Kim Plank, most recently the Midwest Regional Director at Captains of Innovation
Kim Plank is well-known in the St. Louis innovation community as the Midwest Regional Director of the Captains of Innovation program and Venture Cafe Global Institute. Previously the General Manager of CIC St. Louis and Director with the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Kim Plank works with entrepreneurs, innovators, funders and service providers to help create a greater St. Louis.
Featured Speakers/Local Partners
Akeem Shannon, Founder of flipstik
Flipstik is a St. Louis startup that lets you stick or mount your phone to nearly any flat surface. It was created by Akeem Shannon, a St. Louis native. Flipstik’s trademarked Synthetic Setae adhesive is reusable thousands of times and when it gets dirty, can be cleaned with just water. The patented flipstik design also allows it to double as a kickstand for even more functionality. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign, Flipstik was featured on KMOX, Fox 2 News and other local outlets.
Ryan Sim, Co-Founder of We The People
Ryan co-founded WTP with Nison Chan, Joel Liew, and Jay Kang in 2016 and functions as the Managing Director of Marketing and Business Development. In his role, Ryan manages and leads marketing strategies, messaging, and tactics for WTP. He is also the Co-Founder of Kisetsu, a maker of slim, stylish RFID-protected leather wallets, along with his childhood best friend Joel.
Working with creators and as a creator himself, Ryan has learned that the foundation of successful partnerships is communication and honesty. As he says in this American Express piece, “Face time is key. This builds trust and provides a good opportunity for high-level discussions. The benefits of this are simple—more trust. Trust means that you’ll have better access to stocks. It may even mean that you get priority. [But] there are no tricks. There are no fake personalities. You’ve just got to mean it.”
Caroline Fan, Chief Strategy Officer of LuxandNyx
Caroline Fan leads strategy, media, and partnerships for LuxandNyx, an up-and-coming luxury handbag line made for the modern professional woman (www.luxandnyx.com). She has led successful Kickstarter campaigns selling to 6 countries and 16 states. Also a strategic consultant and social entrepreneur, Caroline has over a decade’s worth of management experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Drew Nikonowicz, Co-Founder of Standard Cameras
Drew Nikonowicz, winner of the Aperture prize and numerous other awards, has launched Standard Cameras to help photographers gain a deeper understanding of our visual world. He is in the process of delivering The Standard 4×5, a 3D-printed large-format camera to Kickstarter backers. Drew was born in St. Louis and earned his BFA degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Drew is a photographer and tinkerer at heart, and he developed The Standard 4×5 over the past 4 years in his free time. He aims to improve arts education through Standard Cameras products and programming.
Henrik Hansen, Co-Creator of Nanobag & Nanopack
Tiptop Things Limited, the company behind the successfully crowdfunded Nanobag and Nanopack, is a group of friends working together to infuse everyday items with cutting edge technology. Our mission is to make quality products that you will love. In everything we do the environment is factored in, and we try to establish best practices in order to minimize negative impact. The company was founded by two friends, Ursus Negenborn and Rune Kippervik. They used to work in law and media, but felt that they were not contributing in the right direction with their old jobs. Around a year after the company founding, a third friend Henrik Hansen joined the team. With a background in business, he felt that he could help make a difference.
Meghan Winegrad, Founder of Generopolis
Meghan Winegrad is the founder of Generopolis, an online marketplace where people can buy and sell goods and services to support charities they love. It is the only tech startup in the US that turns people’s talents and stuff into cash for charity, serving up a special sauce of “volunteerism meets fundraising.” After a corporate career spent creating, renovating and scaling businesses for some of the world’s largest companies, Meghan has delighted in this transition from corporate innovation specialist to full-fledged entrepreneur. She carries with her a multitude of lessons learned from her “intrapreneur” experiences across all of her workplaces, including Express Scripts, General Mills, Omnicom and Interpublic.
Kim Moos, Founder of Cotton Cuts
Kim Moos has been quilting since she was 13 years old but sewing for as long as she could sit in a chair next to her mom. She teaches sewing and quilting in her neighborhood and looks forward to one day teaching her own boys. Cotton Cuts, a subscription-based service for quilters, is on a mission to create jobs. The company has partnered with a local workshop that provides dignified employment opportunities to the intellectually challenged and to those with other disabilities. A percentage of each purchase goes to buying supplies that help their Heart Builders team make quilts for kids in need.
Sarah Schlafy, co-founder of Mighty Cricket and MultiPass
As a “cereal” entrepreneur, Sarah Schlafly blends sustainability and wellness into all of the companies she’s founded. Her current companies include Mighty Cricket and MultiPass. Mighty Cricket is a sustainable foods CPG company that sells breakfast products infused with cricket protein powder. Products are sold online and locally in the St. Louis region. At MultiPass, a real estate technology company, Sarah directs the Innovative Spaces Association where she helps shared workspaces build community, diversity, sustainability, and wellness into their environments.
Shayba Muhammad, creator of Mahnal Jewelry and The Makers Program
Shayba Muhammad is a local metalsmith & owner and designer of Mahnal Jewelry. Shayba began design while studying fashion at the Institute of Art in Chicago. She worked as an accessory specialist and visual merchandiser focusing in jewelry for 3 years, before relocating back to St. Louis to study metalsmithing and jewelry full time. Mahnal is a collection of contemporary brass jewelry that explores forms and elements we find most meditative. Each piece’s organic imperfections reflect an embrace of living a slower, more intentional lifestyle. After launching Mahnal in 2016, Shayba now focuses her efforts on growth and adding to the local small business economy.
In the spirit of giving back, we partnered with local non-profits to strengthen community-wide initiatives that make a positive difference.
Jessica Adams, MSW, Executive Director of the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank
Jessica came up with the idea for the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank after hearing a story on the radio about the prevalence of diaper need across the country. Stories of families across the country making tough choices between diapers and food or medicine, even having to reuse soiled diapers because they couldn’t afford to buy more struck a chord with Jessica. When she found out that St. Louis didn’t already have a diaper bank, Jessica decided to start one herself. From 2014 to 2018, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank has grown from distributing 50,000 diapers a year to 1.5 million diapers per year.
Lynette Watson, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Empowerment Center
Lynette is experienced in business development, management consulting, nonprofit organizations, negotiations, business planning, life and business coaching. She consults with local startups and diverse entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area and at the Missouri Small Business Development Centers. The Small Business Empowerment Center (SBEC) provides services to small business owners and being the conduit for strategic partnership between multiple economic development agencies and entrepreneurship support programs.
Gina Baldwin, Founder of App2Speak, M.S., CCC-SLP
Gina is a Licensed Speech Pathologist and a St. Louis Native with over 30 years’ experience practicing in a variety of health care environments. After searching everywhere and not finding the tool she envisioned to help individuals with speech impairments, Gina designed and created a software application called APP2Speak™. APP2Speak is a recognized resource by Assistive Technology of Australia, MO Assistive Technology, and over 25 additional state Assistive Technology Organizations. In May, APP2Speak™ made local TV headlines providing St. Louis Police Officer Gary Glasby a means to communicate with his family and friends.
Jeff Frankel, Assistant Vice President at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
Jeff manages the St. Louis EDP’s $100 million New Markets Tax Credit Community Development Entity, Heartland Regional Investment Fund, LLC, and also supports its EB-5 Regional Center, Gateway to the Midwest Investment Center. In addition, Jeff serves as the Chief Compliance Officer of Nvsted, ensuring the platform’s activities are in line with federal guidelines under Title III of the Jobs Act.
Ed Schneider, Organizer of StartLouis
StartLouis is an Entrepreneur Support Organization that supports the startup community in the Greater St. Louis area and beyond. Its vision is to support the St. Louis Area Community Ecosystem with startups, entrepreneurs, resources, and investors. Ed has a history of working with startups, non-profit organizations, and others that support the startup community. A graduate of Kirkwood High School, Ed holds a BS in Marketing and Management from Missouri State University.
Ched Wagner, Manager of Nvsted
Ched oversees the daily operations of the funding platform, including origination, company onboarding, cash flow management, compliance monitoring, and marketing. Prior to Nvsted, Ched was a personal banker for Wells Fargo in Southern California where he specialized as a Business Advocate, helping small businesses manage their finances.
Nvsted is an innovative, new online funding portal that provides a way for investors to help fund area start-ups. The St. Louis-centric crowdfunding marketplace is FINRA-approved and open to St. Louis-based businesses and investors across the United States. Nvsted is unique; it is the only Regulation Crowdfunding marketplace specific to the St. Louis region and the first in the nation organized by an economic development agency.
Quotes and Highlights
Henrik Hansen, on the importance of communication working with partners:
- “Open communication is one of the key factors of our success. You’re able to give and take each other’s critical feedback, and even though it may hurt a little, it’s still makes the company grow.”
Akeem Shannon, on how he planned for his post-campaign product launch:
- “One thing I hated about Kickstarter was how long it took to get my product…so for me, I had mapped out everything. As soon as the funds arrived in our account, we were ready to go to manufacturing.”
Drew Nikonowicz, on how much you should plan before launching your product:
- “I think it’s really a question of how risky you want to be: are you a gambler or aren’t you? If you don’t have [the product fulfillment plan] lined up beforehand, you’re gambling in your ability to find and acquire those manufacturers. …For me [regarding a special camera component], I had a supplier lined up, I bought samples, and I had that ready. It meant that this really critical component of what I was making was decided before I had to order 700.”
Caroline Fan, on the importance of prototyping and having models to show:
- “If Lisa did not have a prototype, I would not have joined her company. When I met her and I saw the bag, I said, ‘That bag is better than 100 people’s final product–I can’t believe that’s the prototype!’”
Ryan Sim, on why targeting large retailers for new products may not work:
- “So you create a product and…you want to put your product into stores, right? First thing you think about is ‘I’ve got to put this in Walmart’ or something like that. Except that dream dies really quickly because if you do manage to get into Walmart, great, but the problem is zero brand equity. People are not going to find your product because it’s stacked in shelves: the discovery isn’t there...very minimal. The impact is nothing compared to if you rent a booth and you stand and talk to people about your product: you’ll get more feedback and people loving your brand in 1 day than 1 month in Walmart.”
Shayba Muhammad, on how to network and branch out:
- “I specialize with the arts and artisanal makers. Getting out of those networks and crossing paths with other people, coming to events like [FCBC] where entrepreneurship is encouraged, and…rubbing elbows with other people that are involved in the community, that’s the best way to do it.”