Zeal accelerator’s graduating startups share what’s next

This piece is presented by the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

Four Sioux Falls-area startup companies are graduating from the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship Growth Accelerator program later this month after a summer spent developing strategies, marketing plans and gaining advice from mentors.

The program’s goal is to kickstart new businesses through a 12-week intensive program so that each business leaves prepared for a new phase of growth.

To attend their graduation program and meet the entrepreneurs, click here.

After learning about the ideas, aspirations and accomplishments of each business over the summer, here’s what they’ve learned and what their plans are post-grad.

Well365

Trisha Dohn presents about her business at 1 Million Cups.

Well365 helps businesses create customized wellness programs. After a career in corporate health care, Trisha Dohn saw a need that she knew she could fill: helping businesses provide resources for employees to become happier and healthier in the workplace. Dohn uses an online portal, in-person health coaching and other initiatives to help each employee focus on well-being, whether that be physical health, financial or prevention of chronic disease. With many businesses partnering with insurance companies to address wellness, Dohn said that as an independent partner she can work with any company to not only create a custom program but also provide solutions for long-term company health.

Owner: Trisha Dohn

What’s your biggest takeaway from the accelerator?

Marketing strategies, understanding how to scale my business, how to grow my business, how to financially succeed and strategically place all strategies for success.  

Where did you notice the accelerator making the most difference in your business?

Networking and connecting with resources and business leaders throughout the community as well as working with Lawrence & Schiller marketing.  

What’s your pitch for why investors should fund you?

My pitch is not for investors to fund Well365, rather my pitch is to business leaders to gain strategic buy-in and assistance to grow my business.

Strategic buy-in will hopefully leverage the number of clients I am able to get in front of to share how Well365 can improve a company’s wellness culture. It will also allow me to spread the word on the importance of wellness in the workplace and how it enhances morale, productivity, absenteeism and retention, and lowers health care costs.

What’s next for you?  

Continue to grow our list of Well365 clients; sell our services and grow our business partnerships/relationships. I also just wanted to say I can’t thank the folks at Zeal enough for the opportunity. The entire team at Zeal has been amazing, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity as well as the time and dedication they have put in to see us accelerator participants grow and be successful for years to come.

Gravana 605

Owners: Kelly Andrews, Derek Hackett, Brad Hartzler and Amanda Olinger

Amanda Olinger, Brad Hartzler and Kelly Andrews founded Gravana 605.

Gravana 605 is the brainchild of middle school educators Kelly Andrews, Brad Hartzler and Amanda Olinger, along with software developer Derek Hackett. What began as discussions about how to effectively teach grammar to middle school students so they could demonstrate good writing habits has become a certified curriculum used by the two Harrisburg middle schools. The team of four hopes to see Gravana 605 used by more teachers in surrounding school districts, with big plans to continue impacting education.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the accelerator?

The biggest takeaway for our company has been twofold. One, we have developed connections in the business world, which normally do not exist in the 7:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. educational world, and we have become exposed and have developed a business viewpoint and becoming experienced in business operations. Two, we have developed a confidence in our product and its market power and placement. Moving forward, Gravana feels confident in its approach to sales, education and business goals. The accelerator program truly helped us focus on one marketplace and brainstorm ways to get into that market space. Before the accelerator, we weren’t sure where to go next or how to get there (into the market space), but after the accelerator experience we are laser focused, and we have a clear plan for connecting with our consumer base.

Where did you notice it making the most difference in your business?

The biggest difference in our business has been the approach we have taken with in getting our product in schools. We feel it is important that the power of Gravana reaches as many users as possible.

What’s your pitch for why investors should fund you?

The pitch we have planned for our investors focuses on our proven track record of sales, the current market expansion plan and the development of our product we have been making over the course of the Zeal Growth Accelerator. By focusing on these three items, we feel investors will see the power of Gravana and how the company continues to capitalize on our momentum. 

What’s next for you?

Gravana has been on the road talking with school districts, English teachers and every other stakeholder who may be interested in the product and setting up pilots in exchange for school data, product feedback and overall customer feedback. We plan to attend conferences, present at conferences, set up booths, present at in-services and set up meetings with schools so that we can share our fabulous product with teachers and schools. 

Jobiki

Owner: Alex Guggenberger

About a year ago, Alex Guggenberger started brainstorming a new idea for a job website along with his brother Nathan. That idea grew into Jobiki: an online search tool that allows job-seekers to find the right company match, based on factors like culture, benefits and purpose. After launching the site a few weeks ago, Guggenberger not only has his sights set on growth but also on refining Jobiki to better meet the needs of users.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the accelerator? Where did you notice it making the most difference in your business?

The biggest takeaway is the importance of connections. The connections we have gained at Zeal and the network we now have access to is crucial to building our business. Being in the job and hiring space, the entrepreneurship community is a great resource, as it understands the intricacies and complications with hiring. The connections that Zeal helped us build have allowed us to expand our reach for Jobiki.

What’s your pitch for why investors should fund you?

A vast majority of the job-search platforms exist to benefit companies, not the job-seeker. Each online job post is actually a gate that opens and floods the organization with applicants.The problem: it never addresses the one always-thought question during an interview. Is this candidate a good cultural fit? By providing job-seekers with a tool to explore companies by purpose, benefits, amenities and impact, job-seekers can assess their cultural fit at the beginning of the process.

Jobiki is building a platform obsessed over helping career rookies navigate the daunting process, identify target companies and pursue their best fit.

What’s next for you?

Learn, build and iterate. Since we’ve launched a first version, it’s more important now to listen and learn, rather than just build for the sake of building.

Bravo Youth Sports LLC

Owner: Scott Perkins

Scott Perkins wants the Bravo Board to become the household name for portable scoreboards. The full-functioning, LED message board allows sports teams to keep track of scores, regardless of venue, while also displaying custom ads from advertisers. His goal is to have 1,000 Bravo Boards up and running in about five years. To reach that goal, Perkins plans on using the skills and knowledge he has gained at Zeal.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the accelerator?

My biggest takeaway from the accelerator program is the incredible resources. When I say resources, I mean the people at Zeal and their community partners. The knowledge they share, the connections they create, and facilities and solutions they offer us are so amazing.

Where did you notice the biggest difference in your business?

For my business, the biggest impact I can see thus far is in the marketing and community connections. The impact from these areas has created more awareness not only in Sioux Falls but also outlying towns. By working with the Lawrence & Schiller marketing team, Bravo Youth Sports has benefited from their years of strong marketing ideas and strategies. We are excited to see the results of their efforts.

What’s your pitch for why investors should fund you?

It’s kind of hard to “sum” up in short statement; however, my pitch to investors is Bravo Youth Sports has created a product for a market that has missed a vital component of youth sports. Across the U.S., there are many youth clubs, high schools, activity centers, churches and even sports bars that are looking at ways to integrate the Bravo Board to bring together sponsors and sports participants, and new customers. By providing them with an portable, easy-to-use product, the Bravo Board gives customers a new avenue to engage and retain customers.

What’s next for you?

The next phase of Bravo Youth Sports is to take new ideas and connections and parlay them into Bravo Board sales here in South Dakota and across the U.S. Bravo Youth Sports has a strong vision and a product road map for the future.

Zeal accelerator’s graduating startups share what’s next

We met them 12 weeks ago as startups. Here’s what happened after they went through the Zeal Growth Accelerator.

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