New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments

By | News | No Comments

New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments


October 30, 2019

Fort Wayne musician Kurt Roembke has added another dimension to his technological skill set and his composing capabilities with the development of a free mobile app that turns physical locations into sonic environments to explore.

All that a virtual explorer needs to enjoy Roembke’s new SoundWalk is a smart phone, headset and walking shoes.

It’s called SoundWalk, and in essence, that is what the explorer can expect to enjoy as they make their way around town.

The first site chosen to represent in this manner was the Little Turtle Memorial at Lawton Place, in Fort Wayne.

Earlier this week, WBOI’s Julia Meek got Roembke off of the trail and into the studio to talk about his emerging world of spatial audio and explain how the project evolved as well as how the system works.

Her Long, Winding, Independent Year: Virginia Richardson, Tilde Multimedia Firm

By | News | No Comments

Her Long, Winding, Independent Year: Virginia Richardson, Tilde Multimedia Firm

| Fort Wayne Ink Spot

October 14, 2019

Of all things to mark Virginia’s Richardson’s one-year anniversary of starting her business, Tilde Multimedia Firm, it’s the SOS Band.  Of all things.

Virginia Richardson was first featured in Issue 22 | Volume 1 of the FWIS.  This is her follow-up.

Last October 2018, Richardson was referred to the R&B group, best known for their songs “Take Your Time,” and “Just Be Good to Me,” for her concert production work by the nationally-known DJ Keylo (aka Who Is Keylo).

As reported in her previous Fort Wayne Ink Spot article, “BET and VH1 Are on Her Resume,” Richardson handled sound design/audio production and special events management for the ubiquitous Viacom Networks.  The group was performing at Purdue Fort Wayne (PFW), and the school’s Special Events department was looking for someone to oversee their audio, video, and lighting management.  PFW became Richardson’s first client.

When SOS performed at the Summer Community Celebration in August, they asked Richardson to run their Facebook Live camera for the show.  Now, she can mark her one-year anniversary, with the memory of where she began and where’s she going; SOS and Tilde Multimedia Firm are in negotiations for Richardson to manage all of their social media.  “The calendar is still in edit mode,” she said.

Since her FWIS appearance, definitely of late, Richardson has been busy, as folks say.  She’s launched a Facebook Live talk show, Real Coffee Convo, where a group of friends discuss current events and highlight business owners…sometimes setting their live shows in the actual business they’re talking about, like a recent show recorded in the Simple Foods Café at 2000 Brooklyn.  Like with a lot of her goals, she wants to take the idea nationwide.

Richardson parlayed her Build Fort Wayne tutorship into an opportunity to manage SEED’s social media’s campaign.  She became a recipient of the Fortitude Fund (formerly the Farnsworth Fund).  She worked with the Madam CJ Walker Legacy Center over the summer, helping to promote some concerts for June’s Black History Music Month.  There’s the Fort Wayne Comedy Club.  She manages social media directives for PQC (Trains, Tech, Works, and Windrose Urban Farm), a project management, IT services, and training company that’s just been named the 2019 National Small Business 8(a) Graduate of the Year.  She has created new digital solutions for businesses such as for Sodexo FWCS. acting as their Social Media Recruiter.  She estimated that she probably makes about 10 to 15 times more than a year ago.  So, progress.

The thing with progress when you work for clients…websites and Facebook pages get updated for them, hardly ever for the contractor.  Priorities shift to and remain on the client.  One of Richardson’s biggest challenges, she said, is bookkeeping and finance.  “Sometimes when you wear all of the hats, you lose yourself.  You can’t do everything.”  Richardson needs a multimedia producer, someone she can throw some work to, like a design or a video person, because not one of her ideas has a tether.  She wants to have a TV network.  And a national newspaper.  Her idea for a publication that focuses on incarcerated citizens, written by them, for them, is en route.  Next year.

Manufacturing Accelerator Launches in Northeast Indiana

By | News | No Comments

Manufacturing Accelerator Launches in Northeast Indiana

| Inside Indiana Business

October 24, 2019

A manufacturing accelerator has launched in Fort Wayne following a six-month pilot period. The Workbench – Fort Wayne, located at the SEED Enterprise Center in the Allen County city, aims to lower the barrier for people to turn their ideas into real businesses.

The Workbench – Fort Wayne, founded by Jon Rehwaldt, opened this month.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jon Rehwaldt says the idea for the accelerator stemmed from a need for more support for advanced manufacturing, particularly small manufacturing operations, to make the sector more robust in northeast Indiana.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Rehwaldt said The Workbench supports startups wherever they are in the process.

“A lot of people have ideas but they have no idea where to start, even if they’re experienced in manufacturing and worked in manufacturing for their whole lives; the idea of taking that concept they have in their head can be a daunting one, especially when you start to talk about intellectual property and how to do prototyping. Where do you get that done? What does it look like? How much does it cost?” said Rehwaldt. “So we will take anybody at any point during that process and help them figure out where they are and where they need to go next.”

Rehwaldt says the accelerator can provide prototyping, design and production services, which can help startups avoid some of the large costs associated with such services. The program worked with two companies during its pilot phase from April to October, which has led to positive early feedback.

“Because we’ve already seen some traction with the companies we’ve already helped to start the process, I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm around (the accelerator) and the impact could be large. I mean, accelerators are one of the best ways to get new startups going and we really hope that we can have a significant impact in our region, especially with the kind of manufacturing expertise that we already have here.”

Rehwaldt says it is rare to have an accelerator like The Workbench be privately funded, however the program continues to look for new partners to further its growth.

“We want to widen our impact. We really want to focus on northeast Indiana. We have some really, really awesome manufacturing centers in northeast Indiana who are doing amazing and innovative work and so we want to be able to support those industries and bring more people into those industries, so we’re perfectly willing to partner with organizations that share that mission and want to have a big impact in our region.”

The Workbench has set what Rehwaldt calls an ambitious goal of getting 20 companies off the ground during its first year of operation. Additionally, the accelerator looks to help 10 of those companies bring a product to market.

Rehwaldt says The Workbench will also launch an accelerator curriculum, called The Factorium, in 2020 to help more companies get an idea of what kinds of skill sets and resources they need in order to go to production.

You can learn more about The Workbench – Fort Wayne by clicking here.

At ‘All the Rage,’ things get broken

By | News | No Comments

At ‘All the Rage,’ things get broken: Japanese-born trend arrives in city, giving stress relief safe space

| The Journal Gazette

October 24, 2019

Most people do not wake up wishing to have a bad day – at least I don’t think they do.

But on a recent Friday, I rolled out of bed with the hope that something would go wrong. I wanted something that would upset me, make me mad. Maybe even enrage me.

Co-owners of All the Rage Brianna Dailey (left) and Abby Greutman (right) together in one of the rage rooms at All the Rage at the corner of State and Spy Run

On this particular Friday, I had 15 minutes blocked off to experience what could be the next craze in the city – a rage room.

All the Rage opened this summer at 2307 Spy Run Ave., at the corner of West State Boulevard and Spy Run Avenue. Owned by Brianna Dailey and Abby Greutman, the business was inspired by the big city trend and the goal of promoting mental health while being a part of the growing entertainment scene in Fort Wayne.

Growing industry

Rage rooms began a decade or so ago in Japan, with the idea slowly spreading west – to Europe and eventually the United States.

In a rage room, participants can release their emotions by breaking, smashing and otherwise destroying items in a safe environment.

At All the Rage, participants get the opportunity to break items by throwing them against the wall or floor in a safe room that’s constructed with plywood. Items can range from dishes, televisions, keyboards and bottles. Tools of destruction include crow bars and baseball bats.

Clients can also bring their own possessions to destroy, although the team at All the Rage is cautious to make sure that the items chosen are for good fun rather than vengeance.

Going in room

A pair of Bluetooth headphones hung around my neck with black buds in my ears. It was the final piece of gear that you put on before entering a room at All the Rage. With a focus on safety, clients are instructed to wear closed-toe shoes and are also given a white jumpsuit, gloves and helmet with goggles.

I hit shuffle on my iPhone and entered the plywood room, ready to work out any frustration.

“Here is the dome, back with the bass / The jam is live in effect and I don’t waste time / On the mic with a dope rhyme / Jump to the rhythm, jump jump to the rhythm, jump.”

While Greutman says a session in the rage room can be a good workout, I didn’t think that C&C Music Factory was the best music to throw dishes and wine bottles against the wall.

I made a quick change to the playlist and with Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” playing, I shut the door of the room. I picked up a wine bottle from the half-dozen sitting on the floor, stepped back and pitched it at the plywood wall.

But as it bounced back and nearly skidded across the floor, I was the one who felt thrown.

Bring your own

Along with the smaller items in the room, old televisions or computer monitors can be added.

Donations are accepted, while other items are purchased secondhand, Greutman says. The business is also partnered with Bisque It Pottery, which donates items that are cracked or have been left behind.

Still others – like a slightly sinister clown statue – were left in the space, which had been an antiques shop.

Gretuman says the goal for the business is avoid buying things used in order to reduce waste as much as possible, with glass being recycled after clients are finished in the rage room.

All the Rage offers a variety of experiences for clients, from BYOB (Bring Your Own Box) to Let’s Rage, which is a 40-minute experience for two people.

The time and number of items varies anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes and 12 items to 25. Clients can also choose additional items for extra cost.

Ditch ‘adulting’

Everyone who enters the door of a rage room must be 18 years old but Greutman says many clients are in their 30s and 40s, while some have been in their 60s.

The appeal is that it’s a chance to take a step back from “adulting.”

“As adults, we have to be responsible all the time. … (At All the Rage), you take the responsibility and throw it out that window.”

Or, in my case, you throw it at a plywood wall … again and again and again. Then, after shirking into a corner for the fifth time, I caught sight of the crowbar.

Almost gingerly, I placed the stubborn wine bottle at a slight distance from my feet, grasped the crowbar with both hands and lifted it over my head.

And then I swung. In a second, a bottle that had seemed unbreakable turned into shards on the floor. I took a second, placed it on the floor as well, and swung. The sound of breaking glass was almost beautiful, complementing the old school rock ‘n’ roll playlist that streamed in my ears.

Empowered, I took the keyboard and placed it on the barrel. I switched out the crowbar for the baseball bat and began to swing.

In three minutes, all of my “Office Space” dreams came true.

Stress relief

Greutman laughed when I handed her my helmet and wanted to talk about TPS reports and red staplers. Apparently, I was not the first person to relate the movie “Office Space” to the experience.

But one of the challenging things to hear is criticism about the business, Greutman says.

People have alleged that the business incites anger rather relieves it or that it is an anger treatment center.

“We’re trying to help people reduce stress and be a good place for the community,” she says, adding that they want to be advocates for mental health.

The owners hope to grow the business, adding additional rooms (there are currently three) and a seating area.

“We would like to be an asset to the community and provide a safe space for people to be.”

Mercadito Taqueria food truck opening a brick-and-mortar location in The Landing

By | News | No Comments

Mercadito Taqueria food truck opening a brick-and-mortar location in The Landing

| Input Fort Wayne

October 18, 2019

A Fort Wayne food truck is opening up a restaurant in The Landing next summer.

Mercadito Taqueria announced the news on its Facebook page.

Mercado, founded by Johnny Perez, will be opening a storefront on The Landing.

The new restaurant, dubbed “Mercado,” will feature a bar and some food items from their food truck.

The owner plans to serve lunch and a late-night menu, as well as brunch.

The space is expected to house 80 seats inside and 20 seats in an outside area.

Owner Johnny Perez said they hope to open in the summer of 2020.

The Landing is a historic neighborhood in Fort Wayne that is being renovated into a mixed-use space.

Q&A with Wesley Gensch: The young inventor bringing convenient, fast recovery to injured athletes

By | News | No Comments

Q&A with Wesley Gensch: The young inventor bringing convenient, fast recovery to injured athletes

| Input Fort Wayne

September 25, 2019

Necessity is the mother of invention says the popular proverb. When college athlete, Richard Wesley Gensch, severely injured his elbow, he knew applying cold and compression were the most effective therapies for recovery.

Richard Wesley Gensch is the inventor and founder behind CoolCorp Inc. based in Warsaw.

Icing reduces pain and inflammation of tissue, while compression increases healing blood flow to the injured area.

But icing required focused time throughout each day and did not include compression. So Gensch combined his sports management and business majors at Grace College to invent a way to deliver both therapies at the same time without interfering with his schedule.

Richard Wesley Gensch

Today, Gensch’s mobile icing and compression products for his company CoolCorp Inc. bring healing to athletic injury trauma and post-operative patients in northeast Indiana and beyond.

Based in Kosciusko County, home to the Orthopedic Capital of the World®, CoolCorp’s cutting-edge designs include built-in safety features, and personalized air compression for a 360-degree cryotherapy application to the impaired area.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Gensch to learn more about the invention of his innovative cryotherapy compression devices and how they are gaining popularity with physicians and patients alike.


IFW: You were a student at Grace College when you came up with the idea for CoolCorp. Tell us more about your background.

WG: I grew up in the Pierceton/Warsaw area and ended up playing baseball at Grace College. Grace College offers a three-year undergraduate program or a four-year dual undergrad and master’s program. Since I was eligible to play collegiate baseball for four years, I decided to try the dual four-year program as an athlete. I double majored in business and sport management, and then received my Master’s in Business Administration, as well.

My junior year of college, in Spring of 2015, I suffered a severe elbow injury (subluxation of the ulnar nerve). To avoid surgery and continue to play at a high level, I had to ice five to six times a day to stay competitive. The truth was, this ended any chance I had of playing baseball at a higher level.

My identity up to this point had been wrapped up in being a baseball player. Now that was taken away, and I wasn’t sure what was next. My faith in Jesus really allowed me to see a light at the end of the tunnel and gave my injury a purpose. Now, I had the opportunity to focus on helping other people and providing them with a product that could help their recovery.

IFW: What was the catalyst that got you thinking that you could improve on the traditional methods of icing injuries and recoveries?

WG: The traditional method of using a bag of ice didn’t give me the compression I needed. The process was a nuisance due to the leaky ice bag. It made it hard for me to keep up with my daily schedule of going to class and hanging out with friends.

I tried a couple of products on the market, but nothing seemed to fulfill the desired need of compression and icing from a mobile perspective. So, I went out and acquired some materials to build my own prototype, which I used during the season after games and practices.

During my senior year in 2016, I suffered a shoulder injury due to the increased workload from the lack of a healthy elbow. One of my teammates at the time, suffered a deep bone contusion from getting hit by a line drive. A physician told him he would most likely be out of action for six weeks. My teammate asked to use my product and iced as often as he could. Just three weeks later, he was back and pitching in game!

My brother also suffered a major knee tear (ACL MCL and meniscus) and asked if I could build a product for him from a post-surgical perspective. He showed great signs of improvement and still uses his product today.

CoolCorp Inc. creates projects to ease the icing process and add pressure.

IFW: How did you move from idea to entrepreneur?

WG: Grace College hosted their annual business plan competition in 2016. I thought, as a senior majoring in business and having a successful and useful product, I had a good chance at winning.

Being fortunate enough to win the competition, I used the prize money to start the patent process and file for incorporation. With a growing number of teammates and people becoming familiar with my prototype and asking for products, this quickly began to shift into how I could manufacturer these products and take them to market.

IFW: What are the unique characteristics of your products?

WG: The biggest reason people ask for the CoolCorp product is because it actually works, isn’t expensive, and is convenient. People can use this to aid their recovery process while still participating in their regular routines.

I created a product out of personal need and feel—not out of lab with a bunch of ideas on how to make it comfortable. Our devices use personalized air compression that allow each customer to decide how much pressure they want to apply. Additionally, our products have 360-degree coverage that gives the entire area the help that it needs. And lastly, our products allow us to ice for optimum recovery, without having to give up the daily schedule.

With this design, I can ice in the car, while I’m walking, or while I’m at work. Our design makes it to where there are no tubes attached (pun intended).

IFW: How has the medical field received the CoolCorp products so far? What do your clients like best about CoolCorp?

WG: So far, everyone we’ve talked to in the medical field thinks our products are a great idea and would solve an important need. We really focus on how CoolCorp’s products can provide better outcomes and increased convenience—all at a lower cost.

I’m working with several physical therapy offices and hospital systems to see how CoolCorp’s products can be better implemented into their care. A few local health systems currently use our products and are happy with their experience. Physicians are starting see benefits as patients are icing more often and rate our products 9.7 out of 10 stars on customer reviews.

IFW: As an inventor, what was the research and development like process for you?

WG: Starting out with research and development, we came up with a sleeve and wrap version of our product that we used in our Beta Test, featuring many Grace College athletes. We then collected our data and made a couple manufacturing changes in our processes that allowed us to give our customers the best experience possible.

We’ve continued innovating our products while keeping our customer experience level at the forefront. I worked with Dr. Jeffrey Hartzell from Parkview Hospital on developing a shoulder model that would cover all major surgeries in that area. His expertise in the R&D process made our shoulder model the success that it is.

IFW: What advice would you give others who want to bring their ideas to market?

WG: I’ve had the pleasure to work with so many great organizations and people who focus on helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to reality. SCORE, the Fortitude Fund, KEDCo, AcceLINX, and Hentz Manufacturing all have been a huge part to CoolCorp’s success.

I would encourage anyone who has an idea that could lead to a business to reach out to some of these organizations. They are great people and have great resources that can help.

IFW: How has developing a business impacted you personally?

WG: I’ve often heard people say developing and running a business makes you lose a lot of sleep and sacrifice a lot of your time. Both of these are true, but my experience is that you get out exactly what you put in.

All your time and effort reflect on you and goes towards helping people and providing them with better goods or service. Personally, I have really grown in my relationship with Christ and CoolCorp has helped me realize the purpose God has for my life.

IFW: The Warsaw area around Grace College is known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World®. What are the benefits and challenges of innovating for the ortho industry?

WG: There are many challenges when innovating in the orthopedic industry. There are so many regulations and guidelines that have to be followed that it makes implementing a new product or idea take a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, in CoolCorp’s case, there is a lot of clinical data that supports cryo-compression and correlates with our product, allowing us to move forward in several areas.

Another challenge comes from the financial side of orthopedics. When I started out with some winnings from the business plan competition, I had a friend from the orthopedic industry tell me, “Hold tight. That kind of money gets dropped here every day.”

I think some of the greatest benefits of the orthopedic industry are the connections that are developed among the people and corporations. Even though these companies are extremely competitive, the relationships people have carry on outside of work and allow connections to be made if you can know the right people.

IFW: Are there advantages to being headquartered in Kosciusko County?

WG: Kosciusko County has been a great place to start a business. KEDCo has been phenomenal as far as reaching out and connecting with CoolCorp. The people around the area are awesome and, more often than not, are willing to help you get connected with whoever they can reach out to.

There is obviously a lot of upside being in the Orthopedic Capital of the World®, and not being far from Fort Wayne helps a lot, too.

IFW: What are your plans for CoolCorp’s future?

WG: There’s so much innovation happening at CoolCorp Inc. My goal is to have specific product designs launched for every major type of orthopedic surgery.

We are currently working on a Back/Spine model along with a specific ankle model to follow. I would love to see CoolCorp products being used for athletic recovery on TV someday.

Having a multimillion-dollar athlete using a regular bag of ice and an ACE wrap after an injury makes me shake my head every time.

IFW: When you are not working at CoolCorp, what do you do to rest and refresh?

WG: My faith, prayer life, and personal devotions keep me recharged and ready to face new challenges life might bring forward. I still love to play baseball when I can and always enjoy spending time with friends and family. There is a purpose to all the work CoolCorp is doing. Hearing stories of people recovering faster from injuries gives me the push to keep going.

IFW: If someone wants to check out CoolCorp’s products, where can they find additional information?

WG: For more information about CoolCorp and to order CoolCorp products, visit our website at There you’ll find pictures of our products, and news about health, wellness, and recovery.

You can also find CoolCorp Inc. on:




Fort Wayne Start Up Week

By | News | No Comments

Fort Wayne Start Up Week

| WPTA 21

October 4, 2019

Jack Patton from is one of the speakers for Fort Wayne Start Up Week, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn and celebrate accomplishments.

Jack Patton discusses his new product launch and participation as a speaker during Fort Wayne Startup Week 2019.

Bukal Sparkling Water offers more than a beverage

By | News | No Comments

Bukal Sparkling Water offers more than a beverage


July 2019

Local beverage company, Bukal, is bottling bold and extraordinary sparkling water flavors inspired by river regions around the globe. The company has taken off and can now be found in at least nine area cities – including Fort Wayne.

Bukal Beverage Company was founded by Robert and Yvonne Johnson and inspired by fruits from the Philippines

One of the founders of the company, Yvonne Johnson, grew up in the Philippines, where clean water wasn’t always accessible. This led to Bukal to give a portion of each bottle sale to go back to their source. Those sources are region-specific to clean water project where they drew inspiration for their flavors.

Indus is a mango rose flavor, drawing inspiration to that river. Bukal says this is their “homage to Pakistan, India, and Tibet, Indus is both exotic and sweetly familiar. A fragrant blend of mango and pineapple is the perfect marriage of scents and flavors found along the banks of the ancient South Asian river.”

Bukal’s next flavor is Mekong, “the banks of the southeast Asia’s most famous river boasts shades of green unlike any other place on earth. Mekong is an unparalleled blend of our favorite green hues of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos: guava, lime, and mint.”

Bukal only has three flavors, a homage to Fort Wayne’s three rivers. Their other flavor is Yangtze, “in Chinese culture, the peach represents longevity. Along the banks of the Yangtze, earth’s third longest river, you’ll find wild peaches and passion fruit ripe for the picking- two flavors that combine into one exquisite taste unlike any other.”

You can learn more about the company by clicking here.

Locals weigh in on technology’s impact

By | News | No Comments

Locals weigh in on technology’s impact

| The Journal Gazette

June 16, 2019

We talked with several Fort Wayne-area residents about how technology has affected their lives personally or at work, relating to retail and industry. Here’s an edited version of some of the responses:

Lauren Caggiano does a battle rope exercise at Absolute Fitness Results in Fort Wayne. The certified fitness trainer says “technology has democratized health and wellness.”

“At work, we use iPads to control the flow of seating and walkie-talkies to communicate to each other. I think the technology we use is helpful because it helps improve the communication amongst the staff.”

– Marie Solis, 18, Fort Wayne, Red Robin restaurant employee

“When I first started at the library, we used card catalogs. All this, what we know today with computer and email; … it is much faster and more comprehensive than paper sources. As an example, if someone needed a phone number from out of town it was a lot harder to find. Doesn’t matter now with the new technology.”

– Stephen Miller, 56, Fort Wayne, Allen County Public Library employee

“Technology has democratized health and wellness. If time or money or both (are) an issue and you can’t go to a gym and work with a trainer, with apps on our phone there is really little to no excuse to tracking whether it’s your nutrition, movement or both. Technology has made it easier now more than ever to be empowered so that in a way is a challenge for me. … That is my competition since some people may not want to leave the comfort of their home.”

– Lauren Caggiano, 34, Fort Wayne, owner and founder of New Heights Fitness and a certified personal trainer

“Technology has impacted me in my current job because everything that we do is through a computer, including taking people’s orders, paying with (a credit) card or ApplePay, and scheduling myself along with other staff members. A new staff member also would have to watch instructional videos to be taught how to do things within the store instead of being physically told. Things would be a lot more difficult if we did not have technology.”

– Cameron Fordham, 18, Fort Wayne, McDonald’s restaurant employee

“Honestly it’s had a really negative effect on retail. The emergence of online shopping and in result online returns in store are the reason that many stores like Charlotte Russe are forced to close.”

– Noelle Larimer, 18, Fort Wayne, American Eagle sales associate

Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

By | News | No Comments

Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

| Input Fort Wayne

July 17, 2019

s the saying goes, time is money, and that saying especially rings true in an office environment. One female entrepreneur is helping interior designers save time on everyday tasks with the help of a newly released app, Sample Snap.

Melissa Hall (left) and peers at the 2017 Launch Women Pitch Competition

You could say the concept behind Sample Snap is 20 years in the making. Melissa Hall, currently the co-founder of Bona Vita Architecture and the brains behind the app, has been in the architecture design field for more than two decades. In that time, her experience as an interior designer exposed her to the inefficiencies that plague firms of all sizes all over the globe.

Tasks like ordering samples of fabric, carpet, and other materials from sample books in a library can be cumbersome and resource-intensive.

So Sample Snap is disrupting the status quo by helping designers easily order samples, as well as store ideas and preferences within the app.

Drawing on her personal experience and feedback from industry peers across the country via a survey, Hall was able to quantify the potential savings in both time and money for app users. She collected 120 survey responses and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive—97 percent of designers said they would use the app.

“Based on the feedback from the survey, I learned designers estimate it takes them 5-7 minutes to order just one sample,” she says. “I took the average billable rate, which is $145 an hour and figured out that is more than $16 of billable time to order just one sample! The app reduces that from 5-7 minutes to about 30 seconds.”

This savings really adds up because for each project designers take on, they order dozens of samples to create multiple color palettes. The app is also a great tool for firm owners because designers can save time on projects, making the firm more profitable.

Speaking of money, the business model is to have manufacturers—the customer—underwrite the cost of the app so that it’s free for designers to use. According to Hall, manufacturers compete with one another to get interior designers to specify their products. If they can make it more attractive for designers to work with them, they’ve carved out a point of difference.

In other words, Sample Snap is a marketing advantage for manufacturers, and Hall is using that to her advantage.

She didn’t come to that conclusion right away, however. It was thanks to a business competition and later a mentor and advisor at The NIIC that she determined exactly how to monetize the concept. After competing in the Launch Women Pitch competition in the fall of 2017, she was connected with The NIIC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mike Fritsch for coaching. He helped her develop a financial model and determine that commission-based was the way to go to accommodate manufacturers of all sizes.

Based on his recommendation, she plans to charge per sample ordered—so the higher volume company naturally pays more because they have more orders. Those companies will also benefit from a form of business intelligence.

“For example, when designers save products to their ‘Love It’ Box, the manufacturers can buy that data from Sample Snap to see who loves the product,” she explains. “So maybe in three months, when that product is actually available for ordering, they can push out customized, targeted marketing to the designer about that specific product as a reminder that they loved it at the trade show recently.”

Speaking of trade shows, having a presence at one, in particular, was a milestone for the business. Held every June at The Mart in Chicago since 1969, NeoCon serves as the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation, offering ideas and introductions that shape the built environment today and into the future.

Hall had identified NeoCon as the ideal place to launch her app because of its high-profile nature. While she didn’t have any manufacturers on board at the time of the convention, she says she still reaped benefits in the form of awareness.

“I used the opportunity to spread the word out about it,” she says. “I did a pretty aggressive social media campaign with multiple posts each day of the event and the weekend leading up to the event and sent a series of emails to my target customers’ presidents and VPs of marketing.”

It’s no secret she’s hungry to bring the app to market, and she’s in good company with her entrepreneurial pursuits.

According to data cited in Forbes, women-owned firms have grown at a rate 1.5 times greater than other small businesses over the last 15 years. Sample Snap is one of these businesses on the move.