno approached his partner to see if there was a possibility for him to carry on with the company with a new focus. This pivotal moment led to him transitioning fully into prescription safety glasses, and in 2019 he purchased all of his partner’s shares of the company to be the sole owner.

His partner was very supportive of his decision and was going to root for the company on the sidelines. Ginno’s vision is to grow nationally by building an efficient and effective service model that can be easily expanded. Some of the main benefits customers gain from using On-Sight Safety Optics glasses are compliance. When more people can wear glasses that are comfortable then subsequently there is much more compliance and safer work behaviors. This company aims to make this a very simple service. Ginno wants people to understand that accessing prescriptions safety glasses doesn’t have to be a struggle. Assisting with comfort at work is the brand promise. Focusing on personal protection while maintaining comfort is a brand mission. Some of the firm’s biggest achievements is that they were able to pivot from one business model and thrive. Another proud milestone are the prestigious clients that choose the company over others. A personal milestone for Ginno is going from working in his kitchen to now getting a new office with its own showroom and employing his brothers and friends. These victories are a reason to celebrate for the company. In a few short years they have seen enormous growth.

 

Every business has its fair share of challenges that emerge. Some daily issues that impacted the company were the hard financial decisions to be made. Without resources of funding, the company had to rely on its bootstrapped efforts and creativity. Weighing important decisions down to their pros and cons was necessary to make the wisest choice. Overall, Ginno was able to stick to their goals and vision by learning from some of his mentors. There were times when Ginno would have to stop important projects to make the most out of his funds. On-Sight Safety Optics has now been able to acquire outside funding like taking in loans from Accion, however Ginno aims to stay lean and maintain his company with low debt. Due to COVID-19, Ginno applied for both the EIDL grant and the PPP loan. The process was long and difficult, but Ginno was determined. He was lucky to discover that some of the online banks had become lenders. They were designed to take a large volume of clients online. Ginno spent the whole day looking for online banks he could apply through when he came across Cross River Financial. He got approved for both government programs. The application process for the PPP was difficult; he submitted the application 18 times but never got the confirmation that it went through. He contacted support, but they said the application didn’t go through. Ginno submitted over 50 times and it never went through. He went to bed defeated, but he woke up early and tried again, and it went through!

 

Joining the North County 2019 Challenge helped Ginno with getting the most out of his loan from Accion. He took the opportunity to learn tactics and strategies to help grow and scale. The biggest impact gained was to work on your business rather than in your business. Ginno realized he needed to step back and not micro-manage. He relinquished control to some key players on his staff so they can feel motivated to lead the company as well. Thinking bigger was crucial. By helping grow leaders in the company, his employees have a greater sense of fulfillment and purpose. Ginno also realized fostering relationships is important for the company to grow their name and brand. Ginno added new products beyond the proof of concept. Now they are looking into an optical online experience. There are plans in the future to brainstorm a model that supports the retention of their business clients. Almost all of their clients reach out to renew contracts. The customer loyalty is quite high and it is a testament to the company’s brand and values.

 

When Ginno took the Challenge he only had one person on payroll. Fast forward he has added many new jobs, while elevating some to management positions. With the New Year Ginno’s new office has a social distance optimized showroom to have safe fitting appointments for clients that can’t be served at their job site. From Q1 of 2019 to Q1 of 2020 Ginno has seen a 53% increase in revenues. Moving forward Ginno wants to make sure the company can create some stability before they decide to launch in other cities. Right now he can’t service nationally, but it is a goal that will take Ginno 3 to 4 years of planning. In order to make this vision a reality is to do things in phases. By analyzing systems and improving efficiency within the company the growth will follow.

 

The advice Ginno wants to give other small business owners is you have to stay resilient through the struggles. If it doesn’t work then that doesn’t mean it’s over, you just need a different perspective with a new set of eyes to carry on your vision. Ginno has found his passion again through his victories. You have to take time to recognize your accomplishments. We are excited to say that even amidst a global pandemic, our alumni are still able to thrive as Ginno had his best quarter in company history. Please stop by his website to learn more.

SaulPaul Productions Spotlight

Austin 2019 Elevate My Business Challenge/Spring 2019 Founders Bootcamp Alumni

 

Audience Choice Award Winner Spring 2019 Bootcamp

 

Company Website: www.saulpaul.com

 

Company Bio: Part rapper/part singer songwriter, SaulPaul is an entertaining artist who blends his voice, his guitar and his loop pedal to create a live show that is nothing less than an EXPERIENCE.

SaulPaul Productions is a thriving young company that is run by none other than SaulPaul himself. SaulPaul is a “Musician with a Message” who is inspiring the next generation using his story to capture the hearts of youth, young adults and young professionals. He is the co-founder and CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) of SaulPaul Productions. SaulPaul Productions produce events that entertain, inspire and equip. SaulPaul wanted to create a platform to empower the planet via his keynotes, concerts, coaching and consulting. His vision was always very clear but his path to success was not. Before he launched his company, SaulPaul was a musician and motivational speaker. He decided to restructure and venture into something new. He wanted to take a risk because he saw that entrepreneurship would allow him the most autonomy over his vision. Launching his own company was his only option.

SaulPaul graduated from the prestigious University of Texas at Austin with a 4.0 GPA. However, before that he was in prison for four felonies. He was able to overcome his mother dying at the age of three, a father that abandoned him, growing up in the ghetto, and even going to prison. He was able to turn tragedy into triumph. SaulPaul believes that his past adversity gives him a competitive advantage in the business world. His struggle has lit a fire under him to show that there is more to life. Even now, 20 years after prison, he visits jails and juvenile detention centers to tell those that are locked up that it gets better. He knows that though many may see their situation as a liability, they don’t have to see it that way. Overcoming adversity can definitely be seen as an asset. SaulPaul recognized his resilience as an advantage. Every year thousands of people graduate from University of Texas at Austin, but not many can say they have graduated while overcoming what SaulPaul had to overcome. He has caught the eye of so many because of his redemption story. You can see him doing events like TEDx Talks, America’s Got Talent, and even the Super Bowl.

One of the obstacles that the business has had to overcome is that people had a perception that the company wasn’t bigger than just SaulPaul. People misunderstood the company as just a personal brand, one person that wasn’t scalable. In reality, it was much more than that.The reality was SaulPaul is a leader of people who has always organized teams around him to assist him in accomplishing his goals. He said that while there is only one SaulPaul, he recognized that he could train and create many “SaulPauls” across communities throughout the globe. He has made it past that pain point, by creating, inserting, and training like minded inspirational coaches.

SaulPaul decided to join the Austin Elevate my Business Challenge because he saw that the organization had quality individuals that aimed to help businesses that were underrepresented in the marketplace. After he graduated from the Challenge, he was even more excited to join the Founders Bootcamp. The two programs offered him different ideas of how to scale and grow his business. The Challenge was great because it covered the basics that every business should know like trademark, copywriting, bookkeeping, and more.

The Founders Bootcamp catapulted SaulPaul to the next level because he realized that the problems he was facing were not unique to him. Being able to see how the other entrepreneurs in the program tackled those problems helped him create solutions. Before joining both of our programs SaulPaul did have some knowledge about business growth, but he was always willing to learn and absorb new information. Since graduating the programs, he has brought on two new employees, launched a new division/revenue stream, and his revenue has doubled. His company’s eight verticals allow them to diversify, but also focus on the ones that work well. This has led to them increasing their profit margins significantly.

With the success came more and more recognition. SaulPaul was nominated for the Best Children’s Album at the Grammys in 2020, finished his autobiography “Be The Change: A Story of Transformation,” and finished a theatrical family production called “SaulPaul’s Alien Adventure” that will be released in February 2020. In the next five years, he envisions that his company will have surpassed the $10 million mark.

His advice for other small business owners is to get clear and surround yourself with a group of individuals that are willing to offer help. He says that mindset is everything and in today’s world you are just a Google search away from connecting with someone. SaulPaul is heading into 2020 with a lot of confidence to scale and grow his company. Here at Founders First CDC we want to congratulate SaulPaul on all of his success. If you want to check out his website and learn more, please go to saulpaul.com.

DuFresne Solutions Group Spotlight

Winter 2019 Austin EMBC 1st Place Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/329695948/ab295afe8f

 

Company Bio: The DuFresne Solutions Group specializes in developing mid-level leaders and managers to meet and exceed company goals. We affectionately describe mid-level leaders or managers as the “Squeeze Suite.” Mid-levels drive C-suite initiatives, manage direct reports, and work with peers making this pressure-filled role complex, fast-paced, and constantly changing.

In 2013 Jenny DuFresne opened up her own small business – DuFresne Solutions Group – to tackle the issues of leadership training across various industries. Jenny has a background in running well-operated businesses. She founded and led a multi-million dollar organization, but her next goal was to help shape and influence leaders. People who are moving into leadership roles want to learn how to become more effective and how to improve their leadership style by connecting with their subordinates. This is an ongoing need that Jenny felt that she was equipped to solve, especially because of her 10-years of leadership training in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Leadership is a complex set of internal and external behaviors. The DuFresne Solutions Group supports clients to get quick wins that lead to greater leader and team confidence. Jenny and her team work with mid-level and executive leadership teams of mid-market companies. Services include: understanding leadership style and impact; identifying how to form and grow great teams; the 7 building blocks to develop a thriving company culture; and communication strategies that motivate and get things done.

Jenny is very proud of one of the organizations her company supported – a large school district of over 400 staff members. The DuFresne Solutions Group supported leaders’ building the systems and behaviors to create a strong, results-focused culture. This work allowed leaders to feel much more confident with their leadership styles. Another significant result was an increase in student achievement and organizational culture. Creating clear structures and systems helped establish a company culture that team members can get behind. This was a big win for Jenny and her company because it reaffirmed her belief that she could help organizations no matter how large they were.

However, it wasn’t easy to get to this point. Companies don’t think about leadership because it isn’t a top of mind problem. Leadership training is usually the easiest thing to cut out from a budget or the last thing to consider. Companies don’t see the immediate return on investment when they put an emphasis on leadership training. When companies contact Jenny, it is usually because there are significant internal struggles to include staff attrition, decreased profits and productivity, or customer attrition due to a lack of leadership. In order to solve this, it is necessary to have a big focus on training, and by doing so it will be easier to prevent these issues. Companies lose momentum and market share when employees or managers leave. Jenny has realized educating companies on the value of leadership development is a key business strategy for the growth and service of the DuFresne Solutions Group. She has established an e-learning program as a mechanism to provide educational content and value.

Jenny was able to establish this program from all that she learned from the Austin EMBC. Part of why she joined was to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs. Utilizing all of the tools and resources helped Jenny continue her development, which is critical for her company’s growth. The opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs is an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Taking all of the content from the program allowed Jenny to build her story of how to articulate her business. This process helped Jenny tell what she has done and what she is looking to accomplish. Since winning the competition, Jenny has added more contractors to her team that will help her with the contracts she has secured.

One of Jenny’s goals in the next five years is to be able to have a full-time team. She would love to influence and train anywhere from 3,000 – 5,000 leaders face-to-face while also giving back by conducting leadership training in Africa. These are admirable goals that Jenny has given herself, and right now she is on track to reaching them. She was able to get this far because of her ability to get clear on what she was trying to do. It can be easy to be a jack of all trades within your company, but this can distract you from your main focus. Jenny emphasizes that this is crucial, because we often suffer from this idea that everybody needs us when in reality they don’t. Having this clarity of who you are serving and why you are doing it is super significant. Another piece of advice that Jenny wants to share is that you have to be consistent with what you are doing, while also knowing when it is time to pivot.

Generally, an unspoken topic about entrepreneurship is that it can be very lonely. It is important to have people around you that encourage you not to give up. It is very easy when you don’t see results or progress to get down on yourself. Entrepreneurial depression is not discussed enough, because for many entrepreneurs they were the all-stars of their corporate jobs or past endeavors, and then they seem to get little to no traction when starting their own business. One’s self esteem can suffer. This is an important message that Jenny wanted entrepreneurs to know.

We thank Jenny for having the courage to speak about this, and we are proud of all that she has accomplished in a short time period. Please take some time and go to seekleadership.com to see how your organization can utilize effective leadership training.

BlueCloudUSA Spotlight

Spring 2018 North County Elevate My Business Challenge Alumni

 

Fall 2018 Founders Bootcamp 3rd Place Winner

 

Company Website: www.bluecloudusa.com

 

Company Bio: BlueCloud is a San Diego-based telecommunications company providing fully customized Voice over IP phone systems and services to small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. BlueCloud handles all of your business communication needs, including voice, texting, and virtual faxing, making it simple for you to connect and scale your business. BlueCloud will also help you lower your monthly communication bill and has no monthly contracts. BlueCloud provides world class customer support and puts the customer experience at the forefront, making their expert support team available to you at all times.

 

BlueCloud was founded five years ago by husband and wife team, Meir Singer and Miriam Stein. Meir graduated from Touro University in New York City with a degree in Business Development & Management and started working in Telecom immediately after graduating. He has been in the telecom industry for over 10 years. He started off managing customers and providing technical support and then moved into a sales and management position at a large publicly traded telecom company. Meir became an expert in the telecom space and understood the industry and where it needed to improve.

Miriam has a background in Mathematics & Finance and Business Marketing and always dreamed of starting her own company. In fact, she started many businesses as a young kid and eventually used those earnings after graduating from University of California-San Diego to relocate and start her professional career in New York City.

 

Both Meir and Miriam established early on in their marriage that one day they would like to build a successful business from the ground up. It was just about identifying a need and finding something they both loved and cared about. They realized that there was something missing in the telecom market. Customer experience, on-boarding, and satisfaction was not a priority for corporate telecom companies. This frustrated Meir and Miriam to the point that it led them to open up their own telecom company in 2014. Their goal was to provide the best customer service for their business customers and to be the last telecom provider a business ever needs. BlueCloud is set on delivering the best experience for their customers and they make all business decisions with the customer in mind. Between Meir and Miriam’s combined background and talents, BlueCloud successfully launched and has been growing rapidly ever since.

The name BlueCloud originated from the fact that their services are all cloud based, along with their love for the color blue. BlueCloud addresses key business communication issues and provides robust solutions. BlueCloud’s customers want a voice solution that works, one that is scalable, flexible, and has exceptional customer support. This means businesses want the ability to expand their services in the future with ease. The business customers that reach out to BlueCloud want someone else to take care of everything telecom related so that they have more time to focus on their business. Convenience is the major competitive advantage that BlueCloud has over other players in the market. BlueCloud offers onsite installations, training and offers handholding level support so businesses don’t have to worry about their telecom needs at all.

Since they started in 2014, BlueCloud has doubled their revenues every year. The growth trajectory of BlueCloud has been a major accomplishment for them. After joining the Elevate My Business Challenge and the Founders Bootcamp, BlueCloud was able to develop a roadmap with processes. Some of the challenges that Meir and Miriam have faced has been dealing with personnel changes. The right people were not joining the team, so they had many tough decisions to let people go once they realized they weren’t the best fit. It was extremely difficult for Meir and Miriam to fire some people, and they wouldn’t wish that for anybody, but it was the best thing to do for the health of the business. They did not have all the tools to analyze if they had had A-players on their team. Through trial and error, BlueCloud has been able to make the right hires and to notice red flags much quicker than in the past. Miriam and Meir like to learn from their mistakes and own up to them, but not repeat them. They found key takeaways from bad-hiring choices and regrouped when making the right hiring decisions. They now have a team of all A-list players and are seeing the benefits of having such a strong team in place.

Originally the idea to join the Elevate My Business Challenge for Meir and Miriam was to work on their proven business model by learning how to scale. They felt limited in their knowledge of how to grow a small business. A lot of the processes that BlueCloud has in place today is based on the knowledge gained from the Elevate My Business Challenge and Founders Bootcamp. Since participating in both programs, Meir and Miriam have seen tremendous growth by adding more employees, adding new recurring revenue streams, increasing margins and much more. Moving forward, they both feel extremely prepared to take BlueCloud to new heights. Mostly in part to the fact that they know every element of their business, while having all of their processes streamlined and organized. They have an overall strategic plan with goals in place and the tools to accomplish them at their disposal.

The mission right now is to expand across Southern California. As entrepreneurs, Meir and Miriam have realized that the key to growth is to seek out mentors and strategic partners. Both programs assisted BlueCloud in gaining confidence, understanding tools, and utilizing different resources. Meir and Miriam believe that both programs are necessary for small businesses, because both offer something different. The Challenge program really taught them how to think bigger and identify goals, while also giving them a playbook of how to achieve those goals. The Bootcamp offers actual tactics each week of how to use these different tools to their advantage to accomplish their overall goals.

Some words of wisdom from Miriam and Meir for other small business owners are that you have to treat your business like your child. It is extremely important to always look for improvements in your company even if you are doing well. Find ways to expand and make more partnerships. When BlueCloud first joined the EMBC, they already had achieved impressive growth, but they knew that there was more to gain and more to learn. Meir and Miriam’s gratitude towards LIFT is very touching for our company. Being able to assist small businesses in the community like BlueCloud has been a rewarding experience. We won’t be surprised when BlueCloud expands across the California region. If you are a small business owner and you want to improve your Telecom communications, then please go to www.bluecloudusa.com.

Moosh Walks Spotlight

Fall 2018 Founders Bootcamp 1st Place & Audience Choice Award Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/308445989/24b39c1ac0

 

Company Bio: Moosh Walks is a girl empowerment company. The company was founded on the idea that self-expression and individuality is a necessary step to discover your confidence. Confidence leads you to become a fearless leader. Moosh Walks’ focus is on storytelling based on original characters. Each character has a superpower that reminds you that you are not alone on this journey. Our first physical product is: 3D socks. We believe the true superpowers are: confidence, resilience, perseverance, positive point of view, and the many other qualities our characters possess. Moosh Walks gives young girls and boys the ability to stand out, make friends, and start a conversation.

 

 

To inspire and empower women has become a crucial part of Olga Kay’s life. The founder of Moosh Walks has dedicated her mission to build future female billionaires through storytelling and creative product design. By doing so, Olga had a vision for young girls to develop leadership skills at an early age.

The beginning of Moosh Walks began with Olga’s YouTube career where she had over 1.3 million subscribers. Most of her audience were young girls who felt invisible in today’s world, so they looked up to Olga as a role model. Most of the young girls didn’t know how to stand out or they didn’t have the confidence to be their authentic self. Once Olga realized that young girls wanted to stand out, she came up with the idea to design socks with ears on them. These socks would be characters that would help young girls stand out, and once they stood out they would be able to share their story. She saw this as an opportunity that she could leverage.

Today young girls aren’t taught leadership. Olga believes that at 5 or 6 years old girls need to learn these invaluable skills. Young girls have always been treated as princesses, but Olga wants to change that psychology so they can be more than that. In order to strengthen these girls, she has implemented storytelling through these unique characters that she has created.

By developing these fun stories, she is able to connect with girls. One of Olga’s main characters is Lilly, who is a Big Thinker and Inventor. She is never short of grand ideas, which often result in failure, but she never gives up because she knows each failure brings her closer to success. By providing stories like this she is subliminally programming into young girls that it is okay to fail, and that you shouldn’t be afraid of failure.

Moosh Walks has accomplished a lot, including stepping into the wholesale market. Getting her products into stores increased sales and created more brand awareness. Last year, Moosh Walks conducted a huge marketing campaign where she sold over 1,000 units in 24 hours. As of yet, the messaging has been tailored more for girls and for their parents as well. However, boys are also interested in wearing these socks because they identify with some of the characters. Even some rappers have worn her socks because they like the way it makes them stand out.

Nevertheless, Olga has experienced some roadblocks that she has had to get through. One was how to find and secure a deal with a manufacturer. She was able to develop her ecommerce and wholesale strategy, but in order to create and sell more product, Olga required more funding. Only 2% of female businesses are funded by venture capital today. That percentage is even lower if you are not a tech start up. So the only real option is to operate and grow the business on loans. Loans allow for more inventory buy and growth of the business, but once all the loans are paid off, supporting the growth requires more capital and higher interests rates to keep going.

Olga is set to launch her indiegogo campaign where she is hoping to raise the necessary funds, which she will use for inventory, building a team, developing animation stories, and finalizing her book.

Originally Olga joined the Bootcamp because she was looking for funding, but once she was in it she realized that a lot was missing in her operations. Olga claims that it was the best thing she ever did for her company because she realized that she had a lot of work to do before she went to raise funds. She has embraced adversity, which has led her to become creative and think outside of the box.

This hard work eventually led to her striking an emotional chord with the audience and judges at the Fall 2018 Bootcamp pitch day, where she took home the number one prize. Without the Bootcamp, Olga still had trouble understanding her financials. The Bootcamp forced her to figure it out, and now she has become obsessed with numbers. Olga said that she was able to utilize the tactics learned in the sales and marketing module to actually close a big sale that took 8 months. With Olga’s budget, she was forced to be creative with her marketing. This led her to develop an ambassador program for influencers to market for Moosh Walks. Staying lean is very important during this stage, and marketing spend is a luxury. Her ambassadors are compensated based on performance.

Since the Bootcamp, Olga has tripled her revenue. She feels very prepared to scale up her business. In the next 5 years, Olga hopes Moosh Walks transforms into a franchise model where she can expand into after-school programs. By doing so, she will be able to reach more girls than she could ever imagine.

This whole experience has transformed Olga as a leader herself. Her piece of advice to other small business owners is to just do it. Hop onto any opportunity, learn, make mistakes fast, and adjust faster. By getting out of your comfort zone you gain more confidence. Olga has gone from growing up in a small village in Russia to becoming a successful CEO that empowers the next generation of women leaders. LIFT DE is extremely proud of Olga and all of the progress she has experienced. Check out Moosh Walks at mooshwalks.com and get a pair of socks!

IT TechPros Spotlight

Fall 2018 Founders Bootcamp 2nd Place Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/308448704/e5a62c0819

 

Company Bio: Since 2006, IT TechPros has delivered complete managed I.T. and I.T.consulting services around a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, utilities, transportation, educational, legal, commercial construction, financial institutions, along with a variety of other industries.

 

 

IT TechPros was founded in 2006 by Kathy and Jeff David in order to provide the best I.T. consulting services for countless industries. Kathy has 9 years of experience in corporate finance working under a financial institution. Her specialization was in business banking where she was able to consult with many businesses concerning their finances, payroll, treasury services, and more. It was just a matter of time before Kathy wanted to open up her own business. Jeff started his IT career with a financial institution where he landed a position for a global IT firm. Kathy left her job and she and Jeff decided to combine their talents to solve the need for IT services. The significant issue that most small businesses face is that they can’t afford to bring someone on full time to meet their IT needs. This is why IT TechPros can be a useful resource because of their expertise in the 8 different aspects of IT. When small businesses hire IT TechPros, they have a whole IT department at their disposal.

Kathy has been able to create a marketing and accounting department all in the last 12 months. This was a tremendous milestone for Kathy because they have been able to reach their marks as they look to scale. IT TechPros has doubled their team in the last 2 years. In order to reach this level of growth, Kathy had to come to grips with the fact that she needed to shift her mindset. Now she has more clarity and a better vision of how to reach her goals. Initially Kathy was used to running her company from a managerial or worker mindset, but once she realized the importance of utilizing more of a leader-centric mindset, she never turned back. These different ways of operating forced Kathy to think more strategically about how to run her company. Abandoning a scarcity mindset has also made a big difference. Overcoming this has led Kathy to make better hiring choices to fit with company culture.

Kathy was intrigued by the idea of joining the Founders Bootcamp, especially due to the fact that she could go through it with her team. Many other programs she tried in the past only allowed her to go through them. By being able to bring along other key members of her team, they were all able to take in the knowledge and tactics. The aspect of this became sort of a team-building exercise for IT TechPros. Instead of having to deliver the knowledge to the team, she was able to give access to all her team members to go over and watch all of the modules. After graduating from the program, Kathy has begun rewriting processes for all of the departments. The growth manual that was provided to IT TechPros has been effective in their efforts to scale. Another important piece from the Bootcamp was delegation that really resonated with Kathy. She is also grateful for the coaching calls she received in the program that helped her follow through with her plans.

The future is exciting for Kathy and the rest of IT TechPros. Kathy believes that in the coming years they will be a multimillion dollar company that may look to enter different cities beyond San Diego. Currently, Kathy is building an online course for small businesses to give them all of the tools they need to support their IT foundation. She realized the need for a recurring revenue stream from the Bootcamp and that is where she came up with the idea for the course. Kathy commends the Bootcamp for leveraging technology to their advantage because the sessions are all online. If Kathy missed a meeting she was able to go back and watch the recordings. Compared to other business accelerator programs, Kathy would have to commute far distances. Not only that but the Bootcamp provided financial reports for all the participants and taught what the reports mean.

Kathy has pretty clear advice for other small business owners, and it is to challenge your own mindset. Having an open mind while also continuing to learn is an effective way to grow your business. Kathy is pleasantly surprised with the Bootcamp’s process and she is extremely thankful for all that she has learned. Kathy’s story to leave her job and start up her own company is an inspiration to us at LIFT DE. Her dedication and hard work has left her with tremendous success that will keep on coming. Check out IT TechPros at it-techpros.com to fulfill your IT needs.

Xplosion Technology Spotlight

Fall 2018 Dallas EMBC Pitch Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/310152251/f8281dec05

 

Company Bio: Xplosion provides wearable sensors coupled with The Homer Technique™ to provide training staff comprehensive reports about athletes’ susceptibility to injury. With this information we can characterize the body, set expectations for it, and determine what is needed to finish strong.

 

 

Xplosion Tech was created by Kehlin Swain after his experience as a division one college baseball athlete. Unfortunately, Kehlin suffered a serious ankle injury that impeded his performance. Before the injury he was one of the top players on the team. Moving forward he was never able to fully recover back to his old self. He began to research possibilities of how he could recover, especially through rehab. Through his research, Kehlin was able to connect with some professors with backgrounds in entrepreneurship and biomechanics. It finally dawned on him that other athletes were experiencing injuries that were detrimental to their sports careers. These professors sparked Kehlin to start a venture by utilizing his engineering background to develop a prototype.

Kehlin developed a wearable device that is supported through an app that can assess an athlete’s performance in regards to power and acceleration. This technology would be able to track trends that could be useful for athletes regarding their swings and sprints. Eventually Kehlin was able to connect with one of his engineering colleagues – co-founder Isis Ashford – to join him on this endeavor. She had also dealt with the same dilemma as a track athlete. They knew they had a special opportunity that they both could take advantage of by combining forces.

As Xplosion Tech grew, they were able to receive investments while also pitching in over 10 competitions. They were being recognized for their out-of-the-box idea. The ball started rolling once they transitioned as college students into adult life. As the company matured, it led the Miami Heat to contact Xplosion Tech. They had worries about one of their star NBA players who suffered constant injuries. Xplosion Tech jumped in to provide an assessment where they were able to identify key risk areas that aren’t noticeable on an MRI or X-Ray. By following their method, this player was able to rehab more effectively, and it allowed him to get back to his prime health. This was a huge accomplishment for Xplosion Tech to be recognized by an organization like the Miami Heat. However, this wasn’t Xplosion Tech’s biggest accomplishment. Kehlin and the team was awarded an NSF grant for $225,000 to make a second version of the device, where they would be able to reduce the setup time. Being awarded this grant was a tremendous win as it signifies the faith that organizations like NSF have in Kehlin and Xplosion Tech.

As time went on, there were some challenges that started to arise along the way. They had to partner with actual medical doctors and bio mechanics to work with them. It can be very challenging to find the best of the best in industries like this, especially to build a strategic business partnership. Kehlin had to overcome this obstacle by pitching their technology to them. By doing so, Kehlin developed an impressive pitch that allowed Xplosion Tech to win 10 pitch competitions, including the Fall 2018 Dallas Elevate My Business Challenge.

Even with how busy he is, Kehlin knows the importance of working on your business and not in it. This is what drew his attention to the EMBC program. It was crucial for Xplosion Tech to find tools and resources that were aimed at alleviating accounting and finance pressures that come with the business. Without tools like the business model canvas, Kehlin wouldn’t be able to identify crucial gaps. Even to this day, Kehlin still adjusts his canvas to experiment and evaluate opportunities because of how instrumental it is. This has led Kehlin to play around with some ideas for adding other potential revenue streams. He has also been scaling the company, bringing on a medical doctor, a bio mechanic, and some accounting staff.

This process has been great so far for Kehlin and his confidence is sky high. Five years from now Kehlin would like to see consistent revenue growth where they can transform into a zebra or phoenix company. The impact Kehlin wants to leave with Xplosion Tech is to unlock the human potential through the many different ideas that he has. We have no doubt that Xplosion Tech will reach these goals.

His key piece of advice that could benefit other entrepreneurs is to list and map out all possible ideas. Putting these thoughts on paper makes it easier to assess how you can move forward with them. Kehlin emphasizes that you try every single one until one works out for you. The motto that Xplosion Tech lives off of is “build, measure, and learn.” WIth that type of mantra there is no doubt your company will experience some wins, too. Please check out Xplosion Tech and the rest of their story on xplosionlive.com.

Wepa Commercial Cleaning Spotlight

Fall 2018 South Bay EMBC 3rd Place Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/310168690/603c9b9b4c

 

Company Bio: Wepa Commercial Cleaning based out of San Diego, California was established in 2015 and has obtained the following certifications: SDVOSB, DVBE, MBE, SB (Micro) and SDB. As a reliable and dedicated Military Veteran I run my company in the same fashion and standards as the U.S. Armed Forces—nothing short of excellence. My organization skills—combined with my ability to move efficiently to complete duties on or ahead of schedule—prepares me to make a strong contribution to your team as a possible vendor. At Wepa Commercial Cleaning we strive to exceed expectations through our dedicated personnel, innovation, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Francisco Rivera, the founder of Wepa Commercial Cleaning, actually fell into owning his own business. At the time, Francisco was working at Monster Energy as the Trade Development Manager of Sales and Marketing, while also pursuing his MBA. His wife told him about an opportunity to purchase a franchise of a janitorial company. Francisco thought this was intriguing to do as a side job. While operating the franchise for a year and a half, Francisco was able to get a better understanding of how the model worked. He finally came to the realization that the franchise owner was taking too much then what they were putting in. So he decided to work as a consultant for marketing where he would find accounts for other franchise owners. After about a year he was bought out, and he stumbled into the SBA to see how he could open his own business.

One thing led to another and Wepa was born. While absorbing all of the knowledge he had learned while owning the franchise, Francisco was able to implement better processes using his format. Wepa developed a competitive advantage that benefits their clients by having the highest military standard for cleaning. Francisco managed to bring in clientele like the DMV, the State building, private companies, schools, and even gyms. One thing that Francisco noticed is that other janitorial companies do not conduct weekly and random inspections, so he added this benefit for their customers. Francisco prides himself on having open and honest communication where the clients feel comfortable enough to confide in them.

Towards the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, Francisco was invited by the SBDC to dinner at the Marriott in downtown where there were 49 tables with about 10 people per table. They were awarding entrepreneur of the year, small business of the year, woman of the year, and many other awards. Francisco was placed with his wife on table 49, and this struck a chord with him. He swore to his wife that next year he would be in the front and win an award. Sure enough, the very next year he won the small business of the year award. Not only that, this year Francisco was nominated for entrepreneur of the year (the results will come out this December). This really put Wepa on the map.

On the flip side, they faced their fair share of issues along the way. At the beginning, Wepa only had a few accounts they were working with. Once they started landing state contracts they were a little tight with their cash flow. So this forced them to go after a small business loan from ACCION. Being able to navigate with larger accounts was a huge jump, and it was difficult to make payroll since it took more money to cover the orders. They had to dip into their savings account to make sure people were paid, but nevertheless they were able to overcome this stressful obstacle.

Francisco joined the South Bay EMBC to challenge himself and see what he needed to do to reach the next level. When he joined the cohort, he was able to connect with other entrepreneurs where everyone collaborated to solve the pressing issues facing their companies. This network led to a healthy dialogue and camaraderie with other entrpreneurs, which Francisco found to be very useful. The biggest takeaway that he got from the Challenge was the importance of making connections with fellow entrepreneurs. By taking in multiple perspectives, he was able to utilize information from others that was eyeopening for him. Every year Wepa has seen increased revenue growth, and since joining the EMBC revenue increased from $105,000 to $200,000. Francisco also had to expand his team to support his growth so he hired 5 more employees.

Even though Francisco has experienced so much success in a short amount of time, he still has the humility to get his hands dirty. His approach of leading by example has taken Francisco to expand beyond his current market. In the next 5 years, Francisco looks to possibly exit, if the numbers are right, so he may go on to his next project. Until then he looks foward to becoming the number one janitorial company in all of San Diego. That is quite a large goal, but he never backs down from a challenge. Francisco states that the EMBC is a must for all business owners no matter how much you think you know. The network that the EMBC provides helps small business owners collaborate and work together on a common goal. Not only that, but they can all utilize each other’s resources to help soften the everyday burdens that arise with owning a company.

Francisco was asked while being a keynote speaker how he could leave being a military police officer for 15 years to transition into the janitorial space. This was ironic for him because when he was younger and left Puerto Rico for New York all his family and him would do was clean. Everything came full circle. Life is full of surprises and this is why Francisco says that there is no reason to not take any chances when the opportunity is there for the taking. The passion and the drive is the most important thing for an entrepreneur. The money will always come as long as the passion is there. With that being said, Wepa Commercial Cleaning has exceeded all expectations and they are ready for their next challenge. If you want to check out Francisco and Wepa Commercial Cleaning go to wepacommercialcleaning.com.

We Art Photography Inland Empire Alumni Spotlight

Summer 2018 Inland Empire EMBC Audience Choice Pitch Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/289586924

 

Company Bio: We Art Photography provides professional photography services for families who want to capture intimate moments with their new born babies. Their clients are families with newborns and those who are expecting. We Art Photography has partnerships with hospitals with maternity services in California

When Angela Valderrama and her family came to the U.S. they were asked if they had any pictures of their family from home. Her husband has one photo of his family from 1914, which has been an important piece of their family history. After having experienced that moment, the family realized the significance of having family photos. This resonated with Angela, because every photo has a story that can be unpacked. It is also a story that can be told for the rest of time.

Angela and her family took the initiative to open up their own small business We Art Photography, which is dedicated to serving families. They accomplish their mission to capture the most intimate moments with newborn babies with the mother and father. We Art Photography opened up in 2014, but in 2015 they really solidified their business when Angela was able to secure a contract with a local hospital to take photos of families welcoming newborns. Not only that, but they are helping create long-lasting memories for families beyond newborn photos. Angela’s goal is to make sure families are able to have these delicate and precious memories.

Angela prides herself on the fact that she is able to serve a diverse community. She feels honored that families welcome her with open arms into these very private and intimate moments. A birth of a child is like a universal language that brings people together to celebrate life. Through their photography they are exposed to different cultures and ways of life. This has been a proud accomplishment for the Valderrama family to be living the American dream.

Originally Angela was working as an insurance broker working part time on her family business. Before joining the Inland EMBC, their business was barely turning a profit. Since Angela’s native language is Spanish, it was a challenge that she wanted to take on by joining the program. Since joining the EMBC, she has left her job as a broker to work full time with her husband. Now their revenues have grown from $50K annually to $93K in just the past year. This program forced Angela to get out of her comfort zone, which has allowed We Art Photography to thrive.

In order to get to this point, Angela has had to get over this language barrier. It was difficult at first to communicate with the hospitals she was trying to partner with. This led to Angela bringing someone on board to help translate and communicate with the hospitals to build a more effective business relationship. Angela’s husband takes the photos, but Angela contributes by creating the sets and props. A new creative marketing effort for We Art Photography has been to give gifts to new born mothers in the community. They have established credibility by going above and beyond for the families We Art Photography is serving.

The Challenge program was so effective for We Art Photography because they did not know how to construct a feasible business plan. Business would just come and go, because unfortunately their family was working in their business rather than working on it. The importance of building important relationships to use as potential resources has made all the difference. They have been very resourceful by outsourcing work to people they have met, which has led to growth. Angela says that what she learned from the Challenge program is how much untapped potential there is in the industry. The family has been able to think outside of the box by constructing creative solutions.

Angela now has a new level of confidence that makes her hopeful about the future. In the next five years, she hopes to expand and contract with over 10 hospitals. Once their revenues continue to grow, Angela is hopeful that they will be able to open up their own brick and mortar store. This would help alleviate some restrictions of what they can do in the hospitals. By having their own place, they can create more expansive sets to take more creative photos.

Angela’s word of advice for people who are looking to become an entrepreneur is that you must first fall in love with what you want to do. It doesn’t become work when you are passionate about what you are doing. We Art Photography’s journey is far from over. The are reaching for new heights. LIFT DE wishes the best of luck to Angela and her family. If you need family photos, be sure to check out We Art Photography.