Otis Chandler Helps Book Lovers Find Their Next Favorite Read

Otis Chandler is the founder and chief executive officer of Goodreads, a free website for book lovers. Launched in early 2007, Goodreads exists to help people find and share books they love.

Chandler first discovered the joy of reading when he was in second grade. Since coming across the Hardy Boys series, he has been hooked on reading and has been doing so for both fun and education. Always on the lookout for the next great book to read, Chandler was scanning a friend’s bookshelf for ideas one day when it hit him – when looking for books to read, he would rather turn to a friend than a random person or a bestseller list.

That was when Chandler decided to build a website where he could see all of his friends’ bookshelves and find out what they thought about their books. He and his wife, Elizabeth, created the site in his living room, motivated by the belief that there was a better way to discover and discuss good books and that they could build it.

Today, Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, with 30 million members, 900 million books, and 34 million reviews. Goodreads is the place where you can see what your friends are reading and vice versa. You can create “bookshelves” for books that you’re reading, have read, and want to read. When you’re not sure what to read next, the site will give insightful recommendations based on what you have enjoyed in the past.

A software engineer at heart, Chandler loves working on Goodreads to make it the best product possible. With Goodreads, he is able to combine two of his passions: reading and building websites. Prior to Goodreads, he was a software engineer and product manager at Tickle.com. Chandler earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.

Esther Weisman Blings Scrubs and More to Life

Esther Weisman is the founder and CEO of Sparkly Scrubs & More, a Columbus, Ohio-based company offering rhinestone scrubs, T-shirts, cheerleading uniforms, spiritwear, undies, and accessories.

Sparkly Scrubs & More started out turning scrubs from drab to fab. Having worked in the medical field for nearly eight years, Weisman has visited several offices around the country and always heard professionals complaining about their scrubs and wishing for more fashionable apparel. She founded Sparkly Scrubs & More to help those in the medical and dental fields look and feel great. The company offers great-fitting, cute scrubs in a wide variety of colors and sizes.

Sparkly Scrubs & More has since expanded its product offering. Today, the company also makes sparkly T-shirts, loungewear, skivvies, baby clothes, cheerwear, school shirts, and more. Additionally, Sparkly Scrubs & More accepts custom design requests and can “bling anything,” including football helmets, baby wipe cases, hangers, bags, and car stickers.

George Page Brings Clean Water to Those Who Need Them Most

George Page is the founder and CEO of Portapure, a Chicago-based company that empowers people to save their own lives through its portable water filtration device. Page has 10 years of experience in water filtration, having run two of the world’s largest water treatment facilities in Chicago. He founded Portapure after Haiti was struck by an earthquake in January 2010, leaving Haitians to rely on water purification tablets. Without a container, spoon, and cloth to filter off sediment, however, it was impossible to use the tablets. Page’s research into a more effective way of making dirty water from a lake or stream potable began the day after the earthquake.

The result is PureLives, a portable 5-gallon water filtration device that requires no chemicals and removes 99.99 percent of sediment, bacteria, and viruses, including cholera, E. coli, salmonella, typhoid, amoebic dysentery, and more. PureLives enables households to provide clean water for their families and run clean water micro-businesses.

Sharon Schneider Helps Moms Get the Most Value Out of Children’s Clothes

Sharon Schneider is the co-founder and CEO of Moxie Jean, an “upscale resale” website for boutique children’s clothing. As a busy, modern mom, she knows how expensive babies can be, calling them “little consumption engines.” Like many parents, Schneider loves well-made baby clothes but tries to avoid conspicuous consumption and wants to raise her kids to be socially responsible. She has often lamented the cost and waste of baby clothes, which babies go through really quickly. To save time, money, and the planet, she and her sisters and friends passed their kids’ clothing around, sharing them as much as possible.

One day Schneider thought how great it would be if there were a central repository where she and her friends and family could store their beautiful baby clothes when they don’t need them. This person could keep them clean and organized and send her the best pieces in the sizes she needs when she needs them. This way, everyone would save money and waste less, while still having stylish kids.

That was the start of Moxie Jean. Since then, the company has been making it easy for moms to buy and sell branded, like-new kids’ clothes, offering a curated selection of beautiful pieces at consignment sale prices. Moxie Jean takes pride in providing only immaculate apparel that moms will be excited to receive. Guided by its upscale resale philosophy, Moxie Jean emulates the boutique shopping experience, from the carefully chosen apparel and well-done photography to the prompt shipping and responsive customer service.

In 2013, Moxie Jean was named the “Most Awesome Online Consign, Swap, or Recycle Site” in the Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Awards and received a Chicago Innovation Award as an “Up and Comer.” It has been featured in The Daily Herald, Mashable, ABC7 Green Living, Windy City Live, The Today Show, and more.

Benjamin Heywood, James Heywood, and Jeff Cole: The Team Behind Health Data-Sharing Platform PatientsLikeMe

Benjamin Heywood, James Heywood, and Jeff Cole are the co-founders of PatientsLikeMe, a health data-sharing platform that aims to improve health care through sharing, support, and research. All MIT engineers, Benjamin, James, and Jeff started PatientsLikeMe in 2004 after their brother and friend, Stephen Heywood, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS in 1998. They began searching for ideas that would extend and improve Stephen’s life, and launched PatientsLikeMe to help other ALS patients learn from their experience.

On PatientsLikeMe, users can connect with people like them, share their experience, support others, compare treatments and symptoms, learn from real-world health data, and take control of their health. A for-profit company with a not-just-for-profit attitude, PatientsLikeMe takes the information shared by users and sells it to partners who use the data to improve products, services, and care for patients.

James serves as the company’s chairman while Benjamin is the president and chief privacy officer. Jeff, who previously fulfilled the role of CTO, now works at Google.

Aihui Ong: How an Engineer Turned Her Passions Into a Thriving Business

Aihui Ong is the founder and CEO of Love With Food, a snack box subscription service that helps consumers discover organic and all-natural snacks while fighting hunger in America. Each month, members get a box of at least eight unique, hard-to-finds snacks delivered to their door. For every box sent, Love With Food donates a meal to a hungry child in the United States. Members get to choose from three different boxes: the tasting box (8 or more snacks), the deluxe box (16-20 snacks), and the gluten-free box (8-12 gluten-free snacks). All boxes contain organic or all-natural treats that are free of any artificial ingredients, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and high-fructose corn syrup. Love With Food has been featured in Fast Company, InStyle, Real Simple, HLN, and more.

Ong’s entrepreneurial journey began several years ago. A successful engineer, she divorced her husband after suffering nearly 10 years of verbal abuse. With a heavy heart, she set out from San Francisco to travel the world for 12 months. During her travels, she encountered many people who were living in poverty, who had no access to clean food or water.

Ong still hadn’t found the solace she had hoped to find when she returned to America after a year of traveling. One day, she invited her best friend, Sharon, to have lunch with her. After complaining about her life, she learned that Sharon had breast cancer. Ong offered to cook for her, an experience that she says changed her life. Caring for Sharon helped Ong realize that she had nothing to be angry about because she was healthy.

Around the same time, another friend, Flora, started a stir-fry sauce business with her savings. But after failing to gain greater distribution, she had to close down her operation. Infuriated, Ong was determined to help passionate food makers like Flora avoid this fate and succeed in growing their business. Ong combined her passions, food and technology, to launch Love With Food and connect food producers with consumers.

Whitney Cochran, Creator of BoxSox Reusable Gift Wrap

Whitney Cochran is the mompreneur who created BoxSox, a reusable fabric gift wrap that serves as a greener alternative to traditional wrapping paper. BoxSox also makes gift wrapping fast and easy; each kit includes an attractive spandex gift wrap, an attached ribbon, a box, tissue paper, and a card. Simply place your gift inside the box, slip the stretchable fabric over it, tie the ribbon, and you’re done. Even the worst gift wrappers will look like pros with BoxSox.

“One of the comments I hear quite frequently is that BoxSox is like a gift within a gift,” says Cochran. “Sometimes people like the box better than the gift inside!”

When you wrap a gift in BoxSox, you are encouraging someone else to reuse it when they give a gift, thus starting an eco-friendly gift wrapping revolution.

BoxSox comes in five sizes and several fun designs. Cochran came up with the idea for BoxSox when she was wrapping presents for her four daughters one Christmas Eve. Surrounded by presents and rolls of wrapping paper, she figured there had to be a quicker and greener way to wrap gifts.

Linda Faust: A Natural Soap Entrepreneur Offers Safer Personal Care Products

Linda Faust is the owner of Scenter of the Mind, a natural personal care company based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Faust started her business more than 10 years ago to provide safer, more ethical choices to consumers. Unlike many commercial and some handmade soaps that contain harmful chemicals, detergents, colorants, and synthetic fragrances, Faust’s soaps and herbal products are pure and natural, made with high-quality, vitamin-enriched oils and exquisite fragrances from essential oils of flowers and plants. Faust’s products do not include dyes, pigments, or colorants that can irritate the skin or synthetic fragrances consisting of toxic, undisclosed ingredients.

Faust is passionate about nature, cares about people, and loves making soap that are not “chemical cocktails.” Committed to the well-being of people and the planet, Faust will never use bad ingredients just to make her soaps prettier, smell stronger, or more marketable. She takes pride in her products’ simplicity and purity.

“I want people to have healthier choices and be aware of what they are putting on and into their body,” says Faust. “I strive to provide as much information as possible.”

All Scenter of the Mind products are entirely handmade in the USA using carefully selected, quality ingredients. Faust does not use store-bought kits or materials. She has spent several hours developing her recipes to create soaps that not only clean well and last long but are also gentle on the skin. Additionally, the packaging is natural, renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable whenever possible. Faust believes our relationship with nature is part of our overall health, and using natural ingredients is a way to nurture that relationship.

Scenter of the Mind is available online and at brick-and-mortar locations in Illinois and Maryland, including Rolling Meadows Farmers and Food Trucks, Happy Foods, Pete’s Fresh Market, Mariano’s Fresh Market, Go Green Baby, and Bee Beautiful Green Salon and Spa.

Tonya Stump, Founder of Bright Star Academy Schools

Tonya Stump is the founder and CEO of Bright Star Academy Schools. Located in Cedar Park, Texas, Bright Star offers “exceptional early childhood education” for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids. The school is also committed to helping children value the environment, respect natural resources, and “grow up green.”

Stump has been providing the highest quality of care and learning for youngsters for more than a decade. As a working mother of four, she realized how difficult and important it was to find exceptional child care for her kids. So in 1995, she set out to develop the perfect center for her son and daughters. Her child care center became a success, growing to multiple locations in central Ohio and earning an outstanding reputation for high-quality education and care.

For her next adventure, Stump was prompted by her son to think about what had changed since she first entered the child care industry. She noticed that today’s parents are more environmentally conscious, so she founded Bright Star Academy Schools to support the cause of living green.

Bright Star’s eco-friendly 17,000-square-foot facility provides a safe, sustainable, and healthy learning environment where each child’s individuality is supported. Through a combination of physical, emotional, creative, social, cognitive, and communicative hands-on activities, the development of the whole child is nurtured.

The Bright Star building, which is protected by a state-of-the-art security system, is designed to be energy efficient. Cutting-edge architecture allows natural light to enter and flow throughout. Child-safe green cleaning products, fluorescent bulbs, low-flush toilets and low-flow faucets, recycling bins in every classroom, recycled plastic playground equipment, and a recycling compost and organic garden are just some of the facility’s eco-friendly features.

With Bright Star Academy Schools, Stump aims to make it easier for parents to entrust their child to someone else’s care.

Jamie Ratner, Founder of CertifiKid

Jamie Ratner is the founder and CEO of CertifiKid, a daily deal website that lets families discover great deals from local businesses. For years, she wrote a successful Washington-area blog that helped moms find deals and new things to try locally. Countless daily readers turned to her for advice on local products, services, restaurants, and events because she is just like them – a working mom raising a family and always searching for a good bargain.

Ratner founded CertifiKid to fill a huge void in the daily deal space. Starting from the DC area, CertifiKid quickly expanded to the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets. In 2013, it acquired Los Angeles and Chicago-based FamilyFinds and Atlanta-based FamGrab to reach more parents and business owners. From being a household name in the Greater Washington-Baltimore area, CertifiKid is now known nationally and has been featured in several media outlets.

In 2011, Ratner was named one of The Washington Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40 Brightest Young Business Leaders.”