Redspark began with a request. A well-respected and trusted contact reached out to see if I knew anyone that could do the type of work I did in my day job – market research – so that, as an investor, they could decide whether or not they should invest in a new venture.
He was looking for someone who could analyze the dynamic macro environment that the startup operated within. Someone who could outline the competitive landscape and understand the existing and emerging companies that solved the problem for customers today. And someone who could, above all, engage with target buyers and users to ensure that there really was a need that this product could address.
By that time I had heard this need reiterated a thousand times before. Whether it was during my MBA, through my local startup community or from startup thought leaders, these accelerators, incubators, business advisors, entrepreneurs and investors drilled the importance of making sure a startup had product-market fit. That is, making sure that whatever good or service the startup was developing aligned with what customers actually needed.
I began to recognize the gaping hole that technologists, developers, inventors and engineers often lack. While they had developed something amazing, they couldn’t or didn’t know how to make sure there was actually business potential. Rather than wasting time, resources and energy on something that might not last, market research helps entrepreneurs, businesses and investors know whether they’ve got something worth investing in. So, in January 2017 I created Redspark to address this need.
Let me backup. A dream of mine had always been to own my own company, to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. I grew up in a household where, rather uniquely, both of my parents owned and operated their own businesses. My three siblings and I were surrounded by the hustle and startup grind all the time. We would help our parents with mailings – the before-social-media and digital form of marketing. We would answer the business phone, see clients that came to the home office, and hear daily discussions of the business’s ups and downs over dinner. Surprisingly, maybe even scarily, knowing and growing up in this environment hasn’t phased me in achieving the entrepreneur’s dream; if anything, it’s made me realize that while there is risk and uncertainty in entrepreneurship, it’s an exhilarating and rewarding way to take an idea and turn it into something that can make an impact in the world. I may sound like my fellow millennials but I truly I believe it’s part of my calling.
From there I got an MBA and immersed myself in the startup culture in any way I could. I wanted to learn how to do it, learn from veterans, be exposed to different types of businesses, and foster and help grow the entrepreneurial resurgence in my hometown, Dayton, OH. I worked for my parents business, Turn-Key Environmental, throughout college and grad school, analyzing their business and helping them grow sales by 300%. Later, I ran the Small Business Hub at the Wright Brothers Institute so I could help scientists and engineers at AFRL commercialize their ideas – something that has become a major initiative for government labs all over the world to be more intrapreneurial. I connected small tech businesses to government contracts to help them grow their client base. I participated in any and all local initiatives geared toward fostering our startup community. I joined the Startup Grind Dayton chapter as Co-Director to help grow, educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs.
Later, I changed careers and went to Ascend Innovations – a healthcare venture lab – where as Business Director I conducted market assessments, analyzed opportunities that emerged from clinical needs, and developed business plans and go-to-market strategies for high potential products. It has been an incredible experience where I’ve learned a ton.
Throughout that time I had an innate, growing desire to help companies make more informed decisions as they go to market. I’ve realized that people and companies can be so much more impactful when they have strategic confidence and direction. Through side projects, day jobs and during my MBA I’ve conducted market assessments on dozens of product ideas and businesses. From for-profit to non-profit companies as well as for incubators, investors, and startups, I’ve helped strategically guide leaders and executives through a deeper understanding of their own industries so they can run their businesses instead of their businesses running them.
For me this role is an honor. I become a trusted partner and witness to the dreams these leaders have, helping them achieve their visions and goals and ultimately helping people, companies and of course profits thrive. It is for this reason that I’ve decided to focus my efforts full-time at Redspark, a market research and business strategy company. Now, I’m realizing my dream of being an entrepreneur while helping other entrepreneurs create lasting strategies for their companies. Stay tuned!