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How These Innovative Companies Define Resourcefulness

The founders of these Inc. 500, fast-growth companies are putting a new spin on everything from patient care to lunch boxes. Check out their notable stories.

 

1
From the Kitchen Table to an $11 Million Company
PackIt, No. 28
From the Kitchen Table to an $11 Million Company
I invented PackIt as a matter of necessity. I was suddenly a single mom, and I had no career experience to fall back on after a decade of staying home to raise my kids. I watched the bank repossess my car. At times, I had as little as $13 in my checking account.

The idea for the product came from listening to my kids complain that their blueberries got warm and mushy at school, despite using insulated lunchboxes with frozen gel coolers tossed inside them. I thought, What if those gel packs were actually built inside the walls of the lunchboxes and the bags could be stored flat in the freezer? It's stupid silly--one of those things you wonder why no one had done before.

To make the first sample, I cut my shower curtain to use as the liner, then cut ice blanket material and ice packs and pinned them together on my dining room table to form a makeshift cooler bag. Then, I begged my dry cleaner to sew them together for me, because I can't sew.

I became a gel expert...

(Read on about Melissa Kieling's brilliant, yet simple business idea, as told to Jennifer Alsever)
Melissa Kieling • PackIt • Three-year growth 7,878% • 2013 revenue $11.9 million PHOTO: Damon Casarez
2
What I Learned from Steve Jobs
Inkling, No. 105
What I Learned from Steve Jobs
The original idea for Inkling was already well formed before I left Apple. I knew the iPad was coming, and there were no tools available to develop beautiful content. That's one of the things that helped push me to start my own company. The other was that, as a Canadian, I finally got my U.S. green card.

I quit Apple on a Friday, and by Monday morning I had filed incorporation papers in Delaware. Still, I spent a lot of hours that weekend looking in the mirror and asking myself, "What the hell did I just do?"

My goal was to do for the iPad what Adobe had done for desktop publishing. With Inkling, you have to publish an electronic book or document only once, and it creates versions for Kindles, desktop computers, tablets, mobile devices, whatever.

The minute Steve Jobs showed the original iPhone to the world, suddenly people didn't want their shitty flip phones anymore. I wanted to do that with Inkling.

(Read on for more on Inkling's rise, as told to Ryan Underwood)
Matt MacInnis • Inkling • Three-year growth 3,443% • 2013 revenue $8.1 million PHOTO: Noel Spirandelli

3
How My (Literal) Elevator Pitch Landed Our First Big Contract
Patientco, No. 405
How My (Literal) Elevator Pitch Landed Our First Big Contract
After starting my previous company, a software business, I learned the importance of a great elevator pitch--one that quickly and clearly defines a problem and your solution. But I never thought I'd pitch my new business on an actual elevator.

It's always so awkward on elevators. No one talks. Everyone looks down.

But one day, as I was leaving a friend's office, a woman got on the elevator with me at the fourth floor. We happened to make eye contact, and she asked what I did for a living. I explained, "Well, after my wife had a baby, we were flooded with bills from many different providers. Often, patients don't pay. And when patients do want to pay, providers don't accept the forms of payment they want to use. I'm working on a new technology platform to make it easier for patients to pay providers."

She replied, "I'm the COO of Eagle Hospital Physicians, and we are trying to solve this very problem..."

(Read on for how Blitch's elevator pitch for Patientco turned out, as told to Reshma Yaqub)
Bird Blitch • Patientco • Three-year growth 1,167.3% • 2013 revenue $3 million PHOTO: Illustration by Joel Kimmel

4
How I Turned Old Containers into a Portable Party
Boxman Studios, No. 120
How I Turned Old Containers into a Portable Party
One morning in 2008, I was crying into my Cheerios. The market had collapsed, and I didn't know what I was going to do next. I have three children, and my wife wasn't working outside the home. I could either try to wait out the recession and eke by, or I could reinvent myself.

That's when I happened across an article about shipping containers being turned into houses. My brain went crazy for a few months as I tried to figure out how I could create structures out of these containers and what they could be used for.

My former contractor gave me an old shipping container to experiment with and lent me one of his employees to help. We figured out how to cut out the sides and transform it. Then, I bought a new container for about $800 and created our first working prototype....

(Read on for more on David Campbell's Boxman Studios, as told to Robin D. Schatz)
David Campbell • Boxman Studios • Three-year growth 3,074.1% • 2013 revenue $4.3 million PHOTO: Nick Pironio

5
How I Turned Big Data into Viral Marketing
Six Spoke Media, No. 369
How I Turned Big Data into Viral Marketing
We were nobodies in 2009. In our first year of business, we were running out of money. I had cashed out my 401(k) and had even started interviewing for other jobs. Thankfully, Sony took a chance on us. What interested them was that we had built a methodology around social media. Social networks, such as Facebook, have algorithms that determine what posts get displayed and for how long, but other companies were still way behind when it came to reverse-engineering these algorithms. We were a bunch of quant-jocks, developing models based on keywords, likes, and retweets.

Sony was looking to promote the DVD release of Takers, a Bonnie and Clyde-style shoot-'em-up starring Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, and Paul Walker. Its internal market research team had zeroed in on the 18- to 25-year-old male demographic. By mining Twitter and Facebook, we were able to predict that Sony would be more successful if they focused their digital marketing efforts on the female demographic. It might not be obvious at first glance when you hear about the genre of the movie, but when we analyzed the tweets and the Facebook comments, we noticed that a large number of them were from women talking about how the actors were hunks.

(Read on for more of Edward Kim's tale of Six Spoke Media’s launch, as told to Noah Davis)
Edward Kim • Six Spoke Media • Three-year growth 1,291% • 2013 revenue $11.9 million PHOTO: Mathew Scott




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