A panel of women entrepreneurs shared their experiences and journeys building businesses in Cache Valley at Vivint on Wednesday. The event was hosted by the Logan Chapter of Silicon Slopes to encourage individuals who want to start their own business.
The panel consisted of Reggie Ann Geertsen from Karch Co., Kylee Ann Maughan from Kylee Ann Photography and Janna Barlow of Nani Swimwear. It was moderated by Logan Municipal Council Member Amy Anderson.
Online, Karch Co’s website is minimalist, smart and stylized to showcase the companies’ brand of computer glasses that block out blue light. In person, the 23-year-old Geertsen explained that after three years, she’s still just learning.
“We are still pretty new, but we started this business because I was wanting computer glasses for Christmas and I was just always getting bad headaches,” Geertsen said. “We found some on Amazon and they didn’t work well, and we looked into it more and saw that there were only expensive or cheap quality. We made an Instagram account right off the bat and went from there.”
The website for Nani Swimwear takes the opposite approach, with colorful photos of women on the beach and underwater all wearing swimsuits thought up by Barlow and her team.
“My daughter approached me when she was 15 and said that she wasn’t able to find a swimsuit online that was both cute and modest,” Barlow said. “We started off knowing nothing, but we’ve been in business three years now and have learned so much.”
At Kylee Ann Photography, weddings are the name of the game, at least 85 a year, according to Maughan who said her husband sold his Xbox to purchase her first camera.
“My business started like many, with a passion,” Maughan said. “I loved taking pictures of people. I started in high school and I told my husband that when we could afford it, I wanted to start a photography business. I started a Facebook page and it has blown up from there.”
Maughan said that she has three kids and sets aside time to work.
Barlow said that she has seven kids, two in college and a set of twins, so for her, it is important to go back and forth between being a mom and a business owner.
“You will have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it’s worth it,” Barlow told the audience during the panel.
She said that “Nani” means beautiful in Hawaii, something that she relates to her product and her experience as an entrepreneur.
Silicon Slopes is a nonprofit based in Lehi, and Chase Anderson heads the Logan Chapter with events happening every few months.
“We wanted to create a community around people who are doing really cool things and highlight individuals who are creating these things,” Anderson said.
Each business owner spoke about the challenges of starting a venture and had very different experiences.
“In the beginning we were writing every label out by hand,” Geertsen said. “I couldn’t imagine everything that would go into this company. It’s been a learning process for sure.”
Barlow told a story about one line of swimsuits that faded when it came in contact with chlorine, and she was embarrassed to have to issue a recall on the product.
“It’s been hard and there are some big losses, but we know so much more now than we did then,” Barlow said.
The advice from each entrepreneur: For Maughan, “invest in education.” For Geertsen, “just go for it.” And from Barlow, “work through the hard times.”
“Start investing in education from day one,” Maughan said. “All that time spent trying to figure out what I don’t know, I wish I had started going to conferences from day one. Education is the key to growth.”
Geertsen said it is important to be consistent.
“We haven’t really held back from anything, and that has helped us be successful,” Geertsen said. “You’re going to have to take risks in business, but be consistent with when you show up and how you show up, including in your style and marketing. If you keep doing it, it just grows and grows.”
All three business owners have found a home in Cache Valley. When asked why, they all said that the connections here are the most important thing for them.
“I go to China and other places all the time for business,” Barlow said. “Whenever I come back over the hill, I just feel at home.”
The next Silicon Slopes event will take place near the end of summer.