Sean Belnick: A Successful Serial Entrepreneur At Heart

Sean Belnick is a serial entrepreneur at heart but he has certainly found his niche in the furniture industry particularly as one of the leaders in the online office furniture retail sector. He has been involved in just about every business opportunity that came his way, such as mowing lawns, passing out flyers, and selling Pokemon cards online as well as designing websites during the early days of the Internet.

Like many successful serial entrepreneurs, Belnick will not take credit for the success of BizChair.com because he believes that every successful company requires a combination of intuitive leadership, effective strategy, and desirable products and services, as well as a bit of luck. He started BizChair.com in 2001 when he was just 14 years old with a $500 capital and with professional assistance from his stepfather, an experienced furniture salesman with longstanding connections in the industry.

With his business experience coupled with his self-taught online expertise in website design and development and with his stepfather’s continued guidance, Belnick slowly yet surely managed BizChair.com to become a furniture distribution powerhouse with multi-million sales.

In 2004, for example, he moved the company into a 40,000-square foot warehouse with the current warehouse being an award-winning 700,000-square foot facility. He has also hired over 165 employees and sells over 40,000 products on the website with more than 500,000 customers – and growing.

Belnick also believes in change and growth. As his business grows, he also learns new things about the business on a daily basis, thus, keeping him on his toes in the highly competitive online furniture industry. He acknowledges that in the 10 years since the establishment of BizChair.com, it has changed so much so that it is barely recognizable.

Upon graduation from the Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in May 2009, Belnick became BizChair.com’s chief executive officer. Indeed, a bit of luck may have made his success possible but it was his hard work that sealed the deal.

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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.

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.”

Ulife’s Abraham Choe Combines the Entrepreneurial Spirit With School Spirit

er-ulifeAbraham Choe is the founder and CEO of Ulife, a Eugene-based company that specializes in officially licensed collegiate products. While he was attending the University of Oregon, he received a laptop as a gift from his family. A diehard Ducks fan, Choe headed to The Duck Store to buy a university-branded laptop sleeve. To his surprise, he couldn’t find one, so he adhered a University of Oregon decal sticker to a plain laptop sleeve.

That was Choe’s aha moment. He assembled a small team to help him bring his idea to life, and Ulife was born. Some friends and family members also agreed to invest in Ulife, setting the foundation for the company. Today, Ulife’s university-branded phone cases, travel pillows, protein shakers, and more are available at The Duck Store, The Mac Store, Walgreens, Just Sports, Made in Oregon, and PDX International.

Aside from promoting school spirit, Ulife gives back to students by donating to textbook funds.

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.”

Raegan Moya-Jones: Mom on a Mission Introduces Muslin Baby Wraps to the World

Raegan Moya-Jones started her baby clothing company, Aden + Anais, out of necessity. In 2003, after moving from her native Australia to the US, Moya-Jones learned that she was going to be a first-time mom. Though she was living in a foreign country, she stuck to Australian motherhood traditions, which included swaddling babies in cotton muslin wraps. To her surprise, she couldn’t find the muslin wraps that were so common in Australia in New York.

“I thought, ‘How do Americans have babies without these?’” recalls Moya-Jones. That was her light bulb moment, and it wasn’t long before she found herself running Aden + Anais from her kitchen table at night while continuing her full-time job in sales at The Economist Group.

Today, Aden + Anais is sold in 63 countries around the world. Fans of the brand include parents, nurses, pediatricians, lactation consultants, industry experts, and celebrities. Moya-Jones never intended Aden + Anais to be a celebrity brand, though. Her goal was simply to introduce an essential product for all newborns.

Doug Sanders, President and CEO of Sprouts Farmers Market

Doug Sanders is the president and chief executive officer of Sprouts Farmers Market, one of the largest natural and organic retailers in America. Founded in 2002, Sprouts operates over 160 stores in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, and Texas. All locations feature Sprouts’ signature old-fashioned farmers market feel and offer everyday staples and specialty items at great prices.

Sanders joined Sprouts Farmers Market upon its founding and went on to fulfill roles of increasing responsibility, including vice president of information technology, chief administrative officer, and chief operating officer. As president and CEO, Sanders champions Sprouts’ mission to improve the health of the communities it serves. Over the years, he has led the organic growth of the company; overseen the acquisition and integration of Sun Harvest Market, Henry’s Farmers Market, and Sunflower Farmers Market; increased efficiencies in the supply chain and distribution; and assembled a topnotch leadership team.

Moreover, Sanders has played a key role in developing and promoting Sprouts’ unique corporate culture and upholding its legacy of community involvement. The company has participated in various causes over the years, supporting local non-profits and educational institutions that share its goal of better health, fitness, and nutrition. As part of its Food Rescue Program, Sprouts donates all unsold and edible but not marketable groceries to Feeding America and its affiliate hunger relief agencies at the end of each day. Additionally, Sprouts Farmers Market regularly sponsors events that support healthy living and eating, as well as encourages its 14,000 employees to volunteer for both small and large causes. Sprouts has helped raise money for Walk Now for Autism Speaks and Conner’s Cause for Children.

Under Sanders’ leadership, Sprouts was named “2013 Retailer of the Year” by Whole Foods Magazine. Sanders himself has been recognized as one of SuperMarket News’ “2013 Power 50.”

Kevin Stecko Turns His ’80s Fanaticism Into a Thriving Business

Kevin Stecko is the founder of 80sTees.com, a website that offers apparel, memorabilia, and pop culture goods from ’80s TV shows, movies, cartoons, video games, and more. The story of 80sTees began in the summer of 1999, when Stecko was at Kennywood Amusement Park, wearing a T-shirt of the 1980s cartoon character He-Man. According to him, six different people asked him where he got it, and he started to wonder why no one else was selling these shirts.

Stecko subsequently went back to the store where he bought his shirt and purchased some retro tees in bulk. He put them up on eBay, and the first one sold for $30. Encouraged but keeping his expectations low, Stecko worked at a full-time job during the day and sold T-shirts online at night.

In 2000, he started the first ’80s memorabilia online store. By 2005, the business was growing and he began to hunt down some of the most avid ’80s fans he could find to build the 80sTees team. Today, 80sTees carries a wide selection of ’80s apparel, featuring favorites like Karate Kid, Top Gun, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pac-Man, and Jem and the Holograms, among many others.

WaterDrop Shop: Selling Sandals to Build Clean Water Wells in Africa

Illinois State University senior Josh Weingart spent two months in the Turkana District of Kenya digging wells for clean water. Seeing firsthand the great need for clean water in this area, he founded WaterDrop Shop in September of 2012 to help build more wells. The startup has partnered with Maasai Treads, a Kenyan company that employs local artisans and workers to produce high-quality sandals made from recycled products such as old tires. The sandals are sold in the US, with the profits going towards African communities that need clean water.

WaterDrop Shop isn’t stopping in Africa, though; the seven-person company plans to expand into the Amazon and India in the next 10 years, as well as team up with more partners to help bring local crafts to the American market.

“Seeing how just one product with one purpose can go so far, I am excited about our potential,” says Weingart.