Meet Wendy Lea

When you think of #startupcincy, a few key things come to mind. Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse is one of them (let me save you all some trouble and let you know it’s pronounced “Lee”). She has started companies, sold them, angel invested into others and has now brought her talents to Cincinnati to help our ever-growing startup scene bring in new talent and continuously foster innovation. With Wendy on the startup team, big things have been brewing in Cincinnati…and it’s just getting started.

Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse
Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse

Let’s start with the obvious…Wendy is a a hardworking, intelligent and fast-moving boss lady (#careergoals). I only spent a half an hour with her, so how would I know this? Well we can look at her successes during her time out west and at her previous companies, we can also look at the recent success of Cincinnati’s NewCo. But…there is something else about Wendy, something that can be hard to do. Wendy is always forward thinking. She knows how to celebrate the successes while keeping in mind how Cincinnati can get stronger. She sees the power our region has with our 9 startup accelerators, 4 major universities, many established big companies and new emerging tech companies. At the same time, she sees how in fully developed ecosystems (cough, cough, San Fran) they have a lot more access to entrepreneurs, money, peer-to-peer connections and an unmatched fearless attitude into the unknown. It’s a little discouraging, but it’s the truth…Cincinnati is no San Fransisco when it comes to startups.

The good news is that Cincinnati is on it’s way to being as successful as Silicon Valley. Our resources are growing and our region has the drive to accomplish what it takes to move the needle forward with more business. But, most importantly, Cincinnati needs to keep bringing in top talent. This region has potential, and now it is up to the millennial generation to get in there and figure out how to keep Cincinnati startups competitive with other regions. Here are Wendy’s 4 tips to millennials on how to dive head first into being a successful startup guru:

1. Be a groupie.  Get plugged into the entrepreneurial community around you. Network and get to know others…learn from them and immerse yourself.

2. Experiment. Work for a range of startups that line up with your passions. Get as many experiences as you can to learn more about your talents and the kinds of projects you want to be working on.

3. Study. There are a lot of things to lean about startups and how they operate. Do you know how venture capital works? Do you know how to get capital? No? That’s fine, that’s what Google was made for.

4. Line up your passions. According to Wendy, there are two main types of passions: functional and life. Functional passions are the ones you have for your career and job types. Life passions are the things you love that you pursue outside of work, like hobbies and values. In startups, the company you work for becomes so much more than a job. It’s important that the company aligns with both parts of your passions.

Most importantly, working in the entrepreneurial space means that you are obviously someone that is smart, resourceful and ready to get plugged in. You will have many jobs in your life, but it is important that with each one, you learn and grow. Learning and growing…Cincinnati sounds like a millennial because our region is going through the same stuff.  With each new company that comes in, graduating accelerator class or each big company backer, Cincinnati becomes a bigger startup ecosystem. Lucky for us, we have someone like Wendy to keep pushing us forward.

Meet Tarek Kamil

I love learning from people. I don’t think humans do it enough. Google is super neato and all but there is something special about learning from people who have lived through the things you have questions about. There are life and career hacks out there that the internet just does not teach you! This is especially true when it comes to experiences like starting your own business. Where do you begin? How do you avoid setbacks? How do you find opportunities? Of course, you can read multiple books and articles with “answers” to these questions, but how do you get actual, real-life tips to avoid speed bumps? Tarek Kamil, founder and president of Cerkl has gained knowledge and learned lessons that can help people with drive, ambition and correct mindsets to be a successful entrepreneur.

Tarek Kamil, Founder/President of Cerkl
Tarek Kamil, Founder/President of Cerkl

Cerkl is a newsletter, but not one that you want pitch when it slides into your inbox. It is a personalized newsletter. What if there was a way to get  information you cared about, from the organizations that matter to you, at times and in formats that work for your life? That is what Cerkl has set out to do. It’s not practical to assume that everyone wants to read the same things from an organization or like getting emails at the same time. Newsflash: people, as a whole, should not be treated as a passive audience. We like to interact, even virtually, and we will avoid absorbing information that is not pertinent to our lives.

One-to-many communication doesn’t fly anymore, and Cerkl is on a mission to give people information based on their interests and life structure. Let’s say I was a Cerkl user and listed my interests as startups, startupcincy, entrepreneurship, etc. I am not going to get a newsletter about what’s going on in the world of Macy’s or other big corps. Based on my interests, I am going to get information on things like the new Brandery class, HackOTR and events going on at UpTech…all things that I WANT to read.

This idea is awesome, and so is Tarek. Cerkl is so in touch with the way consumers think, how they interpret what is thrown at them and what their needs are. In order to make Cerkl as successful as possible, Tarek has had to absorb and learn from all of his experiences, challenges and learning moments. As a serial entrepreneur, he has had the chance to learn a lot and use those insights to make Cerkl truly meaningful. Here are the three best things I learned from Tarek on being a successful entrepreneur:

1. Be passionate. I’ve said this a lot, but when starting your own business, you can’t say it enough. You will be pouring your whole life into your business, which means you have to have the right mindset. If you are into starting a business for the potential money or fame, than you will fail. In fact, if you take any job just as a resume booster without truly loving you are doing, chances are that you will not find any fulfillment. In order to stay focused on your goals with your business, it is imperative that your heart is in it and you want to effect the lives of others through solving their problems.

2. Be fast and be engaged. Startups don’t have a lot of resources, like money or people. It kinda sucks, but having little to work with has it’s perks…you have the ability to move fast. Faster than big companies that have a lot of layers and processes to work through. In a startup, you have the power to make a decision quickly in order to keep moving. It doesn’t have to be a perfect decision, but it needs to be one that allows you to keep taking action steps. As the company gets bigger, it is important to trust your employees and stay engaged with the company in order to keep moving fast and so that the company sticks to it’s roots and your original passion.

3. Be positive. Tarek had my wheels spinning with this statement: remember to always show gratitude and show positivity in any situation because that’s where happiness comes from…not material things. It can be easy for people, especially millennials, to find happiness in material things or instant gratification. There is something special and transforming about learning to find beauty in the moments that are frustrating or ambiguous. Remember to be thankful for the blessings around you and the people around you. Before you rush to be angry at someone, look at the situation from their perspective. Think about how you can make a negative situation have a positive result.

After spending just an hour with Tarek, I am amazed at what I learned and, what I can now carry with me in not only my career, but life in general. Like all the other amazing professionals I have met this summer, Tarek is someone who values learning and taking life’s setbacks and challenges and using them as chances to improve. This entrepreneurial mindset is easier said than done, but once implemented, there’s no stopping you from getting a head start on achieving your goals.

Meet Alex Bowman

Have you ever had to do something with the same passion, enthusiasm and work ethic…every single day? I think we all want to say we have, but let’s think, have you REALLY gone into doing something with the same amount of drive day in, day out, for all the days? I’m getting exhausted just talking about it, but people do it. One of these (tired?) people is Alex Bowman, co-founder and CEO of Casamatic, the secret weapon to getting matched with your perfect new home. Now in it’s beta, Casamatic is already making big waves in the #startupcincy community.

While I have never purchased real estate, I have wonderful parents who have. Those same wonderful parents are the ones who like to go to open houses and check out other homes and compare features to see price comparisons. It is a lot of work! There is so much research and hours of work to be done just to get a handful of comparable homes. AND, most of them were in the same neighborhood or close by, just because that’s what mom and dad were familiar with or had heard about. What if there were other perfect homes for you out there that you just had no idea about because it was not in a familiar area? With quiz questions based on favorite foods, hobbies and proximity to work, family and friends, Casamatic is able to show you all of your options.

Alex Bowman (left) and Chris Ridenour (right), co-founders of Casamatic
Alex Bowman (left) and Chris Ridenour (right), co-founders of Casamatic

Sounds magical, right? I thought so, and so have a lot of other people. Since the company’s start in December 2014, Casamatic has had the opportunity to be a part of The Brandery’s 2015 class and are also graduates of OCEAN’s 2015 class. In the last eight months, Casamatic has propelled into the Cincy startup community has they have gone through getting first funding, new team members and a major pivot that has allowed them to focus on getting people into their perfect homes quickly. Magical? This sounds crazy. Does Alex sleep? That is to be determined, but what I do know is that he wouldn’t have it any other way. He gets up in the morning because he is happy with what he is doing.

Both Alex and his co-founder Chris were really bothered by how the home search was set up for buyers and they are determined to change the industry. You hear words like “I wanted to change blah blah” from a lot of people, but what are the real motives? One of the tough parts of being an entrepreneur is that people think you want to start a company for the money or power. It’s just not true, and Alex is a great representation of why entrepreneurs should be called heroes.

Having worked for both Blackberry (#rip) and Amazon, Alex knows what it’s like to work for a successful company…but, does success translate into fulfillment? Is the work you are doing contributing to the benefit of mankind or to the benefit of someone in the company? Alex chose the entrepreneurial path so he could have the ability to make a direct impact on the people who need help in the home search process. He wanted to be the one to change someone’s life with something he was was passionate about. Casamatic is an awesome product and will eventually see a lot of success for the company’s team members, but that personal success is not the driving force. To put the same power into an idea day after day, you have to be driven by making a positive impact on the world.

The Romance of NewCo’s and BigCo’s

I knew that Cincinnati’s NewCo event last week would be a great coming together for the community, but what I didn’t expect was the co-mingling of NewCo’s (small companies/startups) and BigCo’s (Kroger, Macy’s, P&G). I mean, I know it’s not like a Sharks vs. Jets kind of thing, but I did not expect to see so much support and learning between the two sides. Every startup session I went to had representatives from BigCo organizations who have gotten really involved in the #startupcincy ecosystem, whether that be through funding or mentorship or even just helping to promote a small company.

That seems obvious, right? Big companies help small companies for the benefit of business. But, it can be easy to forget the other side. There is something fresh and exciting about startups that attracts big companies. BigCos want to learn how startups work, their innovation process and how they collaborate as a team (shout-out to The Garage Group). Companies are always evolving, playing keep-up with customer needs and looking for new ways to grow. Big companies can’t do that without some fresh perspective from startups, and startups can’t survive without the support of the big boy companies.

So why is it that people find themselves comparing big companies and small companies when they actually work so well together? You will hear people (me) say “the thought of working in the corporate world makes me want to barf” and on the other hand, you might hear “startups are way too risky…you need to be able to support yourself!”. If anything, Cincy’s NewCo festival proved that we all need each other and we can all work for each other. In fact, maybe we can’t be as successful as possible without the different company experiences:

Why BigCo’s are Awesome

1) Startups don’t stay startups. I know this is crazy, so bear with me…but most new companies hope to become bigger companies. They hope to gain more employees, revenue and make larger impacts on the world. Over time, companies will gain more processes, people to deal with and…meetings! Maybe having a good understanding of a big office culture wouldn’t be so bad?

2) $$$. Another crazy concept, but if you plan on starting your own thing, you better have some mad cash stacked. It takes a lot of money to start a business, and venture capitalists are not walking up and down Vine Street writing checks. In order to get to the funding stage, you need to have built something, made a sale, etc…using your own money. Getting a job with a BigCo can provide a good way to to learn from expert business men/women while making money to start your own venture.

3) Name-dropping. Startups are great and all (I have dedicated a blog to them), but you will almost always have to do some extra explanation about the company and your job when talking to others about your employment. If you can say “Hi I’m Kasey and I just spent the last 3 years as a customer development manager at Procter&Gamble”, less questions will be asked and your credibility will be automatically established. Big companies are clearly successful companies, and working for one can prove your work ethic, impact and intelligence, which can help to open some awesome career doors.

On the flip side (but not really because everyone works together)…

Why NewCo’s are awesome

1) Real impact, real quick. Think you have skills? Working for a startup will prove that real fast. Through working for smaller team, everyone is pitching in on real, meaningful work and embracing the “figure it out” attitude. Decisions are made fast, MVPs are developed quickly and it falls on everyone’s shoulders. It can be intense, but the results are very rewarding.

2) So many hats. Going along with that impact you will be making, the impact will be made in a lot of different ways…all by you! You wear a lot of hats on lean, agile startup teams, so if you like doing a lot of things, this may be a good fit. Be prepared to make a sales call, write web content, code a little of that content, meet with an investor and clean the windows…all in one day.

3) Do you like roller coasters? If you see a startup in your future, you have to learn to enjoy life’s ups and downs. You can ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that their business is very different from what they first thought it was going to be. You will pivot ideas, change work spaces, lose and gain investors, team members, and sanity. But, it’s all okay with you because overcoming failure is what life’s about! If you were able to gain some security while working for a BigCo and now want some adventure, startups are a great time.

There are upsides and downsides to working for any company, but I know I’m tired of the misconceptions of both…misconceptions I believed until recently. This blog is about actively learning from people and experiences, and there is so much to be learned from both work environments. In any business, you WILL NOT survive on your own. Learning and taking opportunities from each other are how we can grow and create an even stronger business ecosystem.

NewCo: A Cincinnati love-fest

Today was the day of all days for the Cincy startup community: the first ever NewCo. In simplest terms, NewCo is a day-long festival for companies in the city to show people what they are made of. NewCo attendees have the ability to sign up for the companies they want to see and for the whole day, you are traveling around the city, going to different sessions to see the spaces of these companies, and learning about them. The way the session is run is up to the company hosting during that time. It could be very formal and ‘pitch-like’, it could be Q/A or it could be a total ‘welcome! we have a keg over in the corner’ free-for-all. Although, no matter what the style, each session was FULL of one thing: Cincy pride and love.

Yes, I think each company can honestly say that a main goal of today was to create more awareness for their company, especially for the startups. But, this was also a day for Cincinnati companies to come together and share experiences (even the bad ones), advice, ideas and enthusiasm for our ecosystem. All week, Cincinnati Twitter users could see companies reaching out to each other about the companies they are excited to visit and the opportunities they wanted to share.

People can say all they want about Ohio or the Mid West in general, but they can never say we are short on hustle and enthusiasm. Every session had new insights to learn from and excitement for Cincinnati to share. Here are my top 5 votes for the most passionate quotes at NewCo:

1. “Take problems and find opportunities out of them…don’t let them kill you.” Steve CaldwellCEO of Strap couldn’t have said it better. You literally cannot be an entrepreneur if you can’t turn problems into exciting challenges. As I have talked about with problems, the solution doesn’t magically come to you and the problem doesn’t go away on their own. They are there to be solved by those that can rise to the challenge.

2. “Sitting in this room with the people on this panel is magical.” Classic Candice Peters, CEO of Hello Parent coming in with the love. The Cincy startup ecosystem is constantly thankful for everything they are given. Each team members knows that nothing would be possible on their own and they could not accomplish their dreams without support.

3. “You can’t just sit on the sidelines if you want to be an entrepreneur and wait for your day to come…you gotta make it happen.” Casamatic CEO Alex Bowman hit the nail on the head with this very sentence. I was one of those students that sat in the back of class, passively learning and assuming some opportunity would fall into my lap. Not true. At all. As soon as I figured that out, my passions and whole outlook on life changed. None of the great things we have today would have been possible without someone taking initiative. Work hard, stay passionate, make it happen.

4. “We move fast and break things.” BlackBookHR CEO Chris Powell is right…entrepreneurship has no room for the slow moving or the people that feel like going along with the paths that have already been paved. Be fast, be innovative, make change.

5. “The push is to think about ideas more holistically and driving more traffic for that idea.” Jason Hauer, co-founder of The Garage Group is great at putting the whole “I have an idea!” thing into perspective. It can be so easy to rush to a solution YOU want to make because it is a problem YOU personally have. For successful entrepreneurship, it’s vital that we all really think about the problem beyond ourselves. We have to be willing to iterate and pivot with our ideas in order to truly solve a problem and meet the needs of others.

I don’t know about you, but hearing people share advice empowers me. There was a lot of empowerment spread around the city of Cincinnati today, all from people who have worked their asses off trying to make the world a little better and a little easier. Today’s festival was a great way for the ecosystem to regroup, collaborate and get ready to change the world with good problem solving, hustle and passion. You go, NewCo! Until next year.

* A note to any Cincy NewCo organizer/Cintrifuse team member who happens to be reading this: might I suggest a designated time for lunch or a group nap for next year? I think we would all benefit. 

Philanthro: transforming social good

When you decide to be an entrepreneur, you decide to solve the problems around you. But, what does it take to truly help and transform the lives of others for the better? Is your product just for your benefit, or can it help change the world? Philanthro plans on making a change by raising $50,000 in 30 days starting July 21st with their Indiegogo campaign.

Philanthro, a brand of high-quality air filters where each purchase will help the lives of orphans, vulnerable children and widows around the world, is a creation by HVAC.com founder/CEO Will Housh. HVAC.com has been transforming the traditional world of heating and cooling into an eCommerce success since 2006. The company is now transforming not only into the world of brand creation, but into the world of saving orphaned and abandoned children.

philanthro

Will was first inspired to get involved with helping orphans when he went on a mission trip to Mexico his senior year of high school with his church ministry. It was then that he saw a devastating world of orphaned children, funneled into a cycle with limited resources and no way to get out. What was even worse was that as he continued these mission trips every year, he saw how many ways there were to help, yet not enough was being done. Throughout his trips, Will met inspiring children that had been stripped of everything, yet were able to take advantage of the small opportunities given to them. As he watched some of these kids make it out of the cycle of being abandoned and in poverty to becoming educated and successful, he knew that with more help and resources, more lives could be transformed.

Luckily for Will, he is a ‘get it done’ kind of entrepreneur. He does not like to wait for problems to be sorted out through rounds of meetings, and he hates the thought of barriers to taking action. He saw a problem that needed to be addressed and wasted no time gathering his resources. Since he started HVAC.com, Will has brought his passion for helping orphaned children into his work and has inspired his very own teammates, many of whom have accompanied him on mission trips and have become inspired to take action as well.

Although, Will acknowledges that one-time mission trips are not enough. The orphans and abandoned children in these countries are reoccurring and have reoccurring needs. There needs to be a solution that allows for reoccurring funding so that these kids, smart and talented kids, can have the chance to make their impact on the world. Philanthro plans on doing just that. While the brand has already gotten a lot of recognition by everyone from HVAC specialists to pro athletes, the Indiegogo campaign is only the beginning. Just as buying an an air filter is a reoccurring donation for these kids, Philanthro wants to be a reoccurring brand in households.

philanthro long

As they grow bigger and expand from air filters to household products, Philanthro will be the brand you turn to when you want to do good for others through a simple purchase. When you purchase a Philanthro air filter, you know that you are not just making a monetary donation, but you are giving to a company that knows these kids, knows their story//needs, and knows how to help. When you signing up to be a Philanthro backer, you sign up to break the cycle of impoverished, orphaned children. Make sure to follow, contribute to and share their journey through their Indiegogo campaign starting tomorrow, July 21st!

Meet Tony Alexander and The Brandery

I call my blog ‘Cincy Mentors’ for a reason: Cincinnati is booming. We are moving up in the world and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Entrepreneurs, passionate restaurant lovers and young people from all over are packing up and coming to see what Cincy has to offer. Why is that? Why southwest Ohio? Tony Alexander, General Manager of The Brandery, has some ideas.

The Brandery, located in OTR
The Brandery, located in OTR

Iv’e talked about The Brandery before, but it is always okay to keep talking about it because The Brandery is awesome. It is a seed-stage accelerator program for startups, but, they use all Cincinnati resources to help turn these companies into something bigger and better. When a company enters The Brandery program, they can expect to be flooded with wonderful tools to help them achieve their goals including a 24/7 space for them to work in, entrepreneurial speakers to learn from, mentors to access, office hours with Brandery staff and weekly stand-up meetings for different roles in each company. Starting your own company is hard enough, but with The Brandery, companies have a real chance of being stronger, sooner.

I know, I know, we all want to work at The Brandery. How cool would it be to constantly help different companies make it in the world while also discovering everything Cincy has to offer? Tony feels the same. After spending a few years in the corporate world, he decided he was over the structure and bureaucracy of that culture and it was time for his own thing. He soon became one of the founding members of his first company, Traveler’s Joy and knew he was meant for the startup world. When he wasn’t working on starting other ventures or seeing the world, Tony became really involved in The Brandery as a mentor.

Tony Alexander, GM of The Brandery photo via Business Courier
Tony Alexander, GM of The Brandery
photo via Business Courier

When the position of General Manager opened up earlier this year, Tony knew he couldn’t turn it down. While he mentioned that it was a good opportunity after not having what he considered ‘a real job’ in 12 years, he also saw the job as a chance to not be a victim of success. He did not just want to sink into what he had already accomplished and leave it at that. Tony knew he wanted a project to help him stay sharp and so he could provide value and impact to the community around him.

I think it’s safe to say the community has already benefited through the hard work of Tony. His position at The Brandery consists of a 3-ball juggle:

1. The Brandery is a non-profit. Tony needs to get funding for the accelerator in order to bring money to these companies. The partnership of The Brandery, CincyTech and Cintrifuse (aka #startupcincy) has helped to create a strong network of funding throughout the ecosystem.

2. Tony is constantly talking up The Brandery companies and helping them to get funding from various companies and investors. He’s like that proud parent pushing for his kids to be first string on the soccer team. It takes a lot of passion for startups to have his job.

3. He is working with each Brandery company daily to see where they are, what they are trying to work through and what they need help with.

WOW what a job, right? He wears a lot of hats, but to Tony, it’s worth it. There is still a ton of room for the Cincy ecosystem for growth and he is working endlessly to bring the talent in through providing companies excellent resources and through working with other Cincinnati accelerators such as UpTech and OCEAN.

After immersing myself in the Cincy ecosystem for 2 months, this is what I have concluded: in Cincinnati, people love each other. People help each other. People root for each other. This doesn’t happen just in the startup ecosystem. When I’m downtown, strangers are constantly saying hello to me and telling me to have a good day. As I was walking into Coffee Emporium to meet Tony, a woman and a homeless man were hugging and sharing laughs and saying ‘it was so nice to meet you!’ It was pretty inspiring. Along with that, all of the startup accelerator companies in our ecosystem run their programs at different times so the companies that didn’t make it into one program could try the other.

This stuff, this teamwork and love, does not happen in other cities. People can give the Midwest all the crap they want, but they can’t deny that when you are here, you feel the support, thanks to companies like The Brandery. When companies come to Cincinnati, they can be expected to be surrounded by a team of a whole city, ready to make sure they succeed.

Meet Candice Peters

Today is Thursday and Thursdays are my favorite day of the week! There is so much excitement for the weekend ahead, but you are still in hustle mode to get the work done. It is an awesome mix of feelings and enthusiasm and I just eat it up. What makes it even better is when you chat with someone who has hustle and enthusiasm for life 24/7. I introduce to you the wonderful Candice Peters, CEO of Hello Parent and graduate of the UpTech accelerator program.

Candice Peters - co-founder/CEO of Hello Parent, graduate of UpTech accelerator program
Candice Peters – co-founder/CEO of Hello Parent, graduate of UpTech accelerator program

You know when you were a young kid, you would call your friend’s house and ask if they could play and then you would pass off the phone to your moms or dads to figure out the rest? Well…what did your parents actually talk about? Did they talk about if one of them would be home the entire time? Or if they have pets or something their child is allergic to? Did they settle on a final pick up time? It’s a lot of coordination, but Hello Parent makes it easy. It is an all-encompassing app that makes it easy to arrange play dates, connect on family plans and social groups, share safety information and so much more. Even if you are not a parent, think about ALL the hard work and coordination your parents did for you so you could see your friends, get you to clubs/meetings and to make sure you were safe…ALL while managing other family members and their own lives. Nowwwww you get it.

Candice has been passionate about the idea of making family life easier since the beginning of her venture, but this doesn’t mean her idea didn’t have the usual (and important) entrepreneurial pivots. When they launched their first version of the app a few months ago, it was not successful in the way they had envisioned. While this could have been crushing, Candice and COO Amanda (both serial entrepreneurs) and the rest of the team embraced their traits of enthusiasm and hustle to fix the bugs, which has led to something they are truly proud of.

I don’t think any company would make it out of an accelerator program (a program that helps you to grow your business with different resources such as funding and mentors) without hard hustle. Although, it’s the fun spirit and enthusiasm of Candice and her team that helped them to thrive in the program. With their handwork and optimism, Candice used her time at UpTech to let Hello Parent’s light shine, gain more technical skills and continue to improve the product to attract more investors.

While Candice began talking about what it took to accelerate their business and to bring in investors, something important popped into my head…Candice is a woman. That’s obvious, but when a lot of people picture entrepreneurial investor pitches and technological development, women aren’t always the first thing that’s thought of. And that’s a problem. It’s 2015. One of Candice’s biggest passions happens to be one of #startupcincy’s largest tensions: bringing in more women and minorities to our wonderful ecosystem. How do we get more women in tech to come in to Cincinnati and thrive? How do we, as a community, make women and minorities feel welcome?

It’s easier said than done, right? Don’t worry, Candice knows how to fix that: hustle and enthusiasm. Candice promotes the strength and beauty of females in power and reminds that we can get stronger when we don’t take on the fight alone. It is important for women in the business world (and particularly startups) to surround themselves with good mentors they can relate to and point them in helpful, fruitful directions. It can be easy to want to change yourself, and your brand, to fit what you think is “normal”. Although, how does that change and move our ecosystem forward? Have the enthusiasm to be yourself, and the hustle to back it up.

Meet Cherylanne Skolnicki

Remember when you were 5 years old and you wanted to be a doctor or a firefighter or even the president? Cherylanne Skolnicki, founder of Nourish and Cherylanne Skolnicki, Inc. wanted to be a CEO. She didn’t know how she was going to get there, but she knew it was in her future. After studying hospitality in college, Cherylanne actually decided heading to P&G after graduation was the right path.

Cherylanne Skolnicki - Nourish, Cherylanne Skolnicki, Inc. Photo via LinkedIn
Cherylanne Skolnicki – Nourish, Cherylanne Skolnicki, Inc.
Photo via LinkedIn

While the years and P&G were an awesome and fruitful experience, the years were also predictable. The daily work, the big projects…all predictable and gave her little control over what she wanted to do. Soon, she found herself cutting her hair short, wearing suits and being ultra serious because she wanted to fit into the culture. Cherylanne then had to ask herself a series of very important questions: What were her gifts? What needs do people have? How can she show people new ways of doing things?

It was at that moment that she decided to leave P&G and follow her entrepreneurial spirit by starting Nourish. Nourish began as a health coaching company, but it really came to be big when Cherylanne’s clients started to ask her to do the healthy food creation for them. As the word got out about her amazing services, Nourish became the next big thing in nutritious food. Soon,  Cherylanne’s vision of coaching people’s healthy decisions became clouded with tons of analytical, measurements and less emphasis on content.

What I liked about Cherylanne is that she is not afraid. When it comes to following her dreams and passions, the risks are worth it. Despite many of her P&G colleagues thinking she left to concentrate on family, she left to concentrate on being a passionate entrepreneur.  She left Nourish not because it was failing, but because she wanted to pivot to be more true to herself.

With that pivot, her newest venture, Cherylanne Skolnicki, Inc. was born. Cherylanne wanted to focus on her gifts of coaching and lifestyle design so she could help others maintain good balance in their lives – family, work, nutrition and future goals. Once again, I think this passion for coaching comes from Cherylanne’s bravery. There are misconceptions about entrepreneurs, like that they have to sleep in the office, be connected at all hours and have a certain lifestyle. Cherylanne likes to remind her clients that THEY are in control of their passions and priorities. Never apologize for sticking to your brand and doing things exactly how you want to do them.

I think this is especially important as there are more and more females emerging as founders/CEOs of startups. The world is changing and it is important that you surround yourself with the things that matter most to you so that you can build something you believe in.

Beating the Creative Block

As we get older, one thing stands true…we love our routines. As we gain more and more responsibilities and things to accomplish, having order and routine makes life work. There is nothing like a good routine to make it through tough days of ambiguity and having to make a lot of decisions.

While all that is good, routine also sucks: it’s the same activities and tasks done the same way every time. Sometimes everyday.  Because of this, the same routines become a root cause of a disease that has taken us all…a lack of creativity. According to Creating Minds, kindergartners are living up to about 80% creative potential. By the 6th grade (age 12), we are only using 2% creative potential. TWO PERCENT. That’s a sad thought because creativity is vital to the success of new businesses and innovation. We need creativity to be able to effectively problem solve and make the world a better place to be. But, with how our education system is structured and what is expected of us as we gain adulthood responsibilities, we get into a routine and we do it day in and day out, no questions asked.

Is it too late? Have we  lost all hope to ever be creative again? At 21 years old, I don’t even know what tenth of a percent I am actually using creativity…I don’t even want to know. Although, there is hope because we all have the power to relearn creativity and incorporate back into our daily lives. Here are three ways how:

1. Keep asking questions. As we grow up, we are expected to have all the answers right away. I hate that. With the instant gratification that comes from Google searches and Siri and all that, we expect ourselves to have the answers in seconds. Frankly, that’s not how the world works. As someone who has been terrified of ambiguity most of her life, it is hard for me to think about not running with the first thought I have. KEEP BEING CURIOUS. When you are looking for a way to solve a problem, don’t stop at the first right answer. Keep asking questions and searching for new ways to look at the problem and solve it. Remember, finding the best solution is all about understanding the problem.

2. Stay active. I know that when I’m tired, the last thing I want to do is try and be creative. Routines are meant to push us through feeling tires so we can still get things done. It is important that we all stay active to beat those tired feelings and keep our mind sharp. Go for a walk during lunch, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Eat healthy and go workout a couple times a week to keep your mind and you body sharp.

3. Destroying your VOJ. The VOJ is everyone’s worst creative-blocking enemy…the voice of judgement. It’s that little voice that pops into your head every time you have a creative thought that says “you can’t do that, that’s weird” or “that will never work” or “oh they will never like that idea”. We have all been in those (fake) brainstorming sessions that go a lot like this…

“So…how should we do this?”

“Oh, I don’t care.”

“I’ll do whatever you guys think is best”

*couple minutes of silence*

“Okay, well, and totally say something if you don’t like it, but we could do this…”

“Okay sure let’s go with that.”

What?! Some brainstorming session…no one said anything!! The VOJ and worry about how others will perceive us is what stops some of the best and most creative thinking. Do not let the worry of judgement stop you from sharing truly great thoughts, and make sure you return the favor by not judging the thoughts of others. Consider and embrace everything because you never know what could come out of that one “crazy” idea.

It’s easy to type all of this but much harder to actually practice. I constantly struggle with staying creative, but remember that it’s possible. DO NOT let life’s routines stop you…drive home a different way, listen to different music, write in a journal at night…doing small changes to let out creative energy and to give new perspectives on problem solving. The creative spark is still alive!