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It’s no secret that women have long existed in a business ecosystem designed with men in mind. But now, thanks to advances in technology, profound societal and cultural shifts, and the inevitable triumph of pure talent, women are right where they deserve to be: in the corner office. The Midwest in particular is home to some of the most accomplished female business leaders—the low cost of doing business, uncapped access to talent (25% of all U.S. computer science graduates come from the Midwest), and generally large market (it makes up 19% of America’s GDP) makes it a feeding ground for startups and entrepreneurs. Today, we’re spotlighting three female business owners that are leading the charge in America’s heartland: Alice Shade of healthcare company SentryHealth, Natasia Malaihollo of customer feedback technology company Wyzerr, and Megan Glover of water-quality technology firm 120wateraudit. Below, read up on their unique entrepreneurial stories, and keep an eye out for part two of our female entrepreneurs series!
Alice Shade’s entrepreneurship roots were planted somewhat inconspicuously as a child. Shade, who is now the co-founder and CEO of SentryHealth, used to observe her father Charles Shade while he worked as the owner and manager of a chain of Sureway grocery stores in Western Kentucky. The experience piqued a nascent interest in entrepreneurship for Shade, who absorbed “the way he operated as a businessman, as a person in the community, [and] how he was as a boss,” she told The Business Journals.
This early exposure ultimately led her to identify critical gaps in the healthcare system later in life—specifically a lack of preventative care, which proved costly for employers. With that, SentryHealth was born in 2010. The Louisville-based company cuts medical costs and improves the health of employees by focusing on preventative care. Branded as “the cure for a broken healthcare system,” Shade and team improve the health of employees and dependents, reduce medical, pharmaceutical, and disability costs for employers, and deliver high-value, lower-cost healthcare to countless workplaces.
Shade was recently named a “2018 Emerging Entrepreneur” by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, while SentryHealth was awarded the 2019 Inc.credible Health & Wellness award and the Worksite Wellness Gold Award, presented by Greater Louisville Inc. and Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville, respectively.
For Natasia Malaihollo, working as an intellectual property lawyer inadvertently unveiled her already strong interest in tech and entrepreneurship. After moving to California from Ambon, the capital city of the island province Moluccas in Indonesia, Malaihollo went on to study computer science and intellectual property (IP) law at Berkeley, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in legal studies in 2005. From there, Malaihollo went on to work the infamous Apple versus Samsung smartphone design patent infringement case—an experience that prompted her to pivot her career towards “more tech, less legal,” she told BIT.
Malaihollo now sits at the helm of Cincinnati-based survey technology company Wyzerr, a customer feedback software that uses artificial intelligence to turn customer and employee feedback into actionable reports. “The ‘brain’ of our platform is the feedback data that we manage to gather through gamified surveys,” she explained to e27. “All Wyzerr surveys are able to catch 25 questions in no more than 60 seconds.” Simply put, Wyzerr enables business leaders to make operational decisions rooted in customer and employee feedback. “There’s a science to finding the correlation between what customers say and whether or not it actually affects your bottom line and customer experience,” reads their website. “Through years of research, we figured out that science. It’s a proprietary formula that we use to identify which areas of a business need attention the most.”
Since its founding in June 2014, Wyzerr has gone on to work with companies like Google, Facebook, Volkswagen, WeWork, Unilever, WeightWatchers, Walmart, McDonald’s, Disney, Kroger, and more. The platform is widely utilized across the U.S. and in parts of Asia, with plans to expand into Malaihollo’s home market of Indonesia.
Megan Glover’s first entrepreneurship venture was in response to a national tragedy: the Flint water crisis. Alarmed by the lead poisoning and the general lack of transparency surrounding water quality, Glover and co-founder Chris Baggot created 120WaterAudit, a cloud-based software and managed services firm that helps customers plan, manage, and execute water-quality programs at their point of use.
“It was around the Flint crisis, and we started talking about how there’s got to be a better way for you and I to know what’s in our water,” Glover told Current. “I went back to the house and I thought, what’s in my Zionsville water?” 120WaterAudit consists of technology kits that enable government agencies, public water systems, and school districts easily and seamlessly comply with current and emerging water regulations. Their product essentially makes water testing more accessible to the masses.
This past March, Glover and Boggart won a global pitch competition called Rise of the Rest, a venture capital group led by former AOL CEO Steve Case. 120WaterAudit beat out dozens of companies from five different countries to secure the $100,000 grand prize. “After our ROTR pitch win, the acceleration of seed funding was absolutely incredible,” Glover told DePauw University, her alma mater. In fact, the 18-employee company plans to announce a $2 million round of funding within two months—up from just $250,000 prior to the pitch win. Unsurprisingly, Glover was also named to Indianapolis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list in 2018.
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