Learn more about the students and alumni who are actively engaged with CWRU LaunchNET
The following enterprises are in various stages of development.
Q: Tell me about yourself and the story behind your company.
Daniel: [Michael and I] met in college and became friends during admitted students week. We were both premed students, so we overlapped a lot in that aspect. But when we were getting closer to graduation in 2022, we just kind of talked one night and came up with a business.
Michael: So essentially I was trying to work on some Amazon e-commerce sites and I have connections back in China regarding the manufacturing of specific products so I wanted to jump in on that, but Covid really messed everything up and everything fell through. And then Daniel had a business idea. I said, “Alright, let’s start this business now”. We stayed up quite late and wrote a plan and started from there.
Q: How did you find out about LaunchNET and LaunchNET’s microgrants?
Michael: It was when I was in my freshman year. Initially, before I was premed, I was fully concentrated on business management and entrepreneurship. I pitched my initial idea to Victoria Avi (LaunchNET’s former Program Manager), and she helped me out very early on at that stage. However, that didn’t go through, and then in junior year, we started [Redheart]. We talked to Bob a lot in the beginning, we were also subscribed to the LaunchNET newsletter and essentially got updates through that.
Q: How was LaunchNET able to assist you and your business?
Daniel: When we talked to Victoria, she was really there to be that third eye for us. Like we said, we came up with that business plan in that one night. And one of our biggest learning lessons from the beginning was learning to pivot because you might not always be able to stick to your original business plan. So through talking with Bob, he connected us with other members of the community, who could give us better insights, whether they were affiliated with the specific industry that we’re in or not. That gave us the information we lacked, especially we were so young and doing this during and straight out of college and didn’t have any experience in the industry we were going into.
Q: If you could give a piece of advice to yourself before you started your business, what would it be?
Michael: Just do it. We’ll have to plan out everything, but I think the biggest thing is to take action and not be afraid of taking that risk, because you’ll learn a lot regardless. That’s something I still struggle with today, but at the end of the day, if you work hard, success will come eventually, so try not to stress too much.
Daniel: I still struggle a lot with that too, but if you’re going to do it, enjoy the process, make sure you know you’re doing business for the right reasons. On top of that, personally, I always thought I was going to be premed, and this business idea that I pitched to Michael was something that I had when I was 16-17 years old and I had always pushed it aside for various reasons, including just being scared and being in the unknown. So If I were to look back and advise myself, I’d say, similar to what Michael said, take action and really nail your plan. The way Michael and I always structure our business is that we take risks, because that’s the nature of business. But we like to say that we take calculated risks.
Q: So Daniel, which was the turning point for you? At what point did you start thinking, oh I want to do this and I need to start doing this?
Daniel: It’s funny because like I said, I was cultivating this idea since 16 years old, but in my mind it was always “No, this is not for me. Someone else will do it. There’s so many people in this world that will do it.” But it was that night when Michael came over and we got to know each other. He was very into entrepreneurship so he gave me that outside perspective and that extra push that I needed to overcome that mindset. So it really was that night, late August of 2021, our third year at Case and that fall we started to pursue it, all the way through spring, then we graduated and we’ve been continuing this business full time since then.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your startup in the near future, say 5 years?
Daniel: That’s an interesting question, because Michael and I talk about that quite frequently. But I think we’ve come to learn the whole mentality of being able to pivot that we mentioned earlier. It’s hard to say exactly, but we like to take things step by step rather than looking at where we want to be in 5 or 10 years and quantifying huge goals. We like to take small calculated steps and hope that it adds up and see where that takes us later. But in the grand scheme of things, we would love to see our mission being able to impact our local communities and even on a greater scale.
Q: Anything last thing you want to share with us and our community?
Michael: For me, entrepreneurship is very scary and uncertain, but at the same time, that’s where the joy and fun is.
Daniel: Yeah, just go for it. You only have one life and one chance, and you know, we’re really lucky because we’re young and have less obligations compared to some other people that we see doing business. So it really is a good time to start!
Check out Redheart’s website here: https://redheartbrands.com/
Connect with Michael at: firstname.lastname@example.org and Daniel at: email@example.com
Founded by CWRU LaunchNET student Akissi Ange Dominique Yao and her co-founders Leaticia Kouassi and Anne Murielle N’gotta, Escargots Kaïy was born by the need to minimize the impact of snail poaching in Côte d’Ivoire.
Escargot is a booming market with usage in the food and health/beauty industry. Dominique and her co-founders knew that through their combined knowledge of sustainable farming and market research, that they could find a sustainable alternative to the demand for snails and lessen the environmental impact of poaching and deep forest harvesting and lessen the economic impact for the communities living in Côte d’Ivoire.
With support from Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the CWRU LaunchNET microgrant, they were able to build their first snail habitat (called escargotieres), and are planning their first round of breeding. This first step has given them the confidence, motivation, and opportunity to create a lasting impact in their home country and the world.
When asked to give advice to future entrepreneurs, Dominique said, “First thing is to validate the need. You might have an idea, but it might not always have a need in your community. Make sure you do your research, and research to find the resources you will need to reach your goal.”
In the next 5 years, Escargots Kaïy wants to move to a green house model and create larger facilities to accommodate more snails. They also have a goal of reaching the export market to the diaspora, US, Europe and offer a larger range of snail products.
You can learn more by contacting Akissi Ange Dominique Yao directly through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or LinkedIN