Cohort 2:

Supporting Small Businesses for the Future

September '18 - February '19 | South Bend, IN

Small businesses make up the backbone of our communities and our economy. Family-owned businesses employ over 60% of the US workforce, create 78% of all new jobs, and generate 64% of the United States GDP (source). But being a small business owner is difficult. Half of all small businesses hold a cash buffer of less than one month, 36% have an issue meeting basic operating expenses, 46% have trouble accessing credit or capital to expand (source).

Small business owners have to constantly switch between working in their business and working on their business -- this creates a huge opportunity to make their lives easier. However, most of the entrepreneurship and innovation world is focused on building enterprise-level solutions, and while they have versions marketed to small businesses, they don't really understand the reality and differences between a national enterprise and a main street business. We believe that there is an opportunity to learn from small business owners about their struggles and create ventures with solutions specifically aimed at them. Supporting these businesses can have a huge impact on the business owners, their families, and our communities. 

The Focus

Cohort 2 is looking into a range of issues that face America's small business owners. Managing finances and inventory, planning for growth and expansion, pricing and purchasing, training and retaining great employees, navigating permitting and regulations, and much more is being explored to find places where scalable ventures can be built to support them.

Why South Bend?

There is no better place to learn about the ups and downs of being a small business owner than a community where they play such an important role in our daily lives. South Bend has a vibrant small business scene, which will allow our Cohort 2 entrepreneurs the chance to learn what happens in the day-to-day of running a business. This insight, combined with the national level research and network that INVANTI has curated, is the secret sauce behind building a venture that resonates with individual customers but also has the ability to scale nationally. 


Cohort 2 Members


 
1DSC04014.jpg

Nicola Brown

What’s your background?

I am originally from Jamaica but have lived around the globe, moved to South Bend from Miami, FL. I am a bridge builder, entrepreneur, advocate and researcher with a decade of experience promoting the health, rights and wellbeing of women and girls in the U.S. and globally. I am a lover of people and known for my unique ability to connect; connecting people, connecting across different ideas, and connecting people to ideas. Throughout my professional career, I have provided advisory and technical assistance within the private & social sectors to advance equity through program development and policy advocacy. I bring experience of working in community development to thoughtfully explore new ways of tackling some of the most complex challenges facing marginalized communities around the world. I graduated from University of Florida and hold a MSW from University of Georgia.

Why INVANTI?

I chose INVANTI as an incubator because of the focus of solving big problems with tangible solutions. What excites me is that… it’s not just working for myself… it’s creating, building and establishing with the support of INVANTI in developing a business that will solve the pain point of small business owners.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time I enjoy traveling, reading, playing soccer, hiking, and taking photos of nature.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05893.jpg

Celena Green

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Queens, NY, known as the most diverse county in the world, and a major first stop for many NYers in pursuing the American Dream. This shaped my thinking, and my desire to make an impact at home as well as abroad. I am passionate about eliminating poverty, creating financial freedom and building inclusive prosperity. Over the past 20 years I've worked with small businesses, social enterprises, and nonprofits throughout the U.S. and in 20 countries internationally, creating programs and services to increase the success of women and youth as leaders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators. I founded Teke Global Inc. in 2016 to provide fundraising, communications, strategic partnership, and growth services to entrepreneurs so they can generate revenue as well as positive societal impact.

Why INVANTI?

I chose INVANTI because it provides a great opportunity to make an impact on the main drivers of growth and prosperity-- small businesses. I also wanted to experience living and working in a community of fellow entrepreneurs, as being a small business owner can be a lonely endeavor at times. Lastly, after spending so much time abroad, I am excited to explore the U.S. again, and to get to know the Midwest.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like taking classes or workshops to learn something new. I also love reading, travel, concerts, a nice scenic hike, or just hanging out with friends.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05905.jpg

Finn Pegler

What’s your background?

I'm originally from Ireland and previously attended the ESTEEM master’s program at the University of Notre Dame. After completing ESTEEM, I worked with Ford Motors in London, UK, as a product development engineer. I left Ford to launch a small business in the house cleaning industry, DeluxeMaid. I ran this remotely from London for 3 years, before accepting a place with INVANTI.

Why INVANTI?

For the past year I’ve been working on more scalable businesses that haven’t quite panned out, but then I saw INVANTI and their model of starting with a problem first and then figuring out a solution— That’s where I was going wrong. My brain always goes to the solution first. In the mental process I was always skipping to step 2 and 3.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time I like to attend concerts, play board games, and play soccer.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05946.jpg

Daniel Eggleston

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Mishawaka, IN where I grew up working for my father's small landscaping company that serviced the South Bend/ Mishawaka area. I recently attended Indiana University's School of Public & Environmental Affairs where I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Management & Public Affairs. In school, I was a two semesters away from a B.S.E.D. in Secondary Education when I decided that I wanted to solve problems and become an entrepreneur. I opted for SPEA's Management degree which laid the foundation for a diverse set of subjects from finance to finance to IT. With a new mindset on what I wanted to do with my career, I started an exterior cleaning company that operated during my summers away from school. When I graduated, this business remained in operation and has allowed me the freedom of time that I need to pursue other entrepreneurial opportunities. Outside of growing my own company, I've contributed to a start-up, focused on reducing the instances of infectious disease in hospitals, by doing quantitative product testing and comparative analysis on their product. I am mission driven and have a passion for adding value and solving problems.

Why INVANTI?

I had just moved back to South Bend when I learned about INVANTI during South Bend's IDEA Week. Maria and Dustin are taking a unique approach to building businesses by filling the idea void and leveraging entrepreneurial talent. I chose INVANTI because it presents a great opportunity to be around a diverse group of like-minded people who are striving to make an impact for small business owners. Given my own involvement with small family owned business, The chance to create a venture to have impact small businesses resonates with me. INVANTI's model just makes sense. After learning about them I was itching to get involved.

What do you like to do in your free time?

The things I like to do in my free time are constantly changing. Generally speaking, I like to learn/try new things. Most recently, I've been obsessed with the mental and physical challenge of bouldering. I like to listen to a lot of podcasts, read as much as I can, and have conversations with new people.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05953 (1).jpg

Jessica Lee

What’s your background?

My immigrant parents started a small business that turned into used car dealerships in historic southeastern Virginia, and growing up, I spent weekends talking to customers from all walks of life, filling out paperwork, and changing oil filters. I didn't fully realize it at the time, but this experience instilled in me a deep sense of entrepreneurialism, a desire to build systems from the ground up, an appreciation for small business owners, and a curiosity to learn from people different from me. After a foray into biomedical research and while in college at the University of Virginia, I started a company to utilize the power of crowdfunding to raise capital for local businesses - it was my way of staying connected to the small business community. Through that company, I decided to delve into computer science, attending hackathons and technology conferences around the world while working at four technology startup companies in the San Francisco area, most recently at Stripe. After some time in Silicon Valley, I moved to New York City to immerse myself in an industry diverse environment and to pursue both my machine learning and non-technical interests at Recess Labs. I enjoy taking a nonlinear, more challenging path to achieve my goals.

Why INVANTI?

INVANTI stands out to me because of the thoughtful approach taken to utilize technology and entrepreneurship towards revitalizing the South Bend area and the unique opportunities that exist to execute on creative ideas. I’ve been thinking about how to stay connected to both urban and non-urban areas in the US - it is important to me to maintain a holistic perspective of the diverse regions of our country in order to more fully understand political and technological trends. I’m looking forward to tying together all of my previous experiences in various parts of the world together to see what I can create in the heartland of America in six months.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I've been self studying political philosophy/theory, writing mini "book reports," reading magical realism books, baking pies and learning my mom's recipes, re-learning Chopin pieces on the piano, and training for obstacle courses and half marathons.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05966-2.jpg

Kyra McAndrews

What’s your background?

When I was 17 years old, I moved to Washington, D.C. for a semester to attend the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, where I learned about how to shape myself into a leader who could create positive change in the world. With weekly case studies on current national and international events and issues, I remember feeling like an observer – someone who could see the problem and not do anything about it. It wasn’t until I was tasked with creating a social venture that I found a vehicle through which I could create meaningful change. I am so grateful to have attended Claremont McKenna College, where I got the opportunity to cultivate an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship that ultimately led to Claremont McKenna's designationa as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. I then moved to Washington, D.C., where I most recently worked uniting policymakers with social entrepreneurs on the issues of education, workforce development, and pay for success.

Why INVANTI?

I am deeply passionate about making meaningful social impact to address some of society’s most pressing problems; however, as a member of the entrepreneurial community, I have been told to wait for my Aha! Moment, the idea for a start-up that would change everything. But I have never identified with that depiction of the entrepreneur. I'm someone who has experience and enthusiasm for venture development and social entrepreneurship with a knack for translating muddled start-up ideas into viable market opportunities. INVANTI's model of starting with the problems really resonates with me. The theme Cohort 2 is focusing on - small businesses - is also really important to me. While I have never started my own business, I have been on the teams of small business owners who have inspired me and helped shape who I am. I believe there is tremendous power in the small business owner and what s/he can do if given the tools to succeed. Along with the other INVANTI fellows, I am driven to work to remove the barriers facing owners and unleash the power of small businesses.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love finding new things, particularly places to eat, types of coffee I like, good beer. Moving to South Bend has kept me busy, with an entire new place to explore! In the past year, I learned how to row on the Anacostia River and I also love my time on the water.

LinkedIn | Blog

 
 
 
1DSC05981-2.jpg

Kristie Wickwire

What’s your background?

I am an arts enthusiast with a passion for helping creators realize their dreams. Originally from Athens, Georgia, I moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 2009 to study fine art and creative writing. After I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, I founded an online multimedia arts publication called Please Hold Magazine and became a co-organizer for the annual St. Louis Small Press Expo. My love of fostering creativity led me to the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, where I spearheaded the creative entrepreneurship initiative and attended conferences on social entrepreneurship, leadership, and creativity. I also have several years of experience working with clients in creative and tech industries as a consultant specializing in branding, marketing, and design.

Why INVANTI?

I was intrigued by INVANTI’s atypical model that invests in an entrepreneur’s potential to build something great rather than supporting those already working on an idea. INVANTI’s intensive, problem-driven approach also appeals to me. The most viable ventures begin with a thorough understanding of the market, so having early and frequent conversations with those most affected by a problem improves the chances of generating a solution that can truly make an impact. By granting aspiring entrepreneurs the time, space, and resources they need to succeed, INVANTI is cultivating a supportive environment where exceptional businesses can take shape. I’m excited to go through the process and see what we create.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to observe creativity in the world: dining out at restaurants, exploring art exhibits, listening to live music, browsing bookstores, seeing movies, etc. When I’m home, I can often be found playing games, solving puzzles, and dreaming up art projects.

LinkedIn | Blog