John Swanciger, CEO of Manta

John Swanciger is the CEO of Manta, an online directory for small businesses. A seasoned tech exec with more than 15 years of experience working with B2B and B2C companies, Swanciger leads Manta’s efforts to enhance its current offerings as well as expand its products and services.

Prior to Manta, Swanciger was the chief commercial officer of Switchfly, a cloud-based e-commmerce platform for the travel and loyalty industries. At Switchfly, Swanciger oversaw sales, marketing, partner relations, and business development. Earlier, he served as the vice president of marketing and business development at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, where he led global web strategy, web partnerships, and online marketing for all of the company’s brands. Swanciger has also fulfilled management consulting positions at Cambridge Technology Partners and Accenture and several management roles at Hotwire.

In addition to leading Manta, Swanciger presently serves on the board of directors of Liftopia. He graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

Susan Solovic Shows Entrepreneurs How to Reinvent Themselves

Susan Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur helping small businesses unlock their potential and make more money. Using practical advice that can be applied immediately, she teaches entrepreneurs how to go from ordinary to extraordinary. Her expertise has also made her a sought-after keynote speaker and media personality; Solovic regularly contributes to Fox Business, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, and The Huffington Post. She was previously the ABC News small business contributor and the host of the PBS feature Reinvent Yourself Now: Become Self-Reliant in an Unpredictable World.

Solovic is the co-founder of Small Business Television, the first video news and information website for small businesses. She grew Small Business Television from a humble startup to a multimillion dollar enterprise. In 2006, the company won a Stevie Award for the “Most Innovative Company Under 100 Employees” and was voted the “Best Investment Opportunity” at a Venture Forum event.

Solovic is currently an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University and a member of the advisory board of the university’s John Cook School of Business Entrepreneurial Studies. She also sits on the board of trustees of Columbia College and on the board of the college’s Fishman School for Entrepreneurship.

An avid supporter of female entrepreneurs, Solovic serves on the board of directors of the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women. She is a former member of the National Women’s Business Council and the former vice president of the board of directors of Women Impacting Public Policy. Solovic was the first to receive AT&T’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2008 and accepted the Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship Leader of Distinction Award in 2009.

Solovic is the author of four bestselling books that have been translated into several languages: It’s Your Biz, Reinvent Your Career, The Girls’ Guide to Power and Success, and The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business.

Alex Furmansky Turns Kids’ Drawings Into Actual Toys

Serial entrepreneur Alex Furmansky is the founder of Budsies, a company that turns children’s artwork into custom plush toys. Furmansky got the idea for Budsies from his younger sister, Michelle. Because he was already 16 when she was born, he got to see her art evolve throughout her childhood. Each week, Michelle created dozens of drawings, which went from being displayed on the fridge to being hidden in a box in the basement. When Furmansky saw Michelle hugging her stuffed animals and tucking them in at night, he thought about bringing her drawings to life so she could hold them as well. Budsies was born, and soon everyone in the neighborhood wanted to turn their art into plush toys, too.

To order a Budsie, customers simply send a photo to the company. Each unique stuffed animal is made with all-new hypoallergenic materials and high-quality stitching and ships in about five weeks.

Christie Asselin, Wedding Lawyer

Christie Asselin is a wedding lawyer based in La Crescenta, California. A sixth year litigation attorney with a background in business disputes, she began thinking about the next stage of her legal career a couple of years ago. Having been a bridesmaid in seven weddings and planned several events and fundraisers, Asselin realized there weren’t any lawyers who specialized in weddings.

“Getting married is not just about coordinating wedding colors,” she says. “It’s a much more complex legal process than people consider.”

After finding an interest and a need for legal representation in this area, Asselin began working with brides and grooms in 2012. Today, she assists couples with wedding-related legal issues including contract review and vendor negotiation, as well as provides legal support to wedding professionals. It was while planning her own wedding and getting to know wedding professionals that Asselin saw that they also needed legal guidance.

“There is so much white space to play with in terms of the interplay between three of my favorite things: the law, wedding planning, and well… love,” says Asselin. She adds that the niche she has developed inspires her all the time and gives her plenty of room to be creative.

But because being a wedding lawyer is such a new concept, Asselin has to work on increasing awareness for her brand. To this end, she tells everyone she knows about what she does and remains active on social media, commenting on wedding topics regularly. Asselin’s future plans include teaching classes for couples and wedding professionals, publishing a book, and landing speaking engagements.

Asselin graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002 and Seattle University Law School in 2006. Self-employed since 2009, she not only serves as a litigation and wedding lawyer but also works as a freelance research and writing attorney.

Jeff Morin, Veteran Turned Coin Entrepreneur

er-jeff-morinJeff Morin is the founder and CEO of Coins For Anything, a collectible coin company based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Morin started out reselling military challenge coins on the Internet while he was stationed at Camp Lejeune with the 2nd Marine Division. When a customer requested a Mother of Marine coin, he realized that it wasn’t available and decided to design and produce it himself.

After seeing the effect this special coin had on his customer, Morin founded Coins For Anything in late 2002. His goal is to provide the finest custom-made challenge coins as well as a selection of unique designs for collectors.

Since its inception, Coins For Anything has designed over 25,000 coins, many of which are used for non-military applications such as business cards, employee recognition pieces, customer loyalty discount coins, and more. Notable clients of the company include Ford, The Home Depot, Starbucks, Du Pont, Yahoo!, Frito Lay, and Dell.

Julie Bailey, Herb-Loving Entrepreneur

Julie Bailey is the co-owner and president of Mountain Rose Herbs, an online retailer of organic herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, herbal extracts, essential oils, and natural body care ingredients. Mountain Rose Herbs’ selection includes certified organic, fair trade, Kosher, and ethically wild harvested products.

Bailey embarked on her entrepreneurial journey in 1991 when she bought Mountain Rose Herbs from a friend. In the beginning, she ran the business out of her home in southern Humboldt, where she created a line of all-natural products such as teas, aroma sprays, aroma oils, and face creams. After witnessing the growing popularity of herbs and the irresponsible harvesting of wild plants, Bailey instituted strict guidelines for ethical wild harvesting within the company to protect the threatened state of wild plants.

By 1998, Mountain Rose Herbs had become the go-to source for high-quality herbs, known for its top-notch products and friendly service. The company is now based in Eugene, Oregon and has been recognized one of the best green businesses to work for in the state.

er-julie-baileyBailey’s fascination with herbs and healing began at a young age when her grandmother, the village herbalist, took her for a walk in her garden in Derbyshire, England. As a young adult, Bailey apprenticed with Denise Aylmer-Aylmore and learned about herbal and alternative medicines for people and animals.

Over the following years, she ran an equestrian training stable, managed the herb departments of co-ops and health food stores, cooked at vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and attended herb classes. At college and nursing school, Bailey took classes on psychiatric and general medicine, anatomy, nutrition, physiology, and CPR/first aid. Prior to Mountain Rose Herbs, she managed restaurants and health food stores, ran a plant and herb nursery, led wilderness backpack trips for women, and worked at a health clinic.

Bailey describes Mountain Rose Herbs as the “ongoing fulfillment of my dreams, work experience, and ambition.”

Heather Reisman, One of Canada’s Most Powerful Women

Heather Reisman is the founder, chief executive officer, and chairwoman of Indigo, the largest book, gift, and specialty toy retailer in Canada. She is also the co-founder of Kobo, a leading e-reading company.

Reisman began her career at Paradigm Consulting, a strategy and change management firm she co-founded. Paradigm was the world’s first strategic change consultancy and introduced several organizational change strategies still in use today. Reisman served as the firm’s managing director for 16 years.

Reisman is also currently a director on the board of Onex Corporation, an officer of Mount Sinai Hospital, and a member of the Bilderberg Steering Committee. She has served on many North American boards and is a former governor of the Toronto Stock Exchange and McGill University, her alma mater.

Reisman has received numerous accolades over the years, including the International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award from the University of Manitoba and the John Molson School of Business Award of Distinction from Concordia University. She has also been named one of WXN’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women.”

SoundBrush’s Basil Al-Dajane: Entrepreneurship Is a New Approach to Life

Basil Al-Dajane is the co-founder and product lead of SoundBrush, an iPad app that turns drawings into music. SoundBrush works the way you think, placing a focus on the creative process instead of the techniques required to play an instrument. With SoundBrush, anyone can make music. You only have to perform simple, intuitive gestures to create a beat, pick a scale, mix your sounds, and more. The app also includes a built-in song sharing platform called Discover where you can publish your songs, listen to other people’s songs, find tips and tricks, and join contests to win cool prizes.

SoundBrush is a part of Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator. Al-Dajane is responsible for the look and feel of the app, as well as the business side of the startup. When he and co-founder Jayson Rhynas began working on SoundBrush, they actually just wanted to learn how to build an app for iOS and the iPad. The duo brainstormed for ideas for cool apps in 2011. One of the ideas they wrote down was “finger-painting music.” While neither of them knew what it meant, they were immediately drawn to it, as they were both musicians and graphic artists.

That idea eventually became SoundBrush, which Al-Dajane and Rhynas developed while they were working at their respective internships. After an eight-hour workday, they would work for another six to seven hours on SoundBrush. The first version of the app was launched in April 2012.

According to Al-Dajane, he and Rhynas made plenty of mistakes but learned a lot along the way, from marketing techniques, technology, processes, and everything in between.

“Being an entrepreneur is so much more than just creating a startup or a product; it’s a completely new approach to life,” says Al-Dajane. “In the long run, you’re not creating a product, but a difference in the world around you.”

Susan Taing Uses the Power of 3D Printing to Enable Better Design

Susan Taing is the founder and CEO of bhold, a New York-based 3D printing and design studio specializing in smart, functional accessories that make life easier. A former Google employee, Taing has years of experience in tech, creative, and manufacturing. One day, she encountered some inefficiencies in the overseas manufacturing process and realized that 3D printing would allow for better and faster design.

Taing launched bhold in April 2013. Under her direction, the studio won an Editor’s Choice award at Maker Faire, was selected for the Product Design Showcase at 3D Printshow, and was invited to be the Shapeways Designer in Residence at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City two times.

bhold’s line of 3D printed products currently include the bheard portable audio amplifier, bholdable dual wall espresso tumbler, bsteady phone car mount, bneat earbud organizer, and bstrong utility hook, among others. bhold is part of the NYDesigns incubator and a member of the American Design Club.

Alissa Guthrie: The Mompreneur Behind Bend’s First Inflatable Fun Center

Alissa Guthrie is the owner of Bouncing Off the Wall, the first and only inflatable fun center in Bend, Oregon. Guthrie decided to start her own business after moving from Portland to Bend with her husband and three boys. They had been regular customers of a larger, well-known inflatable fun center in the metro area, and there were no such establishments in their new city. Guthrie realized franchising wasn’t going to work for her, so she set out to launch her own company. After several months of research, she opened the doors to an inflatable fun center with a focus on personalized service, state-of-the-art equipment, and a family-friendly atmosphere.

That was nearly six years ago. From the beginning, Guthrie has been dedicated to running a safe, clean, and intuitive facility – a commitment that has helped Bouncing Off the Wall weather rough economic times.

Spanning 11,000 square feet, Bouncing Off the Wall offers a variety of activities for different age groups. Every second and fourth Saturday of the month is Kids Night Out, which includes three hours of play time, snacks, a craft project, and a kid-friendly movie. Parents can enjoy a night out while their kids blow off steam in a safe environment. There’s also Pre-K Play every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. These times are reserved for the younger kids; no older children are allowed. Then every second and fourth Friday is Family Fun Night, where kids and parents can take part in jousting, boxing, bouncy volleyball, sumo wrestling, and other fun themed events.

Prior to Bouncing Off the Wall, Guthrie earned her degree in elementary education from Linfield College in McMinnville and taught for a few years in the Portland area. She absolutely loves children and feels fortunate to be able to work with them every day.