News Column

Entrepreneurs Share Their 'Aha Moment'

Mar 6 2013 10:00PM

Darla Ellingson, Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Minn.

Some big "Aha" moments were shared by new entrepreneurs, and experts talked about where to get new venture funds at the 2013 Business Expo morning session Wednesday.

The seminar featured presentations by three early stage companies, including Keep Me Safe, a technology company that markets an ID bracelet device.

Keep Me Safe founders Matt and Laura Holmquist had a need -- a way to keep contact and other information connected to their child with autism when he wasn't under their care. When they couldn't find the right product on the market, they invented their own, using QR code technology -- a type of matrix barcode capable of containing extensive data.

One of the first "Aha" moments for the Holmquists came at a trade show. There was a lot of interest in their project, but since, at the time, each bracelet had to be pre-programmed, they were not able to sell the product immediately. So they developed a way to create the QR code bracelets to be activated later by the consumer.

Matt Holmquist gave several examples of the changes the product and their marketing strategy went through in taking Keep Me Safe to market.

"Our next big idea came in finding another use for the product while talking to a long-distance runner," said Holmquist. "We changed our website and profile forms so they were not autism-centered to apply to other customers."

On the funding end of the spectrum, David Russick went through the steps of how to find an angel to invest in a start-up company.

Russick is Executive Director of Gopher Angels, but claims his group is much nicer to potential entrepreneurs than investors on the TV show Shark Tank.

A start-up business can fill out a profile through the Gopher Angel's website. Investors review about up to 20 profiles a month, and typically three to five entrepreneurs are invited to give a 15 minute presentation. Russick said the profile is good exposure for start-up businesses.

"Even if a company is not invited in for presentation, they still get exposure to all of the investors," Russick said. "An investor may choose to contact a company that interests them directly."

Russick also does not think being in rural Minnesota is necessary a detriment since computer access connects business to extensive resources, such as overseas manufacturing.

There were several important resources shared throughout the session, and encouraging messages like this one from the start-up company Burks Happy Mouth, a company that makes seasonings.

"Keep at it and don't give up," Kevin Burkhardsmeier said. "If you have a dream, go for it."

Source: (c)2013 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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