Why I #StartupKC: Rebecca Dove, Jacqueline Hunter and Christina Williams
Happy Women’s History Month! To kickoff the month long celebration, we asked three of our friends why they chose to start businesses in Kansas City. From edtech to personal care, each of these entrepreneurs has a heart for helping others find and embrace their best selves. Get ready to be inspired:
Rebecca Dove, Pennez
Pennez is an online platform that helps children read by curating diverse stories, developing curriculum, creating artificial intelligence software, and producing storytelling events.
Jacqueline Hunter, Sew In Piece Alterations & Upholstery
Sew in Piece helps customers display their personal look and style through clothes alterations and custom furniture upholstery and is located in the River Market neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.
Christina Williams, Posh Restoration Facilities
Posh Restoration Facilities provides treatment and solutions for hair loss, scalp disorders and skin conditions. It is located in the West 39th District of Kansas City, Missouri.
What’s your entrepreneurial origin story?
Jacqueline: I worked a full-time job for quite some time before deciding to go out on my own. I finally decided to move forward with my business with the help of The Family Conservancy. I was able to determine that I had a feasible business concept. I took three years to complete a business education course and to complete my savings match. It was well worth it. I would encourage everyone that has the desire to become an entrepreneur to follow their dream.
Rebecca: When I was an educator, it bothered me seeing my students have reading challenges year after year, and their results were comparative to the national norm. It broke my heart that my colleagues and I had to “pass” the children onto a higher grade just because they passed the basics. Even though we were passing them because of the mandates, they were not being set up for success. So I knew that I wanted to give students a better way to learn to read.
What’s a lesson you learned the hard way?
Christina: I made the mistake of hiring too early. As an entrepreneur starting a business, most of the responsibilities are going to fall to you. I tried to grow my team too quickly before I had a handle on what team members were essential. I eventually made the decision to end the position before it caused a financial detriment to my business.
Jacqueline: During our first few months, I learned very quickly the importance of having cash on hand. I had to make a choice to move to a smaller, less expensive location and try to build back up to a larger location. I felt like it was a step down, but I was blessed when I moved, it has actually improved my business.
What entrepreneurial support organizations have you worked with in Kansas City?
FastTrac® TechVenture™—I developed a clearer plan for my business strategy and wrote out ways to scale and grow our technology. (Provided by the UMKC SBTDC.)
UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars Program—This program covers so many important topics, including marketing strategies, legal plans and financial analysis.
Sprint Accelerator—I had a great experience in their mentor network program. I appreciated the flexibility and freedom to create the agenda and set the objectives.
UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC)—I love working with my advisor, Sally Williams. She has given me tremendous business development and research support.
The Lean Lab—I participated in a Startup Weekend EDU they produced. This event allowed the community to hear my vision for Pennez. It gave me my firsthand experience in pitching my business idea (and my team placed second!)
AltCap–I attended the Workshop In Business Opportunities (WIBO) class, which helped me tremendously in successfully starting my business.
OfficePort KC–My business is in OfficePort KC’s River Market location. We have been blessed with such awesome networking opportunities and wonderful customers that we are moving into a larger suite after only about a month!
UMKC SBTDC–I was referred to the SBTDC via AltCap because I was seeking help with my small marketing budget. I received very beneficial marketing strategies that I have been able to implement for no or low cost.
What advice do you have for people thinking about starting their own business?
Christina: Believe in yourself, create a plan and stay consistent with your vision—you will see results. You may not get it right at first (in fact, you probably won’t.) But just keep working at it, asking for help and learning from your mistakes, and eventually you’ll build a business you can be proud of.
Rebecca: If you are thinking about starting a business, find an industry that you are passionate about. Next, talk to stakeholders who understand that industry. Attend startup events and view behaviors that you like and dislike. Remain involved and visible in order to stay connected and to validate if this journey is for you. Being involved is very important, because living the journey will prove if you can continue.
What does success mean to you?
Jacqueline: Success is doing what makes you happy, while providing for your family and yourself. I believe very strongly that you must help your community and share forward all of the blessings that you receive.
Christina: Success is getting up every day and not only showing up, but being present—for myself, my employees and my customers. My children inspire me to continue the long, rough journey of entrepreneurship by allowing me the opportunity to do so through great sacrifice.
Rebecca: Success is keeping up with your goals—keep your mission and vision clearly written down and follow through. Some days will be a challenge and sticking to your goals will move you through those plateaus.
What’s your big dream for your business?
Jacqueline: The big dream for my business is to grow large enough to provide several jobs to help the community prosper. I would also like to provide free sewing classes to those that are unable to pay for classes.
Christina: My goal is to develop a franchise model. I want to provide careers to hardworking people and look forward to serving millions of customers throughout the world
Rebecca: I want to build a community with Pennez, and hire talent to impact children’s, parents’, and educators’ lives. When I started my company, I realized that I wanted to improve my life and the lives of others.
As an entrepreneur, I don’t have a salary or benefits, but I am happier than ever. Why? Each day, my success is determined by my efforts. Will I ignore the person who walks by? Will I make the next call or stop for the day? Will I stop and introduce myself to the stakeholder at the networking event or just smile and say hello?
I am an entrepreneur because I want to build a stronger community and a better world. It’s a difficult job, but it’s really worth it.
Keep up with Jacqueline and Sew in Piece at her website and Facebook page.
Follow Rebecca at www.pennez.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Visit Christina at the Posh Restoration Facilities website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Ready to start your own entrepreneurial journey?
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and we will be in touch with your personalized action plan. What does it take to succeed? Putting one foot in front of the other. Take your first step today.