Braintree tenant Shower90 launches business

March 8, 2019
by Tracy Geibel, Richland Source
Only three months after graduating from Ashland University, Ivan Wortman has already established his own business at Braintree.The Mansfield resident and Pennsylvania native has launched Shower90, a startup selling arm slings for individuals with arm or shoulder injuries to use in the shower.

Wortman and his friend, Mitch Cox, came up with the idea after they had both experienced shoulder surgeries. "One night, we were talking about the pains of going through the process," Wortman said. "When I had surgery, I was in this big, bulky arm sling and was instructed to wear this for the next four to six weeks, and that I also needed to support my arm while I shower." Both were told to wrap a nylon strap or belt around their stomach and place their thumb in the loop to support their arm."And we were kind of surprised they didn't give us a product to use in the shower, but yet, we were both instructed to support our arms," Wortman said.He and Mitch brainstormed what an effective product might look like and searched online, but didn't find anything similar. Rather than accept defeat, they invented it. Wortman sewed the first prototypes while sitting in his dorm room, and the students competed in AU's Idea Labs Competition.
"I, at that time, was a terrible public speaker. I was very nervous, and we really had no idea what to expect. We didn't know if we were going to come out and they were going to say, 'Good job, this is a good product,' or 'This isn't really anything,'" Wortman said. Their idea placed first, and went on to win second place at a regional competition. Shower90 was also a finalist in the first Richland Idea Audition last year.
Cox has since gone on to have a career in financial planning, but Wortman says he wants to see where this business will go. He's set up at the Braintree Business Development Center and already offers the shower arm slings at Amazon and for $24.99 apiece. In the future, he'd like to expand into retail stores and maybe even offer the product in hospitals. He'd like for the Shower90 arm sling to be sent home with patients as they are leaving the hospital.

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Dan Manges is a Lexington HS graduate, and a former tenant at Braintree's Mansfield site. He went on to become the founding CTO of Root Insurance. According to Dan, "We built a car insurance carrier from scratch with the price of insurance entirely based on driving behavior. We’ve raised $175 million in venture capital. We’ve been working relentlessly on this over the past several years.”

Root Insurance joined an exclusive club last August when it was valued at $1 billion, becoming Columbus’ second unicorn 20 months after the first.It’s been a meteoric rise for the insurance carrier, founded in 2015 on the idea that how people drive — more than demographics — predicts their likelihood of getting into a car accident.“We built a car insurance carrier from scratch with the price of insurance entirely based on driving behavior,” says Dan Manges, co-founder and CTO. “We’ve raised $175 million in venture capital. We’ve been working relentlessly on this over the past several years.”Because car insurance is a $230 billion industry, gaining even a 1 percent market share makes you a multimillion-dollar company, he says. An industry that large that has been stagnant in terms of technology and innovation got people excited about what Root could accomplish.Manges discussed the company’s funding journey as a panelist at ASPIRE 2018. Here are some of his observations.

How did you convince anybody to invest in your idea?
It was about finding investors who simply believed that we could actually do what we said we could do. We could price insurance based on driving behavior gathered via a mobile app. That was all we had at that point. We didn’t have a fully built product. We didn’t have product market fit. We weren’t even a licensed insurance carrier.

How much did you raise the first time?
Five million dollars. We raised our initial round of capital from Drive Capital, a VC firm based in Columbus. They don’t give you the entire $5 million all once. They committed to putting that much capital in if we were to hit milestones along the way. I think they recognized the type of disruption that can be possible in the insurance industry. They were excited about the team that we had together, and they were willing to take a chance on us.

When did the second round come about? What were the early days like?
Our second round was almost two years into the company. We spent a little over a year building the foundational infrastructure that we needed to launch. We sold our first policy in June 2016, which was a year and three months after the company got started. In some ways that’s remarkably fast. In other ways, it’s a long time to go before you have your first paying customer. That first paying customer is when our CEO bought his insurance policy. I bought mine 10 days later — I was the second one. We finished 2016 with very few policies in force.Our second round we raised from Ribbit Capital, a VC firm on the West Coast (that focuses on financial innovation). Ribbit has invested in other insurance companies, favoring what they thought the future of insurance was.It was a perfect description of what we were building at Root, which meant that we had very strong alignment. But, of course, that alignment in itself isn’t enough. You also have to have the business results. You have to have the customers. You have to have a product that is working. Ribbit was excited about what we were doing, and we ended up completing a $21.5 million Series B.Describe your most recent rounds from 2018. When did they come about?We raised a round of capital in March (2018). We raised $51 million. At the time, I think it was one of the largest venture capital rounds ever for an Ohio technology company. Then five months later, we raised another round of $100 million at the $1 billion valuation. That was purely due to the insane growth trajectory behind the company — especially realizing that Root was still only available in 20 states, which reached just under 40 percent of the population of the country.How was your Series D investment different from your other rounds?When we did one of our rounds, our CEO had to go and spend a month in California meeting with various firms, going to their pitch meetings, talking to the partners and trying to share what we were doing. Tiger Global Management was so incredibly excited about the progress we were making that they just came out to see us.Our initial response was, ‘We’re not raising capital right now. Love what you guys are all about, but we don’t have a lot of time to meet. We’re focused on trying to build an exceptional company here.’ And they said, ‘We’re coming out to see you. We are coming to Columbus. We’re bringing our team to you because we want to talk. We think this is just an insane opportunity and we want to be involved.’

Did you give board seats to your investors?
Our VC firms in the first three rounds each have a board seat, but Tiger doesn’t take board seats. They invest capital and leave the management team to operate and run the business. They are not concerned with getting involved in the actual operations of the company.Something we look for in each round we raised is the expertise they have. A lot of VC firms have a broad perspective on industries as a whole. For them to be able to share their lessons with us in terms of what’s worked well with other companies, what hasn’t worked well, what they’ve seen happen and what they’re seeing happening in the space across all their investments is a large contributing factor to us.We have seven seats on the board. Investors have three of them.

If Drive Capital hadn’t made the initial investment, what do you think would’ve happened?
It’s quite possible that without Drive Capital being here in Columbus, Root wouldn’t exist at all. Maybe there would be some other startup somewhere else pursuing this idea because the idea itself is sound, but I think trying to set up shop initially here in Columbus, the amount of capital we needed initially to create Root was really only made possible by Drive Capital and their belief in what we could achieve.

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Shelby woman opens dream bakery

February 19, 2019
by Tracy Geibel, Richland Source
Three years ago, Jessica Carver quit her job with intentions to open a bakery at 67 West Main St. But it fell through when Carver couldn't invest the dollars the building needed. But in early February, Carver's dream has come true. On Feb. 1, the Shelby woman celebrated the grand opening of Sweet Dreams Bakery at the same location that she had wanted earlier.

Jessica Carver, a mother of four, Carver found her passion for baking when decorating cakes for her children. The oldest is now 17. "So I started with my kid's birthday cakes and then friends asked, 'Why don't you do mine?' And it kind of blossomed from there," Carver said. She has made dozens of cakes, including a mix Trolls-themed cake and a giant Belle cake for her youngest daughter, Layla. "They were usually extravagant because the kids think I'm cake boss," Carver said. "They've had a lot of everything. Girly, princess things, sports things."Carver was devastated when her plans to open a bakery didn't come to fruition three years ago, but the challenge has encouraged her to work even harder."It's been a whirlwind," she said, only a few days after the grand opening. "It's exciting and exhausting. We've been selling out daily." Sweet Dreams Bakery sells donuts, cake pops, cookies, cupcakes and celebration cakes on a daily basis. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Items have been selling out before closing, Carver advised.

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Braintree company NytStnd has product featured on Fox and Friends

February 13, 2019
by Carl Hunnel, Richland source
NytStnd, a Braintree resident company, had its multi-device charging dock for Apple products featured on the "Mega Morning Deals!" portion of the Fox and Friends morning news show. It was one of five products featured.

About the time Victoria Norris-Diez announced she would be a Democratic mayoral candidate in Mansfield, she got a call from the Fox News Channel about featuring her e-commerce product on TV.Rather than worry about her NytStnd product appearing on the conservative show "Fox & Friends," Norris-Diez decided it made perfect sense.It made even more sense Monday morning after her multi-device charging dock for Apple products was featured on the "Mega Morning Deals!" portion of the morning news show. It was one of five products featured."It literally came up the exact week (in December) I was going to announce (the mayoral run)," Norris-Diez said. "I thought. 'What better way of showing the importance of everyone working together?' The timing could not have been better.
"(Fox) knew we had the No. 1 charging station on Etsy and wanted to know the types of models and colors we had and links to learn more about them. We thought it was a great opportunity to get our product on the national map," Norris-Diez said.NytStnd, featured in the 2018 Spring edition of Better Homes & Gardens, operates from Braintree in downtown Mansfield. It launched in 2016 and is sold exclusively online.A graduate of Galion High School and The Ohio State University, Norris-Diez was recruited as an undergrad to work for a top-tier marketing agency. She began her career in brand marketing in Los Angeles before returning to Mansfield.Norris-Diez said her company now has four full-time employees and ramps up to around 12 during the holiday season.

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New bakery in Mansfield to highlight international recipes

February 8, 2019
by Tracy Geibel, Richland Source
The owner of Mansfield's newest bakery plans to bring international flair to her recipes. Darlene Mast, of Mansfield, will sell breads and pastries inspired by places like France, Italy and Japan at Share 'N Dipity, which she expects to open later this month at 287 Taylor Rd.

According to Darlene Mast, I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I want to bring all of that back here," Mast said. She doesn't consider herself a "foodie," but when she travels, she makes a point to stop by bakeries and sample their selections. "I take pictures of every bakery I go to," Mast said. "I go in, and literally, I’m taking pictures of all the breads." Share 'N Dipity will feature homemade cookies, pastries, croissants, biscotti and more. Mast's favorite item to bake is bread. She intends to bake quite the variety. There will be potato dill bread, sour dough, ciabatta, baguettes and more. At farmer's markets, where she's previously sold her breads, the olive and the cranberry walnut were both popular among her customers. "It’s going to very diverse, from white to crusty bread," Mast said. "The baguettes, the sourdoughs, the kinds that we go to Columbus for, I want them here, so someone can have that fresh and local." Coffee will be available for purchase and muffins, scones and other breakfast favorites will be featured via a grab and go section of the bakery. Mast also intends to highlight other local vendors in a portion of the bakery. In early February, this section already featured a shipment of specialty olive oils and tea from Twisted Fig Tea. Later, it will grow to include jewelry, embroidery, signs and other crafts by local vendors, coffee and woven items, sourced through Crossroads Church's mission to help Guatemalan farmers."I want it to be local vendors. People I know who have been referred by someone I know," Mast said. "I want this area to be an outlet for them."Eventually, she imagines a full line of finger foods available for purchase.Mast found inspiration to start her own bakery when rearranging a small plastic bakery that once belonged to her daughter. "The Lord told me, I’m going to have a bakery, so I thought, let’s figure out how to do this," Mast said. She immediately got to work, setting an 18-month deadline, which has only recently been exceeded. In that time, she's refined her baking abilities with lessons in San Francisco and transformed the building she owned at 287 Taylor Rd. into a "homey bakery." She felt the aesthetic was especially important because the bakery is the only commercial property in the neighborhood.

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