Startup Feature: Handstand

WHO THEY ARE

“Handstand is a trainer/instructor on-demand app that makes it easy for even the busiest of people to workout effectively. Our trainers provide all the equipment if you choose to workout at home or a park, or you can visit a partner gym on our app. Some people even use their apartment gym. We’re any time and any place. We have session types that range from Pilates, Yoga, Boxing, Tone Up Butt, Legs, & Core classes. It’s your workout on demand from the best trainers in your city.”

HOW HANDSTAND WAS BORN  aa2

I was a workout addict and played sports for years, but when you enter the real world, your time for fitness and other things becomes limited. To make it short, I just wanted a workout when I wanted it – and I wanted results. I didn’t have time to make it to a lot of classes that I wanted, and even if I did, it was stressful, not working. So I hired my first trainer, learned about the industry, and when the idea hit me, I was paranoid, quit my job, launched a website, joined Science Inc., a tech incubator in Santa Monica, and got started.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE  

All of the texts, emails, calls, notes, reviews, everything from your customers and for us, our trainers, about how much our product has changed their lives. They’re changing their health, which changes lives. We’re making it efficient, convenient, affordable, accessible, and therefore, possible for anyone.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

There are lots of obstacles daily, hourly, weekly – and they’ll never stop, because we’ll keep pushing the envelope. Take a look at Uber – they face obstacles to this day. I keep pushing – some great advice from my dad. If someone says no, ask again, ask someone else, do it yourself. Just find a way to do it.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS aa3

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, I’d say – don’t be scared to get your idea out there. Pitch it, ask questions and get criticism. No one is going to steal your idea. And if you’re scared they will, then you had better get started, right? Make a website tomorrow. Squarespace is awesome.”

Startup Feature: Fulfilling Catering

WHAT THEY DO

“Fulfilling is revolutionizing how food is consumed in America—for every meal purchased, we donate one meal to someone in need. Operating in every major US Market, Fulfilling books food trucks for private events and schedules trucks at corporate office parks that lack food amenities.”

HOW FULFILLING WAS BORN  

“After studying entrepreneurship at USC, I spent several years in the food truck industry managing events, attending food truck festivals and sampling various cuisines. While the food truck industry temporarily satisfied my palate for an exciting, innovative career, I again grew hungry. Looking to fill this void, I sought to develop a business built on a sense of purpose.

It was during this time that I met the founder of ‘Mary’s Meals’ and learned about their mission to solve world hunger as documented in Child 31. I was struck by the staggering problem of childhood hunger against the backdrop of plenty that surrounded me. Inspired by the vision, I devised the foundation for a new business venture: one meal donated for each meal sold.”

RECENT SUCCESSES

“Fulfilling recently donated our 75,000th meal, and reached a milestone of managing 50 events per week.”

MOST REWARDING PART OF BUILDING A STARTUP  Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 2.36.20 PM

“Creating a culture.

Having experienced the confinement of working for organizations that lack a clearly defined purpose or direction, I have a thorough understanding of the importance of company culture.

Combining this passion with my natural disposition as big picture thinker has made engineering the culture, vision and purpose of Fulfilling very enjoyable.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES 

“Our website application took much longer to build than expected.

About 1 year after launching the business, we were growing quickly and didn’t have the infrastructure to handle the amount of events we were managing. I mapped out an application that organizes the data and automates the processes involved in scheduling events. I was anxious to get the application built and jumped the gun on hiring a development team. Unfortunately, “It takes twice as long as costs twice as much” held true. The company I hired overpromised and under delivered, and 4 months after the expected delivery date, we were still without a functional product.

We ended up hiring a new developer to pick up where to old one left. In the meanwhile I improvised, hiring an admin assistant to help with the overload in work.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Build a team of people who share your vision and start window-shopping immediately. Anticipate potential needs and start talking with potential partners—marketing companies, web development companies, business partners, etc—long before you’re ready to bring them aboard. Finding the right people to work with takes longer than expected. Get the conversations going early so that when the time comes to utilize their services, the research phase is already handled and you just need to pull the trigger. startupsecrets_share

Careers are too short to learn everything through trial and error, which is why it’s important to surround yourself with a team of mentors. This is as true for business as it is for life. In terms of business, develop a network of advisors with diverse backgrounds. Ideally, have a separate mentor for each of the following areas—marketing strategy, technology/logistics management, tax/accounting, law, fundraising, and management. Obviously that won’t be possible when you’re first starting off, but as your network grows, the variety of industries you’re tied to will follow.”

 

 

 

 

Startup Feature: 121C Boards

WHAT THEY DO

“121C collects waste carbon fiber from companies in the aerospace industry and upcycles the material to make the highest quality skateboards on the market. Our boards are light, incredibly strong and a blast to  ride.”

HOW 121C WAS BORN

“At first I wanted to make carbon fiber skateboards with the scrap that the rocket lab was generating, and when I realized how big of a problem carbon waste was for the industry, I knew I had to start a business.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“We recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for $44,000 and have been signing on new companies to collect material from. We’ve also been featured in articles on USC’s website.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

“Half way through our kickstarter campaign, our manufacturer bailed on us and we had to lease a facility and bring everything in house. At first, this was a challenge, but it ended up being a blessing. “

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Be prepared to work a ton.”

Download a PDF version of this page

Startup Feature: Y Athletics

WHAT THEY DO

“Y Athletics is a men’s premium activewear brand. We spend most of our time on developing new products by incorporating the latest technology and innovations in material sciences. Once we’re satisfied with our products, we usually kick off a crowdfunding campaign to bring the products to life. This helps us gauge the demand for the products and of course also provides us with the funding to manufacture them.”

HOW Y ATHLETICS WAS BORN

“My partner, Sam, who also happens to be a trojan alum, came up with the idea when he was trying to buy a new workout shirt. He was confused by all the options provided by the existing retailers and no single product seemed to stand out from the crowd in terms of quality and functionality. So, that’s what led him to start exploring different avenues to build the best workout shirt himself.”

RECENT SUCCESSES

“In our first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, we raised $250k in pre-orders for our shirts. Since then, we’ve launched our own online store and launched two more campaigns on Kickstarter. In total, we’ve sold about $1.3 million worth of activewear over the past 24 months.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“The fact that people genuinely love the products we make. The satisfaction of running into someone wearing a Y Athletics product and talking about how much they love it… or a friend telling me how much his father loves his YA gear. Our core community of backers on Kickstarter usually write back to us to tell us how much they love our products. So that experience overall has been amazing.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES 

“We’ve faced obstacles in the past where larger manufacturers have tried to cut off our supply chain. That led to a few months of confusion, legal battles and of course letting our customers down since our shipments were delayed. Our current obstacles are mainly around trying to scale the current operations. Unlike something that’s purely software, it’s much harder to scale the physical infrastructure required to scale our operations.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Amongst students, you usually run into two types of people – people who think that they’d never be able to pull off starting their own business because “they’re just not the type,” and then those that are so in love with their ideas that they lose touch with reality and refuse to test out whether there’s actually a market, need or demand for the product they’re building. So, the only advice I would give is to think from a problem-first mentality, and then work backwards to figure out the best solution. Most of the time, people fall in love with a solution rather than a problem.”

Download a PDF version of this page

2016 Innovation Coast Competition

USC Marshall’s Innovation Coast Competition is seeking applicants to present their product or service innovations in consumer products, media, software and medical devices. Up to $45,000 in cash awards will be presented to the winners at this year’s competition, which will take place on May 17th on USC’s campus. Applications will be accepted through March 31st.

This is not an angel or venture capital pitch competition, so typical questions regarding financial forecasts and cash needs will not be asked. Judges will have deep product and service innovation track records from companies of all sizes.

Learn more about the competition: http://usccompetition2016.startupcompete.co/

USCM_Innov_Conf_Flyer

SoGal Marketing Special: Your Startup Deserves More Traction

Are you an early-stage startup? Do you need a low-cost marketing plan? SoGal will help you overcome these obstacles and more during their panel, mixer and workshop event this weekend that aims to support budding entrepreneurs with crucial marketing insights. You’ll learn how to build traffic, foster brand awareness and acquire customers.
Speakers will include:
  • Julie Thorne Engels, Founder and CEO of Tribement (a creative marketing company)
  • Linsey Heisser, Partner and Managing Director of Tribement
  • Audrey Bellis, Founder of Worthy Women and StartupDTLA
  • Eric Rice, CEO Of TrepScore
  • Ann Wang, CEO & Co-Founder Of Enrou
  • Ron Miller, Partner At StartEngine and CEO Of Disability Group, Inc.

When: Saturday, March 26th from 1-5PM

Where: Waite Philips Hall at USC

More about speaker lineup and event website: https://sogalmarketing.splashthat.com/

MentorMint Wins Startup of the Year at SXSW

Trojan startup MentorMint won ‘Startup of the Year’ at Tech.Co’s seventh annual SXSW pitch competition. MentorMint offers its users the opportunity to connect with expert mentors for career coaching in users’ fields of interest.

MentorMint was one among three winners that received an invitation to Tech.Co’s global startup competition, the Celebrate Conference. In addition to the invite, they’ll also receive the following prizes:

  • AA Business Extra Points from American Airlines;
  • Copies of Steve Case’s new book The Third Wave;
  • Hosting credits for 12 months from IBM;
  • Routers from Belkin; and
  • An invitation to join Salesforce’s Salesforce for Startups.

Congratulations to MentorMint on their success at SXSW!

Startup Feature: Cropsticks


Cropsticks

Interview with co-founder Jay Chang


WHAT THEY DO

“Cropsticks are eco-friendly, “mind-blowing” disposable chopsticks. It’s the utensil you’ve always known, made better.”

CROP PRIMARY

c2HOW CROPSTICKS WAS BORN

“Chopsticks were invented in ancient China as early as the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BCE) and possibly even earlier during the Xia dynasty. In nearly 4000 years, no one has truly innovated the way we use chopsticks. The idea for Cropsticks first came to inventor Mylen Fe Yamamoto as she was on a flight to Asia in April 2015 and her chopsticks kept rolling off the dirty tray table. She thought that there must be an easier way to keep her chopsticks in place.

Then the horizontal breakaway holder was born! After doing more research, she found out that over 20 millions trees go into production to create the wooden disposable utensil. So it became a goal to produce it sustainably from fast growing bamboo. Mylen and Jay met in 2013 when Jay was producing the DiscoverMe conference. Jay’s family background has been in manufacturing bamboo housewares for the past 15+ years through TotallyBamboo.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“Seeing thoughts become reality and it helps when you like the people you work with.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

“We’ve been working on Cropsticks since April last year. So when the chopstick meme of our similar idea went viral last month and challenged our product, we knew it was important to launch fast.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to get out there and talk to your first customers. Don’t be afraid that people will steal your idea. Don’t be afraid someone else is better than you or will beat you to market. Be cognizant of all of those things and use them to your advantage to clearly articulate your unique value proposition, and build the best product you can to solve your customer’s pain.”

c1SUCCESS STORIES

 

 

– Kickstarter at 40% in 5 days

– Interest from angel investors potential distribution partners and major restaurant chains

– Featured on NBC, NextShark, Hawaii Magazine, KITV4 ABC, Hawaii News Now and Folic Hawaii 

Download a PDF Version of this Feature

Startup Success Spotlight: HexCare CEO Alex Wormuth

 

alex2USC and Blackstone Launchpad alumnus Alex Wormuth, founder and CEO of HexCare, was one among a select group of top-tier finalists who made it to the closing rounds of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).

After winning the regional competition, HexCare advanced to the national finals in Miami, Florida.

Alex shared details about his experience at the GSEA. He said, “going through this process has taught me a lot about communicating my ideas and passions.”

The competition required business pitches from contending student founders and CEOs. While pitching is common practice at most startup competitions, the value of the exercise extends beyond its business utility.

Alex said, “pitching isn’t just about competition or money, it’s about sharing your ideas and passions with others. It’s a chance to connect others to your vision and excite them about it.”

Student entrepreneurs and startup founders enjoyed the opportunity to interact with one another throughout the course of the competition. Alex: “I was excited to meet other young entrepreneurs who are taking risks and making their ideas a reality.”

Congratulations to Alex and HexCare on their successful journey at the GSEA.

Global Recon Lecture 1: Swim in the Deep Water

If you didn’t surf today, you’re not the best surfer. Global Recon, Machine Shop Ventures’ 5-week lecture series at USC, kicked off with this wisdom from brand strategist Josh Madden. Madden has colored the brand histories of some of the biggest names in business and media, and on Tuesday night he offered students a one-of-a-kind crash course in the craft of building big ideas.

Here were Madden’s pro tips:

Tip #1: “If you Didn’t Surf Today, you’re Not the Best Surfer”

Madden made it clear: if you’re not working diligently at your craft every day, you’re not the best in the business today. He said, “If you do business every day, you know what business is.” The key to success in any venture is to actively pursue success and practice your craft daily. There are competitors around every corner, and the best barrier to their entry is competitive diligence. Madden says, “swim in the deep water.”

Business diligence also sustains the heartbeat of your network. “All the time you spend working on your company is how you become the person who knows everyone. That’s how you become linked. Because you’re surfing.” Persistence and repetition are key.

pro

Tip #2: Support the Newcomers

You should network with creators before they get big. Madden said, “if you like something and you think it’s going to be huge, invest yourself in it.” This applies to your own venture, but also to the ideas of others in the startup ecosystem. It’s important to “support people that are new in business,” Madden said. You never know whose idea will take off; make connections early and invest in your long-term network.

Tip #3: “Apathy is Bad for Business”

There’s no value in working without passion. Madden talked about today’s bummer of business: “It’s a hand-me-down of bum-outs in business right now.” He called out the sunken disinterest of creators who’ve grown too comfortable and detached from the energy of creativity.

Tip #4: Curiosity is Key

Be a curious entrepreneur. Madden said, “It’s usually free to discover stuff. Go out there and meet people. Network, get in early and make friendships with people who are successful.” There’s value in expanding your friendships and channeling new perspectives. The experiences of those around you will only broaden your own. “Find something you like and do it all the time. Do something a lot and do it well. Do it often and build a job for yourself.”

Tip #5: Understand Social Media  

Your social media use must have purpose and context. Madden commented, “social media: if it’s not social, and it’s not media… what are you doing?” It’s important to understand the dynamics of social networks in order to post relevant and meaningful content. There’s a desperate attempt by brands to break through the noise, and posting memes isn’t an end-all social strategy. Madden asks an important question: “what are memes even for?”

Tip #6: Insights, Insights, Insights

Every idea should be rooted in insight. Madden said, “strategies come from insights. If you can present a strategy built on insights, you can convince anyone of anything. Giving insights is the way you get to where you want to go.” You can’t force an idea if it’s not intuitive. Find reasons for why you want to build your idea, and “make sure your idea satisfies those reasons.”