Dr. Ish: Use dating apps then BeSafeMeds for STD

PRACTICAL MEDICINE: Dr. Olusegun Ishmael (pictured here with a nurse colleague) launched BeSafeMeds, a telemedicine app that creates treatment options for the more than 20 million Americans who contract STDs annually. FOUNDERSWIRE PHOTO


CHICAGO—It took an ER doctor on a work trip to look around and realize: What happens in Vegas definitely does not stay in Vegas.

“What happens is, you take it home with you, and you spread it,” says Dr. Olusegun Ishmael—or Dr. Ish as he’s affectionately known. His comfortable, familiar manner is an occupational requirement, as he takes in stride a seriously uncomfortable reality on a daily basis.

He is an urgent care physician as well as the founder of BeSafeMeds, a web-based app that treats sexually transmitted diseases through telemedicine—from wherever a patient happens to be when they realize they’ve been affected. The service currently serves Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Missouri and New Mexico.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates in the United States have reached a record high, with 1.5 million chlamydia cases reported; nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea; and nearly 24,000 cases of syphilis. You can point, anecdotally at least, to online dating apps and the ease of finding partners, Ishmael tells FoundersWire in a recent interview at WeWork Kinzie.

One in two people under the age of 25 are now diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases,” says Ishmael, who earned his medical degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and his MBA from Purdue. “As we are becoming a more tech-enabled society, we have way less interpersonal relationships. Dating has become swipe right/swipe left, without that six degrees of separation that used to happen.”

So 50 percent of potential partners are carrying an invisible communicable disease. “If I’m under 25, I’m 21 or 22, in college or a young professional, it’s like flipping a coin. Wow, that’s bad,” Ishmael says.

He mentions an acquaintance preparing for a trip to Seattle. “He pulls out his phone, I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m going to find a date.’ That’s the society we live in. You could go into the U.K., Europe, wherever and find a match. They’re all over the world. You could go from one place to another and literally bring (an STD) and spread it.”

So he created an app where patients—from anywhere—can access a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, then direct them to the most convenient pharmacy where medication can be picked up.

“We made the app web-based, that was a decision we made,” Ishmael says. The last thing people want, understandably, is to have something on their phones that identifies them as having an STD or even fearing the possibility. “ ‘Hey, that’s that STD app.’ Busted,” he says.

Since January 1, Ishmael says they’ve already consulted with more than 5,000 users on the site. “With 20 million annual cases of new STDs, there’s a huge population. At $20 a pop, that’s good revenue while we hit our mission to treat people who are unwilling or unable to access traditional care.”

Ishmael describes the user journey from the perspective of being in an unknown city, away from home and primary care network. “Let’s say I’m in Seattle, but I’m from Chicago. I don’t know the town, I don’t know where I’m at. But I need treatment,” he says. “So we have a geolocator function, on basically every smartphone, and a database of licensed providers and pharmacies—because the end solution is to get treatment.”

The site provides a diagnostic questionnaire to triage the severity of symptoms and risk, then the care provider contacts the user. Once the options are clear, treatment is the next step.

“The provider doesn’t have to spend time doing prescriptions, because we can transmit it to the pharmacy of your choice. That could be on the route to the airport. ‘Hey Uber or Lyft driver, can you just stop at this pharmacy here?’ It’s perfect, you can pick it up on your way to the plane.”

Ishmael says BeSafeMeds was designed to be efficient, convenient and private. “When I say convenient, you can do it on the fly, just like everything else. We order food, we get everything on Amazon, why not this, it’s the same thing,” he says.

Efficiency is a huge priority, he points out. Without new strategies to streamline patient care, more often, patients won’t be treated.

“In the next three years, we estimate we’re going to have at least a 90,000 deficit of physicians in the country, so who’s going to take care of people?” he asks. “I had a person in the emergency room who it took two-and-a-half hours to get an STD treatment, and all because I finally walked out and said, ‘You know what, come on back. I can get you in and I can get you out really quick.’ Because otherwise, he’s not an emergency.”

And privacy is so crucial to addressing an issue as rife with stigma as STDs.

“Patients are actually afraid to talk to their doctors,” Ishmael says. “(They worry we think): ‘I’ve been taking care of you for 20 years, and ugh, you’re nasty.’ But doctors truly don’t remember. I could see you at Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart and not know you; we turn it off as we walk out the door. But people don’t know that, and they don’t want people to know about this, it’s a stigma we have.

“We don’t like talking about it, we don’t even like talking about sex. We were discussing the whole topic as the product was rolling out, and someone said, ‘People are monogamous.’ I was like, ‘Which world do you live in?’ Swans are monogamous. Some fox are monogamous. We are not monogamous.

“But sex is great, sex is fun. When I talk to patients, I say, ‘We all make mistakes, we’re human.’ It goes back to that saying, to err is human. We do make mistakes. I come across patients, and I say, ‘Let’s deal with it and move on, and you never have to talk about it again.’ ”

Ishmael cautions users: The ideal treatment plan would be to go to a facility and get tested. But the problem is, “The people that tend to use the app are people who either don’t have (medical) access or choose not to.” He points to the common scenarios where patients check into the ER but by the time the doctor gets there, they’ve left. “Those are the people who are unable or unwilling to access traditional health care,” he says.

“Or a user calls in and says, ‘I’ve traveled on a business trip, I’m happily married, I made a mistake while I was traveling, I can’t go home without knowing.’ That person wants a prophylactic treatment.” So BeSafeMeds makes that possible.

Ishmael, whose specialty is patient-centric emergency medicine but also has experience as a medical director and vice president of care management on the insurance side, says he’s looking at other ways to use the provider network they’ve built, to scale the technology.

“We’re going take it to another disease state—not just STDs. Telemedicine is a paradigm shift. The medical industry is slow to adapt, we’re creatures of habit. We work how we are trained. But we have to meet the supply and demand.”

Especially with college back in session, he sees BeSafeMeds as a way to address many of the behaviors that put people at risk through sexuality. The first step is being honest and nonjudgmental about it.

“We can put our heads in the sand all we want, but it’s still happening. Hopefully over time we can change behavior. Our slogan is, we’re there for whatever happens. But we hope we don’t get repeat customers,” he says.

#workspacethoughts is an ongoing series made possible by WeWork, featuring the diverse founders building their companies in the Chicago area. WeWork provides workspaces designed for fresh ideas, organic networking and month-to-month flexibility.

Skill Scout shoots reality TV to optimize recruiting

A NEW POINT OF VIEW: Skill Scout founders Elena Valentine (left) and Abby Cheesman focus their cameras on the reality of today’s jobs, to bring more aligned candidates to jobs in manufacturing and more. Video helps candidates understand job responsibilities in a visual, tangible way, Valentine says. 


CHICAGO—When scouting for talent in the digital age, it’s best to get a visual.

Skill Scout, founded by Elena Valentine and Abby Cheesman in 2014, stakes its claim in the market as the “YouTube of the workplace,” by using video to show real workplaces, and putting new opportunities in front of job seekers who may not realize how valuable their skills are.

For Valentine and Cheesman, former design researchers from Gravity Tank, the idea came from a consulting project, aiming to connect young people to employment. “It was a big challenge,” Valentine says, “with 7 million young adults not in school or in the work force. The question was, how do we connect them to meaningful pathways to employment?

“There were a few things we saw (through the project) that dramatically changed my life,” Valentine remembers. “One is that we were immersing ourselves among some of the most talented young people we’d ever met, but because their resumes didn’t look good, because they’d never left their neighborhoods, they were lacking really important exposure to jobs and careers.”

And two, she says, “We needed to collect these stories to really understand: How do we turn their needs and experiences into insight that we can actually design on?”

Skill Scout addresses the disconnect between traditional employers and a new generation of visually driven, digital-savvy potential employees.

After talking with hundreds of companies, “equally struggling to hire and retain talent, we saw that there was a system that was inherently broken in how companies and candidates miss each other,” Valentine tells FoundersWire in an interview at WeWork Kinzie.

Job descriptions don’t adequately show what the job is like. Resumes don’t nail candidates’ skills. So that was the information gap Skill Scout set out to change. The best solution was storytelling through video, Valentine says, “to really help companies communicate their jobs in a way that broadened the talent, and in turn, give candidates a way to self-screen in or self-screen out.”

“We are bringing the art of storytelling into the hiring process,” she says.

Evolving with the expectations and changing behaviors of a modern work force, the Skill Scout team wanted to prove using video to showcase jobs—what the day-to-day really looked like—would bring in more knowledgeable candidates who would be a good fit. “We captured candidates who had seen a video of a job, and they could talk about the position in a much more tangible way, so that the company was hiring faster and keeping that hire longer, because they could experience their possible position in a different way, ahead of time,” she says.

Skill Scout targeted the manufacturing industry first, because “Manufacturers have incredible stories to tell,” Valentine says. “Video lends itself well to the kind of tangibility of manufacturers, and more importantly, there is a kind of pride they take in their work. You wouldn’t believe the kind of culture that some of these manufacturers have.”

She mentions a local manufacturer that has built a state-of-the-art gym and brings in a trainer twice a week for employees. “He’s not the Google or the Facebook of the world. He’s just an amazing tool and die maker in the middle of Melrose Park, Illinois, but has been hiring and mentoring high school kids in his community for the past 15 to 20 years. Who’s telling that story?”

She finds deep satisfaction in the manufacturers’ pride. “We’d be there (shooting video) for three hours, because these guys would take us to every nook and cranny of their shop, just showcasing. That passion has kept us in the game.”

Skill Scout also has expanded beyond factory behind-the-scenes, adding visuals to job postings for other industries—but the problem they solve doesn’t change, she says.

“The challenges of hiring are universal. There’s retention, there’s the time it takes to hire, attraction, cultural fit. The true future of work is something none of us can predict because the jobs that will exist for our children aren’t even around yet,” she says. “But they will have to know how to solve problems in this overarching way.”

Employer clients can hire Skill Scout pros to shoot and produce job videos, or they can use the do-it-yourself app that puts an employer’s own workers behind the camera to show off their jobs.

Valentine says video technology is integral to Skill Scout’s growth strategy. “How candidates connect to the world of work—that is looking very different. Virtual and augmented reality are going to be the future of this.”

She says Skill Scout’s next offering is going to be an immersive, 360-degree job experience. “It’s about getting that true POV. There’s a ton of new mediums, as a result of changing generations, that are just changing how we connect to the world of work, how we learn about work. And we’re going to change how we frame it.”

No matter what disruption occurs, Valentine hopes one big change will equalize the future work force.

“I’d like to think it will no longer be about where you’ve come from and what school you’ve gone to,” she says. “It’s going to be about: Can you actually do the work?”

#workspacethoughts is an ongoing series made possible by WeWork, featuring the diverse founders building their companies in the Chicago area. WeWork provides workspaces designed for fresh ideas, organic networking and month-to-month flexibility.

Cancer-focused founder delivers goods so patients thrive

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Dr. Ritu Trivedi-Purohit, the founder of Thriveosity (shown here on the terrace at WeWork Kinzie), has taken her medical practice to new heights, providing more comprehensive care for cancer patients, their care givers and loved ones through special, non-toxic care packages that address chemo side effects and more. FOUNDERSWIRE PHOTO BY SAMANTHA FRONTERA


CHICAGO—Dr. Ritu Trivedi-Purohit, a clinical psychologist with a specialty practice in oncology, found a need for her startup, Thriveosity, while caring for cancer patients and their families in their most vulnerable moments.

“I assist patients, manage all aspects of cancer care, including chemotherapy,” she says, “as well as assist family caregivers, support their loved ones and prevent burnout.”

Thriveosity, founded in 2016, delivers ThriveBoxes, what Trivedi-Purohit calls “cheerful boxes” to take care of those patients and their caregivers. She noticed a gap in cancer care, which has only widened over time as care has shifted from hospital-based to home- and community-based care, resulting in fewer opportunities to receive the kind of support they need from their primary medical providers.

“My patients were really struggling with managing their side effects,” she tells FoundersWire in an interview at WeWork Kinzie. “For example, patients often struggle with nutrition, loss of appetite and eating sufficient calories. Patients also experience changes to their hair, skin and nails. ThriveBoxes help them with recovery from their treatment.”

ThriveBoxes are monthly care packages specifically designed with the needs of loved ones in mind. Every care package features products to support the person during their journey through cancer. The company provides options to soothe these problems with handpicked non-toxic products.

According to the Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer’s 2012-2014 data, approximately 38.5 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. In 2014, there were an estimated 15 million people living with cancer in the United States.

Therefore, Trivedi-Purohit says, there is a large market for these types of boxes.

“Patients have to go through radiation,” causing a significant number of unavoidable, medicine-related issues, Trivedi-Purohit says. “And this gives them ways to have products to soothe their hair, skin and nail problems.”

The goal at Thriveosity is to support patients in the time immediately following their diagnosis and also during their treatments, introducing them to a cleaner, healthier lifestyle so they can begin their survivorship in a healthy manner. According to JAMA’s Oncology Journal, 40 percent of cancers have an environmental component. Trivedi-Purohit says, “Recurrence is also a real fear for patients. Providing comprehensive care benefits these patients at every stage of their cancer journey.”

The company’s five Thrive categories range from skincare, nutrition, aromatherapy, neurobehavioral and the basics. ThriveBoxes contain books and games designed to be fun and engaging while keeping a recipient’s mind active and stimulated. They include aromatherapy and essential oils, which have therapeutic qualities, natural skincare products, healthy organic food items and much-needed basic items.

“Our curation process is to offer functional, supportive, compassionate care,” Trivedi-Purohit says.

Thriveosity takes a holistic approach, which Trivedi-Purhit says differentiates them from their competitors. They are clinically trained to help manage all aspects of care, including emotional wellness. Some patients can experience side effects including “chemo brain,” dehydration and nutrition issues, which can all lead to re-hospitalization.

“A lot of the products we consume—using on our skin or ingesting—contain toxic ingredients,” Trivedi-Purohit says. “We need cleaner, non-toxic products.”

Trivedi-Purohit holds a master’s degree in community counseling from Loyola University and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.  She maintains her practice in Park Ridge, Ill., treating patients with a variety of illnesses. But through Thriveosity, she can extend the continuum of care beyond traditional medicine.

“Support is what we focus on,” Trivedi-Purohit says.

The company offers a one-time box, because supporters often look for an alternative to get-well gifts and would like to offer a month of support.

They also offer one-, three- and six-month options, ranging from $50-$60. Although Trivedi-Purohit says they did not set out to be a subscription box company, they do offer monthly subscriptions “because patients need long-term support, ideally for 12 months.”

“So often, support comes flooding in immediately after a diagnosis and then can taper off,” Trivedi-Purohit says. “We are about supportive care, care for the length of time the patient needs.”

#workspacethoughts is an ongoing series made possible by WeWork, featuring the diverse founders building their companies in the Chicago area. WeWork provides workspaces designed for fresh ideas,  organic networking and month-to-month flexibility. 

Retail think tank founder boosts women to c-suite


CHICAGO – Being the only woman surrounded by men in a professional environment runs in Kelly Stickel’s family—her mom was an engineer at Boeing.

“My father passed away and she was a single mother of four children, and had to go back to get her degree, and then her master’s degree. And I just saw the way she fought through life,” Stickel explains.

Stickel is the founder and CEO of Remodista, a social think tank that examines global retail disruption.

“I’ve been pretty scrappy in my business life, and I got down and did the business development path and management consulting where there’s not a lot of women,” Stickel says.

Stickel got her idea for her think tank while doing business development for Acquity Group, a digital marketing and eCommerce company later acquired by Accenture Interactive. Stickel says she began to see a stark difference between how men and women interact in the business world, and that observation inspired her to start Remodista.

“I realized the men were focused on selling, and I was focused on education. Women want to innovate and collaborate; we want to be more knowledgeable.” Stickel explains. “There are enough of us women getting into executive leadership or buying and selling technology that I felt we could really re-architect this.”

When Stickel launched Remodista in 2009, she says she made predictions that ended up highlighting her foresight and ability to see what many others couldn’t.

“I made a bet that technology would break, women leaders would matter, and we’d go global. All this innovation, insight and thinking is happening right now, so I placed good bets back then.”

Stickel has spent the past six years tirelessly building connections, and says that’s the backbone of Remodista’s success.

“It took about two and a half years to build the community. You can’t just buy a community, you have to have purpose and attract like-minded people,” Stickel explains.

Stickel says she has about 3,000 people in her community, and works closely with about 300 executives.

“Right now, my clients are people like Capgemini, PayPal, Avionos, and a lot of the tech service partners that go to retail—probably 40 over the last three years.”

Stickel is a one-woman show but works with about 10 independent subcontractors: digital strategists, content writers, researchers and product developers.

“I had the inspiration for six years, but I didn’t really have a business until a year ago,” she says.

Remodista’s revenue model is unique in that her company makes money from think tank sponsors who share her passion for investing in female leaders.

“I take all that money, and I put it right back into the business. So what’s cool is I’ve had no investors. It’s all been partners investing in me along the way, to help me.”

And Stickel’s hard work has paid off—Remodista brought in close to $300,000 in revenue over the past year. Stickel now plans to switch over to a subscription business model to generate more revenue.

“It has the potential of being a $100 million company,” she says.

Stickel is driven by her passion to help women climb the corporate ladder and become successful executives. She launched the program Women2Watch in Retail Disruption last year, which facilitates female executives coming together to network and collaborate.

“Businesses make more money when women are involved,” she explains.

Stickel says the rate of promotions among women in the program is remarkable, and far above the rates normally seen in corporations. The program has expanded to Australia, and will be launching in Europe next year.

Stickel says she was looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton break the “ultimate” glass ceiling, and was heartbroken when that didn’t happen.

“There are so many organizations that are rallying around helping women entrepreneurs, and I feel like it’s a setback to breaking the ceiling, but we’ve had those setbacks before. We’ll just reorganize, lead by example, and get our ducks in order. And in four years we’ll come back and make an impact.”

Stickel says the key to success is continuing to get back up after you’ve been knocked down.

“As an entrepreneur, you really have to have passion and belief in what you’re doing,” she says.

“You have to have resilience, you have to be able to be disliked and live feeling pretty afraid most of the time. But you learn that great leaders didn’t make it because they weren’t afraid, they made it because they can be afraid and still walk forward.”

Victor builds roadmap for civilian life with Indiegogo

Victor App has launched its Indiegogo campaign to help post-service military men and women figure out where they belong as they launch their civilian lives. We sat down with founder and former Marine Greg Jumes to talk about the military community and its unique path into entrepreneurship. Read his full Founder Story HERE. Contribute right now to his Indiegogo HERE and don’t forget to #thankaVeteran please.


Q: How do you think the service you all share in common translates to supporting each other’s businesses?

A: I think veterans share a strong bond that has been formed by the traditions and history of the military. We don’t stop supporting each other when we leave the battlefield, it’s not something you can turn off, it’s ingrained into you.

Q: When a veteran launches a business, how do fellow servicemen and women respond?

A: They’ve seen and felt firsthand the hardships associated with starting their new life after service and they want to be a part of a movement that will set a path for success in the next generation of veterans and their families.

Q: Have you seen a lot of support?

A: The support I’ve seen thus far has been monumental. The Indiegogo campaign has generated over $2,000 in less than two days of the campaign being live. I’ve had a lot of veterans tell me how badly this tool is needed and how they wish there would have been a resource like Victor when they separated from active duty. Hearing support like that motivates me, and looking back on my difficult transition and how alone I felt brings me solace in knowing that I wasn’t alone in such a dark time when I felt like I was taking on the world by myself.

Q: What’s the big mission you want to accomplish with Victor?

A: My mission with Victor is to bring local businesses and communities together to fill the gaps in the transition process when leaving the military. The goal is to help integrate veterans into a new city and social community because for most veterans, they’ve been in a “tribe” of their own and up until separating, have not had to identify a social community of their own.

Q: What problem are you passionate about solving in this space?

A: Besides fixing the transition process of leaving the military, I’m very passionate about changing the way civilians and businesses think about veterans. The media and social media promote a certain stereotype that vets are dysfunctional, depressed, irritable and must be handled with care. We are not UXO (unexploded ordinance), we won’t blow up if the wind hits us the wrong way or you hurt our feelings.

Q: What value are you offering to the companies joining Victor to support veterans?

A: I feel that with Victor we can make personal connections between the military community and local communities of civilians and small businesses. If a veteran becomes a regular customer at a local restaurant because of a recurring veteran discount, they will be slowly introduced to the staff and other regular customers of that business, which will in turn allow a connection to be made, that’s the goal. The value prop for the business is allowing them to acquire a customer who is loyal by nature and is familiar with going to the same place every time they need a particular service. This allows the business to offer a discount in return for acquiring a customer who will continue coming back and bringing their friends and family.

If you are a veteran starting a business, or if you know of one, please let us know RIGHT HERE. We’re always looking for veteran-run companies to share.

Former Marine helps vets with exit planning

It’s Veteran Small Business Week, so FoundersWire is going to spotlight some of the innovations our military are creating. If you are a veteran working on a small business or you know of one, please be sure to let us know RIGHT HERE


CHICAGO—“Getting out was the most terrifying part of my whole military career,” says Gregory Jumes. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”

This former Marine Corps infantryman is doing more than just talk about his difficult transition from military service, he’s actually building a technology platform that he says will help veterans before they’re even set for discharge.

Victor is a mobile application for active duty and retired service men and women and their families, “to do the reconnaissance and their intelligence gathering before they even get out,” says Jumes. “We don’t want them to go back to their hometown if there aren’t that many opportunities there, or a community that will support them after their time in the service.”

For millions of members of the armed forces, getting out is complicated, without enough training for what Jumes calls another career—civilian life. “When I got out, I didn’t know where I should move to, where I could find the opportunities I would need. The military spends billions on training us going in. (But at the end of your service): ‘Here’s your two-day class on how to be a civilian again, and I hope you’re paying attention.’ ”

He says he felt like he didn’t have any skills that qualified him for civilian jobs. “I was lucky to get a position as a high-threat security contractor in the Middle East, so I spent four years between Iraq and Afghanistan.” But he says, every civilian job he applied for fell short until he found a veteran hiring manager who gave him a second interview. “Every position I’ve been in outside of the Marine Corps, it’s been because I did my intelligence gathering and found key people to reach out to, to talk with, so they can see I’m not just another number—I’m the person they want on their books.

“You have to find someone who says, ‘I know what you’ve done, you’d be a perfect fit,’ ” Jumes says.

But it’s more than just work support that veterans need, he points out—because a happy and fulfilling life requires balance and structure. “After I came back, I was a completely different person. Everything looked different. Life just seemed a little dull. It was the complete opposite of being desensitized. When I didn’t have structure or guidance or mentorship, everything kind of went to hell. I was not prepared.”

That’s where the Victor community will come in. “We want to give you the tools so you’re not stressed, you don’t fall into depression, and you find the community that’s going to support you. Victor is here to bridge that gap, so you find the community, the career services and opportunities in that city, and then the health and wellness opportunities, whether it’s a workout group down at a local Crossfit gym, or a therapist that wants to just hear you out and listen to what you have to say and guide you down that right path. “

This first-time entrepreneur likens building a company to the work he did, and the results he was expected to produce, while in the service. “From my training as an infantryman, I take everything I do now as an entrepreneur as an operation. I need to do the digging and patrolling and questioning, and get to my target, which is either a customer or a partner,” he says. “My job is to put my product in front of people when I think they need it.”

“I want them to come out feeling excited that they’re going to find their new home, their new jobs, that they’re going somewhere that will support them. People need that coming out—to be able to focus on what will make them happy,” Jumes says.

Which beats the alternative: “Some stay in because it’s too scary to get out. That’s when you get these guys who have done two, three, four pumps in Afghanistan. I want to give active-duty service members the ability to see that pre-planning phase. You can look at Victor and see where you should go. Why is Chicago featured? They need direction and waypoints—there’s a bunch of green on this map. OK, we have a plan, let’s go forth and do great things,” he says.

Jumes says Victor, incubated in Bunker Labs, will most likely be ready to launch for the first of the year, then will be beta testing in greater Chicago before spreading out across the country.

“I don’t want them to waste time after they get out of the military, I want that success to keep going.”

Through such programs as Veteran Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Association provides veterans, active duty service members, Guard and Reserve members and military spouses the entrepreneurial training and education programs, business technical assistance counseling, special access to capital programs and federal procurement  training and access to opportunities they need to create their own opportunities. Share these stories on Twitter at #MyVetBiz to show support to veterans and their families. Learn more about SBA veteran initiatives here.


Women Founders Gain Recognition in Retail Disruption

What’s your higher calling? Impassioned entrepreneurs always have a huge reason, the driving force behind their work, even if it isn’t immediately apparent to the rest of the market. This column, a first-person essay, drives home why Kelly Stickel, founder of Remodista, cares about empowering women entrepreneurs. In this Higher Calling, she shares why she brought them together for the inaugural Women2Watch event in New York City. 

Founder @remodista

NEW YORK—My best moment as a founder was recently, during my first Women2Watch Award Show with 150 retail executives.

In January, Remodista listed 80 Women2Women as leaders we think you should watch. We use community to help leaders think through business challenges, provide expertise in areas where solutions have not been developed through collaboration, and shine a light on their key successes. In the last three quarters, 29 of these 80 women have changed title or company. We gave six innovation awards to women leaders at Keds, giggle, HBC Digital, New York & Company, YOGASMOGA and Zazzle.

I have had a retail committee of 20 leaders helping me think through community as a business model for the last three years for my business, Remodista. In quarters eight and nine, 16 of those 20 women were promoted or sold their businesses. Those numbers told me our collaboration was allowing them to be more insightful than others about disruption and innovation, and they were winning the promotions. Expanding this outcome became my priority.


Remodista is a Chicago-based social think tank that uses community as a business model. I re-engineered the buy-and-selling process, so that it is set up the way modern women prefer—through collaboration and education. When you use community, there is a higher purpose bringing you all together, and the community tends to manage that before their own needs. Our purpose is to educate brands, cultivate women leaders and connect a global community.

The biggest misconception in commerce is that you need a large, onsite, multi-year implementation. That model is going away and we are heading into the cloud with Saas platforms. We have put commerce platform players back in charge of configuring their modules, and businesses can focus on their business.


Business is transforming, and not just the retail vertical. Mobility is shaping the way business is structured on the inside. What is exciting is that while retail is transforming, some old standing business models are failing. The ones that are working or evolving are allowing us to shape future processes and procedures around new business solutions versus continuing to be innovative around failing technologies.

The best advice I can give fellow entrepreneurs is:
Be passionate about the idea you are bringing into the world. It is a big commitment, and largely a solo journey to get it over the hill.
Be willing to be not liked. Change does not come with popularity, as least on the front half of your journey, and some people need to be liked.
Move forward even though you are afraid. Successful people are moving forward with fear and that helps you break through walls.
Give it all you’ve got, and be ready to evangelize more and often.

Read more about it here.

Kelly Stickel is founder and CEO of Remodista, a social think tank examining disruption in global retail. Do you have a Higher Calling to share? Why are you passionate about solving the problem we’re facing, and what impact do you see it having on our society? Share your own essay HERE.