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Crain’s Small Business Forum

Speakers:

Brian Duggan, co-founder, JumpForward

Brian is an institutionally trained entrepreneur that currently operates several successful businesses in Chicago including Guardian Capital, a vertically integrated real estate investment and development company with $100 million in assets under management. Brian also co-founded JumpForward, a technology company providing an integrated compliance and recruiting solution to the collegiate sports industry. Brian pitched JumpForward on ABC’s Shark Tank where the company received multiple offers and landed an investment deal from Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary for $600,000.

Brian previously held leadership roles in investment banking, management consulting and accounting. Brian earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, a Master of Science in Accounting and Financial Management from the University of Virginia as well as a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Michele Sipolt Kapustka, owner, SENDaBALL.com

Michele and her sister Melisa spent plenty of time discussing their “big idea” until one day it happened. Michele worked in the direct mail industry and often sent odd things in the mail, including balls. While mailing a ball, a man behind her at the post office asked her to mail one for him! That day she and her sister bought a website and made a few calls. They sold seven balls in five minutes, and over the first three years business was slow but steady. Using media coverage they were able to get attention and orders, plus viral marketing as recipients typically send a ball to others.

SENDaBaLL.com debuted on the first season of ABC’s Shark Tank, in February 2010, and the sharks were receptive to their colorful, simple and fun business idea. They didn’t secure a deal but the way Barbara Corcoran put it, “you don’t need me, you will be successful on your own” was correct. Before Shark Tank gross sales were about $70K and after they more than doubled. SENDaBaLL.com is on the national map and last year’s sales hit $250K.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder, Element Bars

As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, Jonathan started his first company, GetCheapBooks.com. In 2006, Jonathan entered business school at the Kellogg School of Management to continue his entrepreneurial education. In 2007, he was a finalist in the Northwest University Venture Challenge with AtHomeQ, a business that would “home-source” doctors’ calls. In 2008, Jonathan was again a finalist in the NU Venture Challenge with ElementBars.com, a custom energy bar company. In that same year, Jonathan also won the Kellogg business plan competition, the Kellogg Cup, with True Yardage, a company that provides an advanced golf GPS solution for GPS enabled cells phones. After graduating from Kellogg in 2008, Jonathan launched Element Bars and was recognized by the Chicago Innovation Awards as the Young Innovator of the year.

On the September 13, 2009 episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, Jonathan successfully negotiated a deal with infomercial king Kevin Harrington. Watched by over 5 million households, the national spotlight has significantly accelerated Element Bars’ growth: from being the third most searched term on Google that night to a 24-hour sales volume that surpasses the previous six months. In 2011, the founding team of Element Bars launched a spin-out company called Buzz Referrals that does referral marketing. In January 2012, Buzz Referrals closed their series A round of $650K, lead by Michael Polsky.

Andrea Sreshta, co-founder, LuminAID Lab

Andrea is a second-year student in Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program and co-founder of LuminAID Lab, a company dedicated to innovative renewable energy solutions for humanitarian aid. The company’s first product, the LuminAID light is a low-cost, portable solar light designed for use in disaster relief situations as well as for the commercial camping marketplace. The LuminAID light has been sold to individuals in more than 25 different countries around the world, and outreach projects with NGO partners have put more than 5,000 donated lights on-the-ground in more than 15 countries including Haiti, India, Laos and the Philippines. The company was awarded the 100K Early Stage Prize in 2013 through the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy and was named the winner of Booth’s John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge in 2012. Andrea and her business partner, Anna Stork, were named Toyota Mothers of Invention at the 2014 Women in the World Summit. LuminAID was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2015 and received offers from all five of the Sharks and took a deal from the billionaire investor Mark Cuban. Andrea previously worked and studied design and architecture and earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Architecture from Columbia University prior to attending Booth.

Anna Stork, co-founder, LuminAID Lab

Anna and her co-founder, Andrea Sreshta, pitched their company LuminAID on ABC’s Shark Tank in February 2015. They received an offer from all five Sharks and chose to take a deal with Mark Cuban. Anna was a 2012 Kauffman Global Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship. As a Kauffman Fellow, she was an Operations Intern for the retail start-up Warby Parker, an American brand of prescription eyeglasses selling directly to consumers. Anna has also worked in product development at the Department of Defense with a focus on developing new technologies for military in remote locations. She completed her Masters in Architecture at Columbia University and earned her B.A. in Engineering and Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

Moderator: Andrew Figgins, owner, InTheSharkTank.com

Andrew has been invited onto the set of Shark Tank several times, interviewed all the Sharks, and insists that Barbara Corcoran has the best handshake of anyone he’s ever met. When he’s not coordinating content for the website, InTheSharkTank.com or live tweeting episodes of the show, Andrew is an active part of the Chicago technology community. Currently he is the CTO of GimmeAnother, a mobile app startup that makes it easy to re-order products from your favorite stores. His ventures have been covered by Forbes, Wired, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Crain’s Chicago Business.

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