Q&A with Our Inaugural StartupNation Story Competition Winners

In January, we announced the five winners of our inaugural StartupNation Story Competition. While we introduced you briefly earlier, we want our audience to get to know each of our winners a little bit better.

Learn more about the five winners of our first ever StartupNation Story competition!


Entrepreneur: Robert Capelluto

Startup: Dubseed

About Dubseed

Dubseed is a marketplace devoted to the new Stem format. On the surface, a Stem file looks and plays like a regular MP4 audio file. However, embedded within this file are four extra “Stem” elements; for example Vocals, FX, Bass, Leads, etc., that when played simultaneously recreate the original audio recording. This provides DJs with more control over their mix, as they are able to isolate, effect and combine the Stems of multiple different tracks, opening up incredible potential to a more interactive form of mixing. Gone are the days of simply mixing one full track with another. Stems are the future of live electronic performance.

What has been your biggest challenge since starting Dubseed?

The biggest challenge has been timing our efforts and growth with the rest of the music industry. It has been a real test of patience. The music industry especially takes a while to evolve and catch on to new trends, so we are not wanting to spend all of our efforts on something that the industry is not completely ready for.

Where do you hope to see Dubseed 12 months from now?

I hope that Stems are a universally recognized format by both musicians and consumers in the same way that the mp3 became the next form of consuming music following the CD. I hope that Dubseed has the largest database of Stem content for others to utilize.

What book, podcast or person has been the most influential in your personal startup journey?

Book: “The war of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield

Podcast: StartUp by Gimlet

Person: Casey Neistat

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting his or her own business?

Build something more so based around your customers wants and needs and less so around your wants and needs. Be very focused in your minimal viable product so that it clearly works to solve one distinct problem.


Entrepreneurs: Samantha Johnson and Megan Lusher

Startup: Covelle

About Covelle

Covelle is an online connection and collaboration platform for female entrepreneurs in creative industries.

We met through Instagram after individually suffering through the incredibly time-consuming, incredibly inefficient process of scouring the internet looking for creativepreneurs who meet a specific set of criteria. Just a few weeks later, while still essentially total strangers, we decided to build (and bootstrap) a better networking solution for women in online business.

What service does Covelle offer and what problem does it solve?

Every day, small businesses fail. A strong network and support system makes that outcome much less likely. Beyond that, collaboration, in all its forms, is one of the best ways to see dramatic growth in your business. Whether it’s the perfect collaborator or someone to grab coffee with, we help creativepreneurs find exactly who they need, exactly when they need her.

Covelle offers a searchable member directory, one-on-one coffee and Skype date scheduling, collaboration listings, and our signature virtual small-group networking events. Our goal is to make it easier for women in business build genuine, authentic relationships with one another.

What has been your biggest success so far as a business owner?

In just over six months since opening the platform to beta testers, we’ve welcomed nearly a thousand members, and we had more than three hundred registrations for our first virtual networking event series. We’re so proud of the fact that women from all over the world have connected through Covelle. One of our highest moments so far was the day that two members sent us a screenshot of their first Skype date. It was so incredible to see them getting to know each other because of something that we built!

What has been your biggest challenge in starting a business?

We’re both first-time entrepreneurs, and when we started out, we were also complete strangers. We faced the somewhat unique challenge of navigating building a business and building a personal relationship at the same time, which definitely added an extra layer of difficulty. Communication was, and still is, crucial to making it work.

What book, podcast or person has been the most influential in your personal startup journey?

Sam is a huge podcast nerd. Being Boss, The Fizzle Show, The Strategy Hour, All Up In Your Lady Business, and She Did It Her Way are all on her must-listen list. Megan is a big fan of the book “GIRLBOSS” by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso.

ArT18 Wine

Entrepreneurs: Ryan Frederickson and Stephen Pedone

Startup: ArT18 Wine Preservation

About Art18 Wine Preservation

We save open bottles of wine so you can explore the world of wine, without the waste.

In early 2016, Stephen (Finance and Marketing) had been toying with argon to protect the wine he opened. As a single person, it’s a challenge to consume a 750mL bottle every time you want a taste; dumping the valuable liquid does not fit with an eco-friendly lifestyle. He asked for Ryan’s (Product Development and Strategy) insight for commercialization since he was an engineer in the argon industry. The two met through the cycling & triathlon community years earlier, when they had brief professional careers “back in the day.”

After some discussion and a trip exploring the vineyards of Sonoma County, our company was founded (June 2016). With strong local partnerships, we were able to ship the first order of ArT-18 Wine Preservation in November of 2016.

What has been your biggest challenge in starting a business?

Our biggest challenge is prioritizing. We have to balance product development, sales, funding and marketing on a daily basis when all aspects are important. Having a strong partnership (engineering and finance) and business advisors help us with this challenge.

Where do you hope to see your startup 12 months from now?

We hope to see ArT-18 Wine Preservation reducing consumer and restaurant wine waste at the local level, and enough impact for a national distributor to want to share our product with other markets.

At this time we hope to have a group of partners that believe in the mission (to reduce wine and food waste) helping us with product improvements.

As a founder and small business owner, what motivates you?

Reducing the wasteful habits of our economy. For example, we found that each year over $1.2B of wine goes down the drain at home, plus an additional 18-24M bottles at restaurants. We aim to reduce this waste by allowing consumers easy and economical methods of preserving food, starting with wine.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting his or her own business?

Do not fear sharing your idea. An idea is worthless without execution, and discussion can help greatly improve execution. For example, we did no pre-sales for our product because we feared that it would be a waste of time and/or allow others to steal our ideas. In retrospect – we should have started pre-sales as soon as we had our prototypes.

The Story Sketcher

Entrepreneur: Paige Murrell

Startup: The Story Sketcher

About The Story Sketcher

Success builds on a great message and a great display. At The Story Sketcher, we help organizations and individuals turn complicated ideas into clear and captivating visual presentations.

What problem does The Story Sketcher solve?

Getting people’s attention in this information-soaked world is challenging, so we partner with our clients to craft customized sketch and animation videos that mesmerize people with their simplicity. Providing both scripting services and video production, we take our customers from start to finish. With these videos, a message becomes a authentic, dynamic picture an audience can connect with. Such a medium allows you avoid confusing details and simply tell a story.

What has been your biggest success so far as a business owner?

As a business owner, my greatest achievement has been networking with individuals who truly care about what they’re doing in their work. Work can get a bad rap, but I’ve met so many people who love their jobs and want to share their story with others. It’s inspiring.

As a founder and small business owner, what motivates you?

I’m a people-person by nature, so seeing other people find joy in simplicity makes my day. If I can create a story that brings a smile to people’s faces, I’ve accomplished my purpose.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting his or her own business?

Open yourself up to mentorship. I’m where I am right now because a couple key individuals offered their time and their wisdom to me, and it changed my life. Then just go for it. Starting a business is intimidating, but it’s more rewarding to start and fail then it is to do nothing.

Loud Rumor

Entrepreneur: Mike Acre

Startup: Loud Rumor

About Loud Rumor

We are a lead generation company for fitness studios and independent gyms. We also provide coaching and education on how to run a better small business within the fitness industry.

What has been your biggest success so far as a business owner?

The biggest success has been building a team that enjoys working here and that can work really well without my involvement, and is able to create and innovate on their own.

What has been your biggest challenge in starting a business?

Building a team has definitely been the biggest challenge. The first six years, a lot of it was doing it myself for 16 to 18 hours a day. Once I really learned the value of building a team and focused on doing it the right way, I was able to grow my company much faster.

Where do you hope to see your startup 12 months from now?

We would like to be quadruple of where we are right now. We have 100 customers right now, we would like to be at 400. We would also like to be considered the authority in the fitness industry when it comes to lead generation and education.

As a founder and small business owner, what motivates you?

What motivates me is knowing that we are actually making a real impact. Every day it seems like we get emails from customers or clients who are just really excited about what we’ve been able to do for them. Nothing is more enjoyable than reading those and sharing them with my team so we can see what we’ve actually done for people we work with.

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