Startup Goodness, Issue #1
Thank you for reading the inaugural Issue of Startup Goodness!
This is a newsletter about the intersection of new business and branding for Hampton Roads hustlers.
Are you reading this but haven’t subscribed yet? You can do that here.
A snapshot of the most important stories in the local startup and creative small business community
The big story:
The Fascination launched. Led by Leesa sleep cofounders and serial entrepreneurs David Wolfe and Matt Hayes, The Fascination is a shopping portal where you can shop all the best D2C companies in one place. It’s based in VB and quietly launched the week of Christmas.
Anti-amazon alliances are forming since while the megastore is convenient, it’s interface has limited abilities for curation and shopping does not foster a sense of discovery, a la Etsy or TJMaxx. Savvy consumers want an enjoyable experience with ethics, not a phrase that usually comes to mind with the controversy and counterfeit-laden ecommerce giant. The Fascination bridges that gap, acting like a virtual department store + expert recommender for all the best, trendiest brands that ship to your door.
The site features virtual storefronts for over 100 companies in 7 different categories, including D2C innovators like Allbirds, Billie, and S’well and newer insta-famous brands like Parade, Our Place, and Jiggy Puzzles.
Each storefront has the company’s origin story, brand purpose, soul, and vision plus a handful of their top products. You can shop by category or grouping (like all female led). All purchases have to be made on the vendors site, not The Fascination, which makes its money off a commission model.
With a website built by Red Antler designers on Shopify and the legendary D2C guru Nik Sharma as highly-involved advisor, everything about The Fascination looks like the “next big thing”. It’s the dream resource for the modern conscious consumer.
Personally, I can’t wait to see where The Fascination goes, and I am most definitely about to spend wayyyy too much money on the site.
In other news...
Sqwire acquired more financial wellness to bolster its growth. The Norfolk-based startup, founded in 2019, works with companies that provide financial wellness programming as part of their employee benefits. Squire recently acquired Wealthology for an undisclosed sum and it’s CEO Casey Halliley joins Sqwire as VP of financial education.
757 Startup Studios applications are open. The innovation hub will be located inside of Assembly, Grow’s stunning and ambitious coworking + innovation space in Downtown Norfolk. Accepted applicants will be up close and personal to 757Angels (also located in Assembly) with free rent for 6, or even 12 months.
With Good Cheer:
W/P/A Architects closed out 2020 by adding 7 new employee owners. One of the most prolific and easily the most community-centric architecture firm in Hampton Roads, you’ve probably seen them as one of the engineers of OpenNorfolk and Boush Street’s new bike lanes and free parking. One of their founding goals was to be a 100% financially transparent business and they finished a wild year by coming one huge step closer to that goal. Congratulations!
Where you’ve seen their work: Assembly, COVA, the Chrysler Museum of Art.
Funding, accelerator, and other opportunity deadlines for local startups
🗓️ 1.15.21 (tomorrow!)
💰 $15K across 2 categories: Sustainability-focused & General/High-Growth
Dominion Energy Innovation Center (DEIC) and Randolph-Macon College (R-MC)
🏢 Emerging technology and sustainability-focused startups that could use strings-free funding
💰 2.5 months free rent + amenities (April 12th-June 25th)
🏢 VB-located startups or entrepreneurs in need of connections, community, and office space
💰 Up to $350K, non-equity, non-dilutive
🏢 Businesses who are piloting or advancing cutting-edge products and services in the areas of Flood Management & Infrastructure, Data Analytics, Protection of Buildings, and/or Re-establishing Critical Utilities
Looking for a startup idea? I found 5 high growth business ideas that need to be built in 2021.
And then here are 5+ more from Trends + Noah Kagan.
Upcoming workshops and events for entrepreneurs live and virtual
🗓️ 1.28.21, 10am-11am
💬 Access to Capital and Alternative Funding Solutions during COVID-19 presented by the ODU Women’s Business Center x the SBA with Lara Hodgson, Co-Founder, President and CEO, NOW Corp and Haddy Jallow Coulibaly Vice President of Credit, NOW Corp
🗓️ 1.29.21 | 9:30-11:30am
💬 (Webinar) SWaM Certification Process — Nuts and Bolts with Randy Brown, the Business Services Manager with Business Development & Outreach Services Division of SBSD
🗓️ 1.29.21 | 1-3pm
💬 Cyber Security For Your Home Office with Ricardo Frost. Frost is the CIO of RFK Solutionz, Inc an 8A certified company that provides Information Technology services and training support to the Federal Government, State, local colleges and businesses.
🎟️ Tickets on Eventbrite
Some of the biggest trends in new business + branding
Companies forming communities for their customers for a softly branded experience that prioritizes people, not the product.
The key components to ride the wave
A brand personality that strongly communicates authenticity, empathy, and sense of creation.
A community-building platform that naturally integrates with your users and site.
It’s a no-code website building platform that enables people who aren’t devs to create gorgeous custom sites. If that sounds like Shopify or Squarespace, I assure you, it’s a heck of a lot more powerful from a design perspective.
The company has a massive forum with famously helpful users, an official Facebook group, and local meetups for platform creators. Despite it being a fairly steep learning curve as opposed to a drag-and-drop template platform, between all the help docs and helpful people even the novice can be assured someone can answer their questions.
Investors seem to like this strategy too.
What this means: connecting superfans brings more people in. Plenty of food and beverage companies have a built-in superfan factor, but other, less organically lovable brands like SaaS players can still stand out in a competitive space by creating a place users want to hang out with each other, not simply a product they use. It’s storytelling that lets the user tell their own story.
And full disclosure, my website is built on Webflow. And I love it.
Other trends to keep an eye on:
- People opened nearly 5 million more businesses in 2020 than they did in 2019. Yes, you read that right.
- If seen as a small business sector in it’s own right, content creators are the fastest growing small business.
What this means: There’s a huge market for digitally-native, customer-centric solutions for this group’s problems.
Goodness Gracious Yes
Software tools that change you(re) life. Powered by ProductHunt.
If one of your 2021 goals was starting a company, here are 3 tools to get you there:
An email newsletter with 5-minute market research reports on new business areas. Never go “I wonder what I should build?” again.
An online community of doers building profitable side hustles so they can live the lives they want. Join for accountability, support, and finding your next co-founder.
FYI’s free marketing tools
A searchable compendium of all the free marketing templates and resources to launch a company. This makes me want to give the internet a hug.
Tying it all together between personal loves, day jobs (or clients), and side hustle passion projects is having all your creative energies centered on a goal, and that’s a freakin’ lot of energy.
This article from Mike Wilner dives into the flywheel effect that can make all that into your next big thing.
Thank you so much for reading this very first issue of Startup Goodness!
Did Startup Goodness help you, encourage you, make your day? Then don’t keep it to yourself.
Please share Startup Goodness with your friends, family, mailman, coworkers. I’m even working on a rewards system to say thank you every time you get a new person to sign up.
If you’re building something and need some branding, I’d love to help.
If you have any questions, suggestions, lightbulb moments, or fluffy dogs for sale, please tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m all ears.
Have a good day, I’ll be back in your inbox next month!
Good Beats: Music on repeat while I wrote this newsletter.