Up To Date
11:19 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Entrepreneurs Overcome Obstacles, Boost Local Economy

Since the 1970s, small businesses have provided a net of two-thirds of all new jobs. Today, they create 55 percent of all jobs in this country. Three local entrepreneurs, who make up part of this trend, appeared on Up to Date to talk about about starting and sustaining a small business in the Kansas City area.

Donna Yadrich, founder of AudreySpirit
How can you make a horrible situation feel more comfortable? Donna Yadrich, founder of AudreySpirit, knows how. She has designed a clothing line that's both functional and fashionable for teens who undergo long stays in the hospital. These therapeutic garments help nurses get around invasive medical devices without having to disconnect them or contort the patient’s body into uncomfortable positions. And most of all, the clothing looks “normal.”

  • What was your main reason for starting this business?

My experience with my teenage daughter, Audrey, who had a lot of serious illnesses and passed away at age 15. By offering these items, we work to make people in horrible situations comfortable. Through Audrey's spirit, I hope to continue my daughter’s mission: to make difficult times her peers must face as personable, comfortable and empowering as possible.

  • What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome to launch?

I did not realize how disparate manufacturing things are. It was a different world from what I’m used to. I had to find a supplier for each specialty aspect I wanted. I had to learn about clothing of which I knew nothing. I can’t sew and had to learn how each fabric behaves. There's a learning curve of garment manufacturing.

  • What’s your next “big thing” or plan to move forward?

A hospital buying group contacted me and invited me to an annual innovation summit. This group supplies 46 percent of pediatric hospital beds in the United States. It would afford me much larger distribution opportunities.  

  Ryan Bennet, vice president of Idle Smart

Most semi truck drivers leave their trucks on overnight to control the cab temperature and operate small machines like fridges, microwaves and even sleep apnea devices. Ryan Bennet, along with other founding members of Idle Smart, was looking for an investment opportunity. Now the company is automatically stopping and starting big rig engines to reduce overnight idle time, provide year-round cab comfort and maintain fleet uptime.

  • What was your main reason for starting this business?

We saw an opportunity to provide a technical solution. A truck mechanic with a shop was servicing a lot of big rigs for extended and over-idling of the vehicles. He designed and built his own version of an idling monitor. We purchased his patent and intellectual property, redesigned it with data from trucks’ computers and came up with the version we now offer. We've been selling this for about 15 months. Things started to click in January, and we've been selling out of monthly inventory since.  It’s our only product right now.

  • What’s your next “big thing” or plan to move forward?

We’ve been concentrating on Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska due to their proximity to us. Now, we're starting to expand out to the northeast and east of the Mississippi.  

Mike Farmer - CEO of Leap.it
Online search engines an be messy, impersonal and just plain ugly. Mike Farmer, CEO of Leap.it, has created a unique search experience. Instead of just relying on keyword-based algorithms, Leap.it also pulls together real-time social media streams that help users find sets of search results that are timely and relevant to them.

  • How long have you been in business?

We were founded in 2011. We wanted to take a completely new look at the search business. There are four things that set us apart from other search engines. First, we provide users with visual representations of web pages. Second, Leap.it looks at what’s going on in social media and favors real time results. Third, users can curate by dragging and dropping their own search results. Fourth, users can distribute their search results.

  • How do you think your businesses impacts the local community?

We've been a leader in the Kansas City Startup Village and active in the community with a lot of different initiatives. We were featured on the front page of The New York Times, which put a good story out there for Kansas City.

  • What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome to launch?

We always need fast iteration. The market changes every day. The product you release today could need to change tomorrow, so we are always ready for that.

  • How do tech companies like you make money?

Leap.it is a search company, like Google. Search is a $16 billion industry, mainly because it creates opportunities for highly relevant advertising to users. Once we gather enough users, we will show ads that reflect what our users are actually searching for.

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