kickstarter

Consent is cool for Let’s Be Clear team

By CHARLOTTE EMSLIE
@char_emslie

BOSTON—For one sartorial startup, bringing the topic of sexual consent into the mainstream is as easy as choosing the right t-shirt.

Let’s Be Clear is pioneering the movement, and they’re doing it with the help of everyone’s favorite clothing staple.

Launched six months ago, the platform raises social awareness about safe and healthy sexual conduct through conscious apparel and consent education.

“We’ve been live for close to six months, so we’re still very much in our infancy, says Kara Wernick, head of development and education. “We’re looking to ramp up and secure support outside of our immediate circle.”

Kickstarter has been valuable in securing that support: With eight days to go, the campaign has raised more than $16,000, and needs $10,000 more to meet its goal.

“In the public sphere, people are starting to recognize our apparel,” Wernick says. The soft, stylish t-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts promote awareness through catchphrases like “Not Yours,” “Explicit” and “Stand With Survivors.”

DONATE TO LET’S BE CLEAR’S KICKSTARTER HERE.

Now in the process of really taking off, the business is, as Wernick explains, a self-sustaining model. “The apparel generates profits, which we then put into the education component. It relieves some of the fundraising pressure by allowing us to rely on our own work.”

With sexual assault at the forefront of college campus issues, education around consent is more important than ever. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that a shocking one in five women will be assaulted at some point in their college career. The threat is also there for men, but less so—one in 16 experience some form of sexual violence, according to the NSVRC. Societally we’ve also seen numerous assaults where, like in this summer’s case of Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who raped an incapacitated student, alcohol has made consent nonexistent.

In less extreme situations, though, the mere lack of education about what constitutes consent can lead to dangerous outcomes. The rules surrounding hooking up and general sexual conduct can be murky, especially for young people thrown into the brand new environment of college.

That’s where Let’s Be Clear is looking to make a difference. “It’s truly about developing the conversation,” Wernick explains. “Treating consent as a positive, normalizing it. It’s such a necessary component of all relationships and interactions.”

The lack of conversation can simply be from discomfort with the topic. “Consent doesn’t need to be this scary, inaccessible concept,” Wernick reasons. “We’re really trying to make it as straightforward as possible. We want to make sure that people have all the tools they need.”

Successful consent education, however, requires understanding the audience you’re speaking to. “Our set of workshops is designed for all populations,” Wernick says. “We run them for universities, businesses, sports teams, parents of elementary, middle, and high school kids. It’s important to tailor language to each of those audiences. The way a parent would talk to a child about body autonomy and sense of self is different than how we’d discuss consent with 18-year-old college students.”

The Let’s Be Clear team met and formed at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. “Our own personal backgrounds with consent education started there. Rachel (Verner), our founder, was the sexual assault team response manager on campus,” Wernick says. “We all had individual experience running workshops at fraternities and other places at school. We’ve gradually built on that to develop the program we have now.”

The inspiration for the clothing line was born from Wesleyan’s annual fashion show. “Rachel and a few others came up with consent-themed underwear to display in the show,” Wernick says. “They were really well received and sold out quickly.”

That positive response is what made Verner and the rest of the team recognize the potential of the apparel in furthering the consent conversation. The T-shirt, being such a cultural staple, is the perfect conversation starter. “It’s a universal, visible article that,” Wernick says. “It makes the conversation relevant to general dialogue, not just individual interactions.”

Looking ahead, the goal is simple: Keep developing that conversation. “Seeing success at the local level has allowed us to build on that,” Wernick says. “Long term, we want to create a widespread network of schools and online resources, alongside high-quality apparel.”

Streaming opportunity is music to DeVesto’s ears

“I love music,” Thomas DeVesto says.

He would have to—to innovate as he has for more than 40 years in the audio industry.

DeVesto, 68, co-founded Cambridge SoundWorks, and, later, Tivio Audio. And now he’s on to his third act: a high-quality, simple music system that streams without using a smartphone.

“My phone is busy enough,” the CEO and founder laments. “Why waste a phone’s battery streaming music?” The market seems to concur: The Como Audio system he created has already crushed its Kickstarter goals, with nearly 300 backers and a month to go.

DeVesto’s experience has delivered one critical lesson, he says: “Don’t give up, just keep working at it.” He also emphasizes simplicity. “I call it the guestroom test,” he says, referring to the ease with which a houseguest can use a product. He wants to make the Como Audio “as simple as pushing a button.”

DeVesto reflects on the disruption and opportunities now happening in the audio industry. “Streaming is becoming a more popular way for people to access the music they love,” he says.

Como Audio offers two high-quality yet simple music systems that enable Spotify, bluetooth and Internet radio. The Duetto offers twice the output of the company’s other product, the Solo. Both Duetto and Solo feature either a classic walnut or sleek white frame. The best part? “People are surprised when they hear about the speakers,” says DeVesto. They offer a 60-watt amplifier.

Anyone who likes music and a well-made product, DeVesto says, should consider his. Currently, there is a discount for those who buy through the Kickstarter campaign. (See and buy the products here.) They are expected for delivery in October.

Duetto-kickstarter

 

WorkinGurl’s got Kickstarter success in the bag

Female Founder of the Week (FFoW) is a weekly celebration of the women who are building business in Boston. Victoria Hall, founder of WorkinGurl, takes this week’s honors for solving a big problem with simplicity and style.


By SHELAGH BRALEY

Making life easier for women is the challenge that guides entrepreneur Victoria Hall, 31, the Easton-based founder of WorkinGurl.

She’s starting by designing a beautiful bag that accommodates everything women carry every day.

(Raise your hand if you don’t need a better bag, if you’re totally fine with carrying three bags to work every day. Bag lady, be gone, or support this Kickstarter right here.)

“It’s not a problem that a lot of people talk about, but it’s something we all share,” Hall says. “We just do what we have to do to get it done, until someone opens up a dialog, to acknowledge this is an issue.”

The issue centers as much on the many hats we wear as it does on the bags we carry. And what’s in those bags? Work and workout gear, lunch, kid stuff, keys and more.

Pretty much our whole lives.

Women have few options for consolidating and carrying everything they need to get though the day, and even fewer that are streamlined and stylish, Hall notes. So in summer 2015, she decided to create one that could help women feel prepared for anything.

“We just don’t have a bag that accommodates the many roles we play in life. Thinking about those roles—women are not just one thing, you’re not just a working woman, you’re probably 20 other things. The one thing that goes with you through all of this is your handbag.”

With 14 days to go on her Kickstarter campaign and $12,800 of $18,500 already raised, Hall says she feels strongly validated by her customers. “When I started, I conceptualized this line of bags because I was trying to address my own problem. To me, I feel like I get validated almost every day. I love hearing all the different stories that women tell about what they carry.”

Two of the three bags Hall has designed thus far—the large tote, the slightly smaller crossbody—are available through Kickstarter pre-order. (The bold backpack will be sold online in the fall.) They are made of high-quality durable nylon with a waterproof lining.

Hall looks forward to using customer feedback to design better products that improve their lives. “The great thing about my line and where I want to go, I want my customers to help me as we grow. It’s really cool to incorporate feedback from real women into that innovation. That’s where I see myself going in the future,” Hall says.

Hall says she has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to improve women’s lives, inspired in huge part by her single mother, working and raising two daughters.

“Watching my mom struggle, going to school, trying to build her career and make a name for herself, bringing us to school and basketball practice—that image is what drives me,” Hall says. “When you’re a kid, you know your mom is doing a lot, but it doesn’t really register. When I am going to work and the bank and the gym and the store, and I have all my bags, I get that small glimpse of what she must have gone through.

“I’m not a mom—I can only imagine having two kids and having that life. But I can ease in some small way all the things that women do, that’s my passion,” Hall says.

Hall’s mother, working in education at a community college, is featured in Hall’s Kickstarter video (watch it here). “(She) has always been my rock and champion. She’s very proud that I’m creating something and building my own business.

“She tells all the new students that I started there (at the college) and now I have my own business,” Hall laughs.

Hall was a finalist in the EforAll accelerator in Fall River, after winning second place in a pitch contest the group held in Lowell. EforAll supports entrepreneurship as a means for socio-economic revitalization in declining cities.

“I drove there and thought, ‘I am not going to win anything, these are all tech people.’ I was ready to pack up, and then they announced I came in second place. I realized people hear me and it is a good idea,” Hall says.

Hall continues to challenge herself, and to stay connected to the larger issues women face.

“Having to pitch the idea, I try to go back to what drives me: What is the social impact of what I’m doing? And I asked myself, are you making a leap? How can a handbag solve the problem of helping a woman and making her less stressed? Is that reality?” she asks. “Then I keep talking to women and I don’t think it is a leap.

“Your handbag, you put your life in it. If everything can be organized, and that bag can make your day that much easier, you’ll feel more prepared to accomplish everything.”

That’s all a WorkinGurl can ask for.


WorkinGurl bags are available through preorder right now through Hall’s Kickstarter campaign. Don’t miss out: The campaign ends June 30. Order yours here. Delivery is scheduled for fall.

Kickstarter alert: IGo Eyewear

IGo™ Eyewear, a promising social impact company based in Hyde Park, has set a goal of $10,000 in Kickstarter funding. With nine days to go, they’ve nearly reached the finish line. A few more supporters would ensure this company can “help the world see.”

Each pair of glasses IGo sells pays for an eye exam and prescription glasses for a child in need.

Nigerian-born Adeyemi Jaiyeoba, an engineer and fashion-focused entrepreneur, founded IGo as a new line of premium and fashionable eyewear. Teaming up with his cousin Dr. Taiwo Togun, a Yale-educated scientist and educator, Jaiyeoba has built IGo to redefine cool while creating a socially and environmentally responsible product using the buy-one, give-one model.

According to their website: IGo Eyewear creates quality, eco-friendly, and sustainable eyewear while supporting the vision, and consequently the education, of children in need in Sub-Saharan Africa.

IGo is “committed to providing quality wood and recycled plastic premium eyewear for our fashion-forward and environmentally conscious customers.”

As special incentive for new Kickstarter supporters, IGo has just created a new reward level. Each backer will have flights, accommodations and transportation paid for to accompany the team on its next vision and education trip to a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company’s schedules are set to visit schools in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa and/or Kenya to carry out its mission and provide eye exams and prescription glasses.

Check out IGo’s rewards here for more information. Don’t miss out: Their campaign ends March 23.

Success: skill or luck of the founder?

By SHELAGH BRALEY

Entrepreneurs, as they struggle to build their empires, often wonder whether getting to scale is skill or luck—or is it some combination of the two?

“I believe luck is one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated factors in life,” Sir Richard Branson wrote in The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership. “Those people and businesses that are generally considered luckier than others are usually also the ones that are prepared to take the greatest risks and, by association, are also prepared to fall flat on their faces every so often.”

This being Boston, home of the Celtics, the Dropkick Murphys and JJ Foleys, you can’t discount luck as a success principle here.

“Luck is being in the right place in the right time, so part of it is just being in more places and in touch with more people,” said TJ Parker, co-founder of PillPack, a Somerville-based company that has now raised $65 million, revolutionizing pharmacy with a combination of design, technology and delivery.

Connecting with his CTO and co-founder, Elliot Cohen, was kismet for the three-year-old company, Parker said. “I think unequivocally finding my co-founder was lucky, both for the fact that we found each other and also how complementary the two of us are in life.”

Elliot-Cohen-TJ-Parker-PillPack-March-2016

It wasn’t an easy sell, though, getting Cohen onboard to help build PillPack.

“I kept poking Elliot to work on it with me, and he was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t get it, mailing people meds? You know, it seems kind of lame.’ ” Parker reminisced, laughing. He said he finally convinced Cohen to work on the idea for one weekend at a hackathon. “I was like, ‘One weekend. You tell everyone else to do the hackathon thing, just do the hackathon thing.’

There’s no regret now, as the company has grown exponentially in the last 3-1/2 years. And these two founders have created a partnership with just the right balance. “You could slice down the middle the two of us, even from personality, to the things we care about, to the things we want to spend time working on,” Parker said.

“He’s super quantitative and I’m really qualitative, he’s like an engineer’s engineer and I’m more of a feeler-designer type person. I think we got really, really lucky there.”

Mike Salguero, Cambridge-based founder of ButcherBox, Massachusetts’ highest funded food Kickstarter ever, shared a different perspective. As a serial entrepreneur, Salguero has worked with co-founders, but in his current venture, he’s enjoying flying solo.

mike-by-cows

“Sometimes lucky breaks show up but the other person doesn’t agree it is a lucky break, and so you ignore them,” Salguero said. “It has been very refreshing for me deciding what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.” And he’s been doing a lot, reaching thousands of customers with fresh, hormone-free, grass-fed beef straight from the farm in the popular subscription-box style. “I think (ButcherBox) fits right in with what people are used to these days,” Salguero said. “The feedback we get is, ‘I had no idea I could get something this good that’s this good for me.’ ”

But Salguero faced his share of challenges along the way to Kickstarter fame, literally putting the whole business on ice multiple times. “I couldn’t figure out how to handle the shipping component,” Salguero said. “I found it incredibly difficult to figure out shipping and sourcing.”

Then some luck showed up in the pages of a magazine: “I was reading an article about Ron Eike, so I reached out to him and we just started talking. That was a huge lucky move for us. He was ‘cow to doorstep’ for Omaha Steaks for 27 years.” Now Eike is vice president and an equity partner in the ButcherBox operation.

Luck arrived in the form of people for PillPack, too.

“We did the hacking medicine event at MIT, and Zen Chu was like our faculty advisor,” Parker said. “Zen’s wife is Katie Rae, who ran Techstars at the time. Then we were in Techstars in 2013. Zen was our first angel investor. That was really quite lucky, that interaction and relationship.”

Parker said PillPack’s earliest investors were primarily healthcare focused. “I met them through the academic things that are happening, like at MIT, helping the students understand, how do I start a company and how do I raise money? I think that’s something that is very unique to Boston and probably San Francisco with Stanford, but probably not too many other places to the degree that we enjoy it here,” Parker said.

When ButcherBox began its Kickstarter, Salguero said: “The whole thing (felt like luck). I had a lot of fear that we were not going to be successful.”

“Everyone has fear about what they’re working on, if whether what they think is interesting is going to be a success out in the real world. But on day 2, we went out for 25K and by day 3 we had 50 or 60 thousand (dollars). We had crushed the goals we had set out for, we were clearly onto something.”

The company ended its campaign October 8 with $210,204 in the coffers—surpassing its $25,000 benchmark by nearly 10x. “We’re not planning on taking any investment, I don’t think we need to,” he said.

“I tend to believe in serendipity, with people who show up in your email box and say, ‘I’d love to work with you. I’m always open to that, let’s work together or I will hire you. That’s one area where I’ve been really lucky,” Salguero said.

He recalled that moment of unexpected alignment when he hired director of marketing Mike Filbey.

“I had a lunch with (Mike) to give him advice. He was running a startup and he wanted to shut it down but didn’t know what he wanted to do next. I had written down one of my goals for the week, and I had it in my pocket, ‘This week I’m going to find my no 2.’”

Salguero said Filbey expressed a wish to work with a seasoned entrepreneur who could mentor him. “I was like, ‘Wow, why don’t you work with me?’ He had just finished what he was doing, and I had a need at that very moment. That’s been a blessing for the company, and for him and his career,” Salguero said.

For PillPack, what turned out to be great luck was, on first blush, the “low point” for the company, Parker said. “Fred Destin who was one of our early investors, did a $3.5M round with Atlas, and he ultimately left Atlas. I had spent all this time figuring out, OK, who is the best investor, the one who gets what we’re doing, who understands design? Fred was that guy.”

Destin had to step down from PillPack’s board, only three months after they launched the product. “I’m like ‘Ahhh! I just built this great relationship with this guy, he was on the board for a year, our lead investor, the closest thing we had to a mentor,” Parker relayed. But Destin was headed for Accel in London, the largest VC in Europe focused on early-stage tech.

“They ended up preempting our next round for $9 million. Fred came back on the board, we had a more efficient fundraise, and it all worked out. He only missed one board meeting, so it was pretty funny,” Parker said.

It’s in moments like that when entrepreneurs realize, not much goes according to plan.

“The idea of having a plan and following it, it doesn’t really work that way,” Salguero said. “You can set goals for where you want to go, but the essence of being an entrepreneur is being able to adapt and make decisions in those times that it doesn’t go the way you think it will.”

So if you’re really lucky, like Sir Richard says, you only fall on your face every so often.

Meet the first Female founders of the week: SheStarts

Female Founder of the Week (FFoW) is a weekly celebration of the women who are building business in Boston. With this feature, FoundersWire acknowledges the challenges that are unique to women, hails the successes they achieve, and encourages those coming next, so they may learn from these exceptional, undeterred women founders.

SheStarts co-founders, above from left, Nancy Cremins and Liz O’Donnell, have been chosen for the inaugural feature, because not only are they female founders in their own right, they’ve dedicated their resources to being two of the most inspired and powerful advocates this community of female founders could have.


By SHELAGH BRALEY

BOSTON—Meeting the right person at the right time can turn a ripple into a tsunami. Using that logic, SheStarts co-founders Liz O’Donnell and Nancy Cremins are about to turn the tide for women building business in Boston.

“We met over Twitter,” said Cremins in an interview over lunch with FoundersWire. “We were both at an event, and I was live tweeting, and she messaged me, ‘hey, are you here?’ And then we finally met.”

When they did, it was obvious they had big work to accomplish together: the first initiative being SheStarts, a group that “supports the growing pipeline of women founders in Boston,” since its first event in 2014.

It’s definitely an undertaking that has a strong market mandate, with more than 130 people showing what Cremins called “some level of support” on their recently successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $15,000 to reach their goal.

What is their goal, exactly?

“We’re here to bust gender bias,” said Cremins simply.

“I think of busting gender bias as the top of a pyramid. And then we say, OK, how do we get there,” continued O’Donnell. She listed events, programming and education, and access to capital as the third piece.

“Then, it’s ‘How can we help sustain and grow? That’s the big issue. We look at the social programming that’s gone on, and we think, until you change the frame of reference, it (bias) doesn’t change,” she said.

The pain they’re addressing has been part of the unspoken startup life for women for more than a decade, with the rise in female founders and women-run startups hitting an all-time high. More than 200 startups with women at the helm have been cataloged in Boston, with countless more building in anonymity. But the fact is that few actually get funded. A 2014 Babson study concluded that fewer than 3 percent of venture-supported companies had a female founder. This same study, however, showed that businesses with women on the executive team were more likely to have higher valuations.

“The idea that it’s a meritocracy, it’s complete and total nonsense,” Cremins said.

“ ‘I’m willing to fund women, but I just don’t find any,’ ” O’Donnell intoned, pretending to be a male investor. “Call it swagger, but there’s a double bind. (As a woman), come in tooting your own horn, and you get knocked down.”

Being different and looking different from the groups you’re pitching, Cremins pointed out: “The very process creates a sense of anxiety,” she said. “The rules of the game weren’t written for you, so you have to navigate a very narrow path.”

“But it relates to: How do we step up to this without alienating men? You invite them in,” O’Donnell said.

The two are perfectly in sync, able to finish each other’s sentences, anecdotes and manifestos. They also share a spectrum of life experience and professional expertise: Cremins is a litigator with tech-focused law firm Gesmer Updegrove, who applies her prowess to solving employment issues and intellectual property disputes, and especially to supporting women-run startups. She is also a longtime board member of the Women’s Bar Association. O’Donnell is an author with a long list of published works, best known for “Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman.” She’s simultaneously developing a social movement addressing the phenomenon of being a “Working Daughter,” balancing life amid the work and challenges of caring for an elderly or failing parent.

“I realized you have to take the lead,” O’Donnell said. “You can’t just talk about why there are no women leaders. You have to stand up. You can’t just write about it and preach about it, when you’re not doing anything about it.”

She gave an example of the female founder’s gambit, illustrating the stereotypical roles women play, and how they create unique challenges for entrepreneurs: “You’re a good daughter, good student, good worker. You take all the notes, clean up the parties, work through all the details. You’re a good wife, a good mother.

“Then you shift to being a founder, and it’s hard to break that mold,” she said.

In Boston, Cremins said, being a female entrepreneur should be an advantage by now.

“Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?”


Shelagh Braley is the editor of FoundersWire. Follow her @FoundersWire on Twitter. FoundersWire is actively seeking submissions for Female Founders of the Week to profile. Please share with any you know, and send inquiries to founderswire@gmail.com

Kickstarter alert: Pense by Appostasy

Appostasy, Inc., the Boston-based hardware startup that calls Canopy home, may have just exceeded its Kickstarter goals, but there’s still plenty of product left to snatch up, and still time to support this energetic and focused team.

But only less than 48 hours … so be quick about it.

PenSe “takes the beautifully designed Apple Pencil, and provides it with added functionality and protection.” You must know someone who needs this magnetic Apple pencil case. It’s beautiful. It’s useful. And this is the best part. You’re supporting a team that wants to scale in the Hub. (Co-founders Craig LeafTed Sirota and Greg Caulton have a unique mix of skills and perspective. Check out their bios here.)

From their website: “PenSe was born in Boston, one of the great innovation capitals of the world. We took everything we love about this city and put it into our work, and thus the city is reflected in PenSe. PenSe is no stranger to coffee shops, cold winters, and worn faces. It blends seamlessly into the community of thinkers, and never feels out of place where creativity is flowing.”

How can you NOT support that? Donate and get your PenSe here right now.