Timing is everything and this entrepreneur knows it

Sometimes timing is everything. That can be especially true for those with the entrepreneurial spirit waiting to leave the constraints of corporate life or move on with yet another exciting startup idea.

Such was the case for Joseph Monahan, now Director of the Carolinas for ScaleUpOnDemand, a thriving business development consulting firm out of Charleston, South Carolina. With a background in business development for large enterprise companies, and a recent stint as an entrepreneur, Joseph was simply waiting it out for the right time to jump into his latest venture. That was two years ago.

“Douglas Johnson [ScaleUpOnDemand founder] was serving as vice president of Sales Operations for a company that was being bought out and he was doing some consulting with the CEO of the company. I was finishing up with a startup whose investor was buying a professional soccer team. Through those engagements, it became obvious that there was a need for more consulting attention to business development,” said Joseph.

So we sat down and drew up a company plan to outsource fractional business development reps. Between Douglas’ expertise in sales ops, and mine in measurable sales engagement – the prospecting that opens doors – we knew we found a niche. It was a matter of just waiting for the right time to jump in.”

ScaleUpOnDemand provides strategic direction and a framework to eliminate the most urgent threats a growing company may face in maximizing sales. They fill the gap before the client company can hire their own staff. That could mean assigning a part-time operations expert to launch measurable sales processes or making the calls to establish a viable sales funnel.

ScaleUpOnDemand targets B2B companies that sell a product or service costing more than $1000 per year in a market that has more than 1,000 prospects. That is the sweet spot for companies that need temporary help while scaling, without being so small that the founder already has a solid handle on the industry and the contacts that need to be made to make a sale.

As a company that helps other companies grow, it was important for ScaleUpOnDemand to prove they could grow, too.

Said Joseph, “If we couldn’t scale our own company, it wouldn’t mean much to tell others how to do it.”

And scale they have. Initially, the company focused on Software as a Service (SaaS) prospects but grew into other market areas through client referrals and by offering free incubator workshops.

Now they boast amazing results for clients from LA to the Carolinas, from Y-combinator to early-stage to mid-market, private equity-backed companies.

One near-term goal is to grow their staff of eight into 15 consultants by year end. Recruiting consultants in a timely manner is one of the pain points they currently experience when entering a new market.

According to Joseph, it’s a chicken or egg problem. When they start an engagement, they often have a small window to get the right associates under contract. Joseph admits it would be easier to do if their growth was stagnant with one contract starting when another one ends, but it’s not linear.

He also admits that’s a good problem to have. Joseph and Douglas know from working with client companies just how important it is to build in the sales processes and funnel measurement that result in continual sales.

“We start with a 38-point paid assessment process that explores every way the client brings in revenue. With that, we can show the client where their company has deficiencies and then we can help them initiate a go-to-market strategy,” said Joseph.

As a still early-stage startup, Joseph and Douglas continue to welcome the feedback they get after presentations, such as the recent 1 Million Cups Charlotte meetup where they enjoyed the audience interaction and continued learning opportunity.

They have discussed whether to expand into other related services but advisors have cautioned them to not get distracted from their core business. Both believe there is enough growth opportunity across the U.S. within their current model and they continue to be motivated by the work they already do.

Said Joseph, “I’m inspired by all the people we work with. They are entrepreneurial in their own right, so I learn a lot from them. [With the fractional time duration], there’s always something new and exciting, either with that client or there is a new client to jump to.”

So, timing is everything in entrepreneurial life. Whether that’s knowing when to get started or when to scale.


2nd chances are like startups. They don’t come easy.

Launching an extension of an existing business in a new city is much like launching anew. It requires acute knowledge of the local community, best practices for finding prospective customers and staff, and analysis of the competition, among other operational expertise.

Launching a nonprofit is no different. It requires the same entrepreneurial skills and often presents very similar challenges.

For Alli Thomas, her decision to join Inmates to Entrepreneurs (I2E), a Raleigh-based, not-for-profit currently branching into Charlotte and beyond, spoke to her sense of community and desire to play a proactive role in service of others. It also addressed issues she saw within her network and something she recognized within the greater Charlotte community.

“When individuals complete their prison term, or even if someone has an infraction of any type on their permanent record, they often struggle to get a job because they can’t pass the background check. But if we can help them find jobs, the recidivism rate will decline and so will the cost.

That’s why I2E focuses on training ex-offenders to become entrepreneurs – so they can become productive participants in society. Some have started landscaping businesses, or custodial roles, really any business that can be started as a single operator for under $500,” said Alli.

Brian Hamilton (2)I2E was established in 2008 by Brian Hamilton, co-founder of Raleigh-based Sageworks, a financial information company which has worked with leading financial institutions for the past 20 years. I2E is the company’s primary social impact initiative, sparked by an invitation many years ago for Brian to speak to inmates about how he established his business. Since then, I2E has trained over 1,000 individuals with criminal backgrounds in North Carolina through various programming initiatives.

For Alli, the opportunity to launch I2E Charlotte calls on her education in nonprofit leadership and experience with a national children’s organization. It also speaks to an entrepreneurial spirit awakened as a young girl helping out in small ways with her father’s franchise business. While she didn’t know then how it would affect her, baring witness to his passion changed her own trajectory. She sees that potential in the I2E program as well.

“I’ve always seen myself as a helper but I never guessed what capacity that would mean as a career. I’ve lived in the Charlotte area my entire life and have seen the social changes happening here. With I2E, the potential to really create impact is there. I feel a calling to invest my time with this.”

She added, “Those facing re-entry are a very under-represented group. And they shouldn’t be. Why shouldn’t they be given that second chance? We are really doing them a disservice when they can’t land a stable job. If they start their own business, they won’t have that obstacle.”

Since joining the organization in February, Alli has found a very receptive audience in Charlotte, in part due to growing awareness of the “prison pipeline.” Connecting the dots with recidivism and the cost to society sells the idea of entrepreneurial training for re-entry.

But like any startup, there are challenges to overcome.

“Our biggest challenge is finding the mentors. Our organization is driven by volunteers. We need volunteers who have built their own business to share their experience and teach our entrepreneurs course,” said Alli.

On the other side, is recruiting the individuals who need the service. How do we reach those who are no longer in the system? We also have to anticipate and resolve any barriers before they become problems for those who want to access our free resources. Like setting up transportation service or child care so they can attend.”

Like all new businesses, telling their story is important. So Alli jumped on the chance to present at a recent 1 Million Cups Charlotte (1MC) think tank. While she first thought of it as a way to tap potential program mentors, the 1MC organizers helped her realized the greater benefit is in tapping the expertise of the attendees to help her look at her program like a business.

“There are so many aspects to establishing this program. It is just like having an idea for a business and seeing it through. Entrepreneurs know how to do that. I know they’ll have ideas that can help me figure it out, too,” she said.

Because no matter what barriers you may face, figuring it out is what the entrepreneurial spirit is all about.



Resolve the pain points of home renovation? Problem solved.

“I’ve always had a side business going, even as a kid. Most kids have a lemonade stand. I was selling blueberries by the roadside at 10 or 11 years old. So the entrepreneurial mindset got into my blood early and has just always been there.

But I am a solution provider more so than an entrepreneur. That’s what really gets me motivated – finding solutions to problems. That’s why I went into IT. But my side business for years has been fixing and flipping houses and mobile homes,” said John Daoust, co-founder of Contractor’s Edge, a comprehensive service for both contractors and homeowners that aims to make the process of remodeling a pleasant and secure experience.

The Army and Navy veteran (yes, both!) knows a thing or two about the pain points of securing multiple contractors and being a homeowner looking to finish a needed repair or major renovation project. He and his business partner, Ed Longstrom, each have first-hand war stories and success stories to tell about working within the home improvement industry.

Before launching their signature product, Renescrow™, John and Ed conducted market surveys and field interviews to explore what contractors, homeowners and even governmental agencies involved in natural disasters find lacking or challenging in the contractor relationship or business process.

The contractor industry is not cutting edge. It’s old school. There are lots of good contractors out there but often they are not necessarily good businessmen. Contractor’s Edge includes tools to make it easier and more efficient to conduct business, like electronic quotes, invoices, customer tracking, and integration with DocuSign for getting signatures. It is a lot better than relying on a quote written on the back of a napkin or a piece of blank paper. That still happens.

But we also serve the homeowner. Often times, the contractor asks for a big down payment which is touted as being needed to order materials. A huge benefit of Renescrow is the homeowner can put that down payment and future payments in a secure escrow account that the contractor can draw from with approval, or the funds can be sent directly to the cabinet maker or whomever is the third-party materials provider. It will 100 percent eliminate contractor payment fraud! With this solution, the homeowner can’t be taken for the down payment with the contractor never to return. Unfortunately, that happens.”

Renescrow truly differentiates Contractor’s Edge, providing an answer to a major pain point in the industry. Contractor fraud or fear of it isn’t going away. John points to a survey of 2,000 residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina which indicated a full 40 percent of those surveyed experienced some sort of contractor fraud during renovations! And there are many other surveys or anecdotal experiences out there with similar cringe-worthy reports.

John hopes Renescrow becomes such a common brand that it becomes a synonym for contractor guarantees, just like Kleenex came to be the name for all tissues. With Renescrow, the homeowner is protected, but so is the contractor.

“Renescrow becomes a tool for the contractor to assure the homeowner up front because they can legitimately say that the money goes only to the intended party or purpose. And they don’t have to chase the check from the homeowner who may claim they don’t have the funds after the job gets started.”

The financial aspect of the Renescrow service is managed via a partnership with Payoneer, a leading, certified online money transfer service which also handles such brands as Airbnb, Amazon and UPS.

Thanks to Ed’s web and integration expertise, coupled with John’s marketing and people-skills, Contractor’s Edge already has more than 1,200 customers and 1,500 successful projects under its belt. But they continue to refine and define their approach to market.

That’s why the two Upstate New Yorkers who met and established the company three years ago in Greenville, SC continue to take their pitch on the road.

Because that’s what you do when you’re motivated to find solutions to problems.


Tech exec turned VC bets on entrepreneur motivations

“I was already CEO of a software startup when the idea of GetApp came up. We were developing a software encryption technology that was pioneering blockchain. I knew we were too early in the market, but there was interest from innovative prospects. My main issue was distribution.

The traditional software distribution channels didn’t work for innovative solutions. Established VARs [value-added resellers] or distributors would not be interested and my prospects were not using them anyway to source new solutions. I realized that this issue would increase because the number of SaaS [software-as-a-service] products and SMB clients would grow exponentially thanks to easy access to the cloud infrastructure and development platform. A new platform was needed to match our offer and demand.”

French-native Christophe Primault turned his intuitive market insight into a successful company which he sold to Gartner in 2015, six years after launch. Today, he is a part-time venture capitalist keeping an eye out for the next high-opportunity B2B technology startup. Getting to this point was a journey that many entrepreneurs dream of, but few realize.

Leaving a successful corporate career, Christophe was ready for a lifestyle change. He moved from high-stress London to the Barcelona seaside. While beautiful Barcelona offered the lifestyle he desired, there were few corporate opportunities. Barcelona did, however, have an embryonic entrepreneurial community.

Still, embracing a full-on startup opportunity is not without its challenges.

“The biggest challenge was to adapt to the startup rules. Even if you have big responsibilities in a corporate environment, it won’t prepare you for startup reality. In a big company, you can rely on the brand, on business inertia, on colleagues from all the different functions needed to run a business. When you start a company for the first time, you are on your own.

Fortunately, I started the business with a very complementary partner. Although he was in a similar situation, at least each of us only had half of the things to learn and we had someone to talk to. I don’t think I could have succeeded without the right business partner.”

Christophe attributes their success, in part, to robust execution by two business partners who understood how to complement each other and successfully hire a strong core team.

“My main strength was the ability to read the market. I did some research to understand how the SaaS market would shape up in the near future and talked to many industry actors to validate my assumptions. Once it was clear that the opportunity was there and it was the right time to build the startup, the next key success factor was execution. This is where my business partner brought a lot of strength to the picture.”

While there are often-told stories of serial entrepreneurs entering the market with the idea to sell and exit, Christophe took a more hybrid approach.

“I am not a serial entrepreneur but I was also not interested in building and holding a company forever. I would more describe myself as a one-off opportunist. I saw an opportunity and decided to take a chance at it. There is no shame in acting this way, in fact I believe we should stop glorifying so-called serial entrepreneurs who go and stop with businesses.

Very few of us are able to do that. Those who can are truly talented people and I admire them but I have also seen many painful situations of people losing everything. The human cost of that is very sad and scary. Novice entrepreneurs should know that it is okay to start a business with the intent of reselling it in a few years and that there is a lot room between unicorns, lifestyle businesses and failures.”

Christophe also offers keen insight on the funding process, acknowledging that what worked for him may or may not work for others. GetApp was primarily bootstrapped, raising a small external round to make an acquisition.

“We had the opportunity to raise a large round with a Silicon Valley VC but we decided that we would turn it down and grow the business until we had an opportunity to make a good exit. Retrospectively, it was the right choice for us due to our motivations. But I understand and respect that many other entrepreneurs would have never turned down such amazing opportunity to be an ever bigger company.

There are some side benefits in having a good professional investor on board. They force you to have a clean legal and financial house, which is critical to grow your company in a healthy way but also to sell, especially if your buyer is listed on a US stock exchange. They also help you make the critical decisions.”

In his role with Elaia Partners, Christophe is resolute about fully understanding the real motivations of the entrepreneurs he supports.

“I have seen a bit of gaming between entrepreneurs and some VCs. I don’t think it is healthy. With frank and honest discussions about real motivations, it prevents stressing the situation with unnecessary misalignment. There are sufficient real stressful issues to deal with at a startup!”

Christophe knows. He hedged a bet on Barcelona for work/life balance and it is now one of the fastest growing startup scenes in Europe. And he hedged a bet on the precise market timing that helped grow a successful tech business.

So if you are a B2B tech startup interested in launching in Spain, you might want to look up Christophe. Odds are, you wouldn’t want to bet against him.


Hush. Your toddler will sleep!

“In a place very near, at a time very soon, there live the Hush Buddies, who glow like the moon. In quiet they live, with smiles all around, for their glow comes from silence, and dims when there’s sound…”

Those two insightful lines start the storybook tale of Hush Buddy, a sleep training program for toddlers. It features and introduces Whisper, a nightlight character that encourages toddlers to go to sleep quietly by dimming when it hears sound and brightening again with silence.

With the storybook’s help, children soon come to love Whisper. Hush Buddy smartly incorporates the child’s own imagination along with research-proven techniques and parental training.

“We’ve invented a device that lovingly helps reduce bedtime meltdowns by toddlers and gets them to go to sleep quickly and quietly, usually in just a night or two. That’s huge since well-rested toddlers become adults who are physically and cognitively healthier,” says Scott Hanson, former news reporter and now inventor and founder/president of Hush Buddy.

“The toddler years are a time when our brains are being bolted together during sleep. Sleep deprivation during those precious years has all kinds of impact, from diabetes to behavior issues, even obesity. Just imagine if we can put a dent in attention issues or help families with autistic children. We get really excited about the long term and lifelong implications of better sleep.”

Scott and his COO/engineer partner, Edward Danyo, are both fathers who intimately understand the child sleep challenge. Scott is the father of twins and Ed has two children, including one with a diagnosed sleep disorder. But Scott says the initial concept was planted years before, followed by one, ahem, sleepless night of motivation.

“A news story I did several years ago had stuck with me. I interviewed a doctor who said that two things motivate young kids to sleep: light and keeping the door closed. Last year while staying with family in a house with paper thin walls, my two-year-old nephew in the next room had a meltdown at 3:30 in the morning. Come to find out, he does this every night.”

So the “light bulb” went off. Or on, depending on how you look at it.

“It came to me that kids want more light in their room, not less. So Hush Buddy dims when they make sound and lights back up when the room is quiet. Just the opposite of what you might expect. When I started researching it, I just knew it was going to work – and then the studies on pediatric sleep backed it up. That’s when I got excited!”

Dr. Craig Canapari, head of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, provided valuable insight into the science behind what Hush Buddy set out to do. In addition to validating the light cue, Dr. Canapari suggested they needed a character the child could bond with and a story to capture their imagination. So Scott put his journalistic skills to task, writing the accompanying storybook in a weekend. But illustrating a product that was not yet in production was another hurdle.

“I came up with this placeholder design for the main character. When we did focus group feedback, it was favored 4:1 over the later professionally designed ideas. So we believed in ourselves and stayed with the original design. It is a simple character. Kids’ imagination does the rest.

And the storybook sets up cause and effect, so they get it. Noise means less light and quiet means light. Toddlers become attached to the character, just like they do a favorite toy or blanket. Whisper becomes a trusted friend.”

There are 10 million families with two-, three- and four-year-olds and 71 percent of those say they struggle with getting their child to sleep. More than half (58%) of those say they are likely to buy a product to help their child go to sleep.

Hush Buddy believes word of mouth marketing through Moms online is their best market. They identified the specific personas of five types of likely purchasers, targeting the top three Mom types most likely to buy.

The Raleigh, NC-based startup continues to progress along its identified timeline, which includes a planned crowdfunding campaign.

So “Hush little baby, don’t you cry” doesn’t have to be the frustration of today’s parents any longer. Hush Buddy’s storybook ending has a new beginning for that night-time routine.

Hush, Mommy, no need to cry. Sleep is coming!


This entrepreneur has a bone to pick with you


“To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a back bone and a funny bone.” – Reba McEntire

That famous quote from Country music star and actress Reba McEntire is as true in business as it is in life and theater.

In fact, that quote became the inspiration and business philosophy behind Charlotte’s Three Bone Theatre, an adult contemporary theater focused on creating unique shared experiences around challenging topics woven into the fabric of the plays selected. Topics such as mental illness, disparity, racism, privilege and equality encourage empathy and discussion.

Three Bone Theatre was founded five years ago in a small upper room over a bar in NoDa. A sold-out show meant hitting a capacity of 50. So for each production, only 300 people ever got to take in their poignant, adult contemporary plays.

But founders Carmen Bartlett and Robin Tynes sure had a big wishbone and enough back bone to recognize their strengths and challenges. Almost immediately, they brought on fellow thespian Becky Schultz. She had life-long theater “chops,” but also offered a solid business background.

“After college, I performed with several different theater companies but they just didn’t feel like my theater home. When I did a sold-out production of the Vagina Monologues at Three Bone Theater, I really appreciated how Robin and Carmen took care of the artists,” said Becky.

But for many artists, the business side tends to be the downfall. So I was happy to jump in when they asked if I would help get the business up and running. I love the work we do, the experience of what we do ­— and it still gives me the creative outlet I need to fill fulfilled.”

As Executive Director, Becky helped set operational goals and strategies that enabled Three Bone Theatre to grow to where it is today, a far cry from its humble beginning but still on the cusp of additional growth.

In the past two years, Three Bone Theatre achieved 501c3 nonprofit status and garnered underwriting support from Blumenthal Performance Arts. That enabled residency at the 150-seat Duke Energy Theatre in Uptown Charlotte. Another milestone target was achieved by securing an operational grant from the Arts & Science Council.

“Suddenly, we have significantly greater seat and marketing capacity and increased performance credibility. We want to take full advantage of the opportunity to hit additional growth milestones. But all of us have day jobs. We’re maxed out on capacity.”

Like most other startups, they struggle with exactly how and when to add their first full-time staff. They also want to continue to find creative ways to engage community supporters and current and potential audience members.

“The future for Three Bone Theatre is all about figuring out how we can support all the great ideas we have and continue to sell what we’re doing. We want to take our shows on the road and do even more adult education, like teaching performance skills that help with on-the-job presentations. We want to continue to expand our community engagement work, add partners on every show and raise awareness in terms of taking theater into under-served areas.”

And all of that will require a bit of funny bone for the challenges of entrepreneurial life, the back bone to stay steady and the wishbone for thinking big and making it happen!

So Three Bone Theatre has a bone to pick with you – three, in fact. But they’ve got you covered.




A different approach to well care

Who is responsible for your health care? According to Paige Sigmon, DC of Carolina Family Spine Center, people will most often tell you it’s their doctor or even their insurance company. The correct answer, she says, is: You. Because we are each responsible for our own health.

“Families come to me after that aha moment when they realize their own brain-driven nervous system is connected to their overall health. They are already beginning to see the bigger picture. They realize they can balance out bad stress with good health choices but aren’t sure how to start,” said Dr. Paige. “What we all need to ask ourselves is, ‘Are you happy with the trajectory of your health?’ Everyone deserves to live to their fullest, healthiest potential.”

As a family wellness chiropractor with a focus in prenatal and pediatric health, Dr. Paige facilitates the body’s ability to heal itself. And that means working with “spines of all ages.”

But her practice is unlike traditional chiropractic services. There is no popping, cracking or twisting involved. Instead, low-force, non-invasive adjustments are part of her “whole person” approach. She listens closely to what her patients tell her, knowing that some symptoms that may seem unrelated are likely a reflection of nervous system interruption.

Since opening in Mount Holly, NC a year ago, Dr. Paige has seen steady word-of-mouth interest.

“Often moms will talk among themselves and when one has experienced wellness chiropractic, she’ll bring the rest of the family in and then tell her friends when they mention a chronic issue. That might be a child with chronic ear infections or an adult with digestive issues.

Regular chiropractic care may be a solution they had never considered. I can help them on the path of listening to their own body, which has a remarkable ability to heal if the nervous system is functioning properly.”

When understood, wellness chiropractic care is complementary to traditional medicine.

“The nervous system originates in the brain and flows through one major opening at the base of the skull down through the spinal cord. It has innate intelligence, meaning it is something we are born with that is already functioning at birth. Both traditional medicine and holistic caregivers understand the nervous system’s contribution to overall health.

It is the only system in the body that cannot be replaced. Even a heart can be put on bypass or transplanted, but if your nervous system is severed or poorly functioning with any type of interference, your brain has no way of communicating with all the other vital body systems.”

Because Carolina Family Spine Center is wellness centered, Dr. Paige also takes a non-traditional payment approach.

“Most insurance companies do not cover well care, and if they do, they often still require that you have a specific illness to treat. Sickness and pain are really just a reflection of how well your body is or isn’t working,” she said. “My practice focuses on lifelong health. You come to see me to enhance your wellness, just like when you join a gym or yoga practice.”

So Dr. Paige brought a gym-like membership approach to her chiropractic practice. Paying a monthly membership fee allows each member of the family to add-on and have as many adjustments in a month as they need.

Dr. Paige is passionate about the work she does. Her training confirms that it is the nervous system that carries the alarm to warn us something is out of sync.

“Pain is your body’s alarm system asking for help. Chiropractic care addresses the cause of the alarm, allowing the body to naturally return to a state of pain-free synchronicity” she added.

And so Dr. Paige has made it her mission in life to help families know they are in control of their own health; if we listen to our bodies, we can hear what our brains are really telling us.


This founder looks to disrupt brokerage

“As a teenager being raised by a single mom, I realized the influential power of money. We didn’t always have it and I was drawn to how it works, how it influences culture and, of course, how it could impact what I did in life. When I dropped out of school at 16, it struck me that I really needed to understand money. Without a diploma, people won’t hire you, so you have to always look out for business opportunity. I read everything I could about finance and later became a business journalist.”

That determination to improve his lot in life has served Canadian Julien Brault well. In addition to a notable journalistic career, he founded a publishing venture in Montreal aimed at self-learning and also worked for a venture capital fund focused on fintech. He notes Michael Bloomberg as a source of business inspiration.

But when Julien was writing about other business startups as a journalist, he longed to find the right opportunity to venture back into entrepreneurship himself. Today, he applies his life-long learning quest to being a business founder.

“I think information is power. I have always been a self-learner and a huge reader. Some entrepreneurs can use their phone to learn so much. And there are very smart entrepreneurs that learn best by talking to people. And that is important. But many entrepreneurs, like myself, have a natural propensity to read a lot – books, market reports. Entrepreneurs need more information than the average person. With Hardbacon, I get to apply that learning and experience what I wrote so much about.”

Hardbacon is Julien’s latest venture. It is the culmination of his lifelong interest in money, learning, and helping those who do not fully understand money’s ability to change the trajectory of their lives.

So what is Hardbacon? It is an app-based, decision-making resource aimed at disrupting brokerage. Hardbacon makes investing easy for everyone. The name derives from an old cliché referring to money as bacon – and the fact that money is often hard-earned.

In its initial entry-to-market form, Hardbacon is neither a brokerage/financial advisor telling you how to manage your money nor a robo-advisory making decisions for you. Ultimately, Hardbacon provides all the financial data you need to make your own financial decisions. It analyzes your portfolio and provides related educational insight.

Julien and his co-founders raised 68,000$ [CND] via crowdsourcing before the first line of code was ever written. With its early disruptor potential, Hardbacon has garnered the attention of Fintech and its intended target market of 25-45 year-old investors. More than 7,000 subscribe to the Hardbacon newsletter. The app recently launched across Canada.

“Hardbacon is geared toward the young, working professional who is starting to look forward and wants more control in starting and managing their portfolio. It automates a lot of the work portfolio managers and advisors do behind the scenes, so everyone gets the same advantages and has the same information to achieve their dream.

I discovered early in life that the poor pay more fees. When they don’t have enough money, they die poor and their children are poor. We want to democratize financial information and change the brokerage game, just like the travel industry did when ticket information became more readily comparable. We want users to be in the driver’s seat.”

Staying true to the vision of access for all, the monthly fee for the subscription-based service is very low. Because, as Julien points out, the real ‘why’ behind Hardbacon is about empowering people to change their social status.

Just like he did.




Awakening and rejuvenating a sleeper tech

“This is really a Rip Van Winkle story about the rebirth of a proven technology that we’re now making even better! Back in 2007, we were working for a leading manufacturer who was bought out. The new company wasn’t interested in the software tech we developed and had already deployed to about a thousand customers. So it basically went to sleep. We went on with our jobs and other ventures,” said Joe Razum.

Flash forward a decade and suddenly I am asked about that old offering by someone in a totally different industry. So of course, I asked this prospective customer if they would be interested in an update. That was enough spark to pull the team back together. Now, it is like waking up and finding the technology has evolved and it is better than ever!”

Joe’s enthusiasm has been a catalyst behind the awakening of what is now TCO Toolkit, a Software as a Service (SaaS), vendor-neutral total cost of ownership (TCO)/value calculator. The new offering fills a gap in the marketplace to help sourcing leaders determine TCO in a uniform, scalable, and yet customizable way. The original product it evolved from was a Harvard Business Review Best Practice, and Plant Engineering Product of the Year when first introduced and companies clamored for it. Joe is sure the new offering will be even more successful.

That’s because TCO has been identified as the #2 criteria (behind product quality) in strategic sourcing, yet many still use cumbersome methodology, like spreadsheets, to determine this vital component of sourcing success. With its latest updates and cloud-based platform, the easy-to-use TCO Toolkit utilizes a single code for both mobile and PC application.

Joining Joe on this entrepreneurial journey are Sanjay Sharma and Brad Trapp, whose operational, architecture and coding expertise were critical to the rejuvenation of the old platform into its latest version. Each member of the team has slightly different motivations.

“Bringing this live again in a new form and format, with new technology is very exciting for me. That’s what got me onboard. I am inspired by the opportunity to come together again as a team, with our experience from the past and yet taking on the new challenges and requirements, and learning how we can improve.” [Sanjay]

“For me, it’s about the freedom being an entrepreneur brings. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and while that isn’t a guarantee of success, doing this for ourselves is one of the primary ways to be free to control what I do.” [Brad]

“We were tasked with developing the original product to help us sell at a time when American manufacturers were getting a lot of competition from offshore manufacturers. So it was all about helping us retain and bring back work going elsewhere. It really felt like we were working on something important. It is satisfying to do that again, and the economic potential is nice, too.” [Joe]

TCO Toolkit currently has paid subscription users for its Beta offering, so Joe and the team are feeling good about that economic potential. And they have also received valuable insight from mentors at the Technology Incubator of Rock Hill, SC Launch and 1 Million Cups Charlotte.

This Rip Van Winkle story is proving technology can reawaken a sleeping opportunity!




Move over anthropology: Its time for cloud-based bookkeeping

“To me, bookkeeping is simply anthropology for business. I am determined to take what seems like a dirty word [bookkeeping] and turn it into an essential part of business. Great record keeping can show you how everything works, all those details that make your business successful.”

Jessica Myers is a founding partner for Digit Keeper, a cloud-based, California-grown digital bookkeeping service. Jessica approaches her business from the unusual lens of her education in Anthropology, which involves the study of everything a culture or individual does, and why.

“What we do for our small business customers is first determine what they value and what they don’t, and then what can we do to make their life easier. Looking at the detail behind the accounts puzzle really is like the study of anthropology. That resonated for me and is what got me so excited about helping small business owners.”

So how does an anthropologist end up in bookkeeping? Well, that is a study in culture and ‘why’ in itself.

“I graduated in 2009 at the height of the financial crash. Jobs in my major were few and far between. After a side adventure to Montana, I returned to California and began a whirlwind time where I got married, had my daughter and found myself suddenly living as a military mom adjusting through three deployments.

 Frankly, I didn’t adjust well. I went through an identity crisis and eventually realized that being a mom wasn’t enough for me, personally. So when my Dad, a practicing CPA, approached me with this business idea, I saw the enormous potential. I am determined to help it grow.”

That sense of determination wasn’t born through Jessica’s entrepreneurial venture, but rather, is something innate that was cultivated throughout her life, despite periods of adversity.

“My parents taught me a lot about the importance of knowing who you are and where you draw a line in the sand with your core beliefs. Yet, I never understood when people said to ‘know your why.’ As an adult, I finally realized I had already been given the key.

It is about being true to your core. And it is applicable to your business, too. We help our customers get back to business – the core of what they do best. For me personally, that means doing something that I would work on no matter what. Bookkeeping – and growing this business – is that something for me.”

Jessica also supports that core belief by spending precious downtime focused on actions that help her as an entrepreneur. She reads extensively – often two books a week – to learn more about topics that ultimately help her customers even more, like customer service, leadership and even mental capacity.

“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are vital to the American dream. We need to value and support them. That’s why I love this work and see the potential for Digit Keeper to grow on a national scale. We really want the customer to feel we’re there for them. We are simply an extension of their team.” 

And so Jessica, the anthropologist, now works in and on a business that uses the very latest technology to decipher the small business culture. And that helps her answer the ‘why’ behind her customers’ bookkeeping needs. With her husband set to leave the military in just a few months, she is putting it all on the line for her business and her customers.

Yep, true to her core. Again.


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