By Austin Metz Holland Sentinel, Mich.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Austin Metz of the Holland Sentinel checks back in with a few start-ups helped by local Michigan entrepreneurship programs. Metz asks them about the challenges of launching a business.
Holland Sentinel, Mich.
With events like 5x5 Night and the Holland Entrepreneurial Institute's (HEI) Fellows Pitch Competition recently wrapping up in Holland, a handful of startups have received valuable funding to help make their dreams a reality.
That raised another question about startups from previous years. Where are they now?
1. Laurel Hall of Ordinary Card Co. The product: "Ordinary Card Co. is a greeting card line with notes that are quick, witty and what I like to call 'B-grade dad humor.' At Ordinary Card Co., we hope to reaffirm, brighten days, encourage others, revitalize snail mail and join in the fight against sex trafficking."
Where they currently stand: "Ordinary Card Co. has had products on the market both online (ordinarycardco.com) and in stores for just over a year now. There are four retail stores in Holland, Grand Rapids and Saugatuck that carry Ordinary cards -- check out Frances Jaye, 6.25 Paper Studio, The Brass Anchor and Art of the Table."
Question: What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
"In the early phases of starting the business, acquiring capital, creating a process for how to operate logistics, packaging and production, and determining personal best practices to implement for myself was tough to create... Walking alongside fellow entrepreneurs and seeking mentorship from business leaders was really impactful for me -- learning what steps were needed to move forward, bring a product to market and sustain a company were really necessary to learn."
Advice for young entrepreneurs: "Take personal inventory on the things you care about... Also, don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. Comparison and feelings of inferiority will paralyze the creative process."
2. Kylen Blom of Silkscreen Marketing and Blom Studios
The product: "I currently own and oversee production of Silkscreen Marketing (a local screen printing shop located in Washington Square) and I own and operate Blom Studios -- a full-service digital marketing company."
Where they currently stand: "I am in year four of operating my own screen printing shop, and in the early stages of launching The Printmobile. The next steps would be purchasing an affordable cargo van and configure it into a mobile print shop to visit Michigan's many retailers and breweries."
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? "Getting started is rough. Cash flow was tight, so I took on a few side jobs to make ends meet. That taught me many things, it really made me focus on prioritizing my time."
Advice for young entrepreneurs: "Connect with people 3-5 years ahead of where you are. Be inspired by them and keep moving forward one day at a time. For Hope students, I'd highly recommend the HEI program."
3. Matt Gira, Danny Vessells and John Boss of Fathom The product: "Fathom is creating the future of underwater adventures with the Fathom One underwater drone. Take control of it with your smart device, iOS or Android, as you dive down to 150 feet with a live video feed right on your screen. Record 1080p HD videos to show your friends later, or attach another action camera and record in Ultra High Definition 4k."
Where they currently stand: "Right now we are just about to enter what is often referred to as the 'scaling up process.' We've spent the preceding few months refining our working models to solve several engineering design complications, while at the same time conversing with various contract manufacturers that we can partner with. "
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? "One of the best things I believe you can do as an entrepreneur is find a way to get away from your business. Whether it's exercise, meditation, journaling, watching movies or playing video games. You can't be 100 percent all the time, and finding a way to manage the times when you don't feel 100 percent is what will help you stick with something for the long run."
Advice for young entrepreneurs: "Don't be afraid to fail. We've failed many times, and we continue to fail. The most important part of failing is learning why it is happening. If you fail and you don't find out why, that may be a waste."
4. Matt Baxter of Wedge The product: "Wedge is a video resume platform. We provide a tool for organizations to make better hiring decisions as well as allow applicants to share more of their story outside of the traditional resume." Where they currently stand: "Currently my business is my full-time career. Our organization has officially launched into the market place. Between raising a second round of funding and early adopters to the product, we are set for the next couple years to grow the business."
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? "Honestly, I am my own worst enemy. With my adolescent business career I have realized that you can make everything about yourself and get fairly far... Transitioning from selfish to growing an organization, business and simply serving in general for others to grow as well has not only been the biggest challenge but also the biggest reward."
Advice for young entrepreneurs: "Rather than focus on creating the 'next big idea' focus on solving day-to-day personal problems. If a problem becomes a headache for you personally, talk to people about it. If it is a problem for others, try and create a solution. If you can get that far, you are onto something."