Founder Profile

Jessica Rolph

Lovevery

For giving parents better kids' toys--right when they needed them most.

When schools shut down at the onset of the pandemic, Jessica Rolph saw an opportunity for Lovevery, the infant toy box subscription she founded with Rod Morris in 2015. “Parents were really looking for alternatives to keep their children engaged without giving them a screen,” says Rolph. What better than a lively assortment of age-appropriate playthings—art kits, board books, matching games—delivered to your door every few months, at just the right development stage? Rolph knew Lovevery didn’t need to spend on marketing—organic search soared as parents desperately searched for wholesome activities. And she was already months into research and development on a line of play kits for 2-year-olds, which would extend the company’s product line for older tots. She managed to push that project through during dark days of the pandemic, launching in July 2020. Zooming with test participants afforded Rolph a rarely seen glimpse into how children play at home, and she expanded testing to solicit feedback beyond the existing panel of parent testers. “That allowed us to get fresher insight,” she says. As if all that wasn’t productive enough, Rolph launched a standalone block set and play gym in the U.K. and Europe last November. “Babies are babies everywhere,” Rolph says. “We have a global opportunity to offer a hyper-relevant solution.”--Jill Krasny

Company Information
Location
Boise, Idaho
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Shannon Seip

Bean Sprouts

For cooking up better kids' meals--and creative ways to stay in business.

When the country shut down at the start of the pandemic, Bean Sprouts—a healthy kids' cafe with 14 locations across the U.S.—found itself without any customers, let alone a game plan. The cafés reside in family destinations like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and couldn’t exactly pivot to takeout and delivery like many curbside restaurants did. Co-chief executive and co-founder Shannon Seip wondered how the 14-year-old Orange, California, chain would survive. Her solution? Ramp up content to stay in front of potential customers, first with sales of the delightful Bean Sprouts cookbook, and then by launching an online cooking class, Imaginibbles, free to host partners who shared the class with local schools. Seip also expanded business partnerships by bringing Bean Sprouts’ signature Imaginibbles menu items, like Crocamole, a crock of avocado and hummus dip, to children’s hospitals. And with health front and center in everyone's mind, she took calls with “huge players in the food-service industry” and signed a number of contracts to open future locations—for a total of 21 by the end of this year. That’s a good thing for parents—and kids hungry for something healthier (and tastier) than cold cuts.--Jill Krasny

Company Information
Location
Santa Ana, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Kelly Parthen

Bean Sprouts

For cooking up better kids' meals--and creative ways to stay in business.

When the country shut down last April, Bean Sprouts, a healthy kids' cafe with 14 locations across the U.S., found itself without any customers, let alone a game plan. The cafés reside in family destinations like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and co-chief executive and co-founder Kelly Parthen wondered how the 14-year-old Orange, California, chain would survive. “Many restaurants added third-party delivery, sold meal kits, and so on,” says Parthen. “We couldn’t do any of those.” What she could do was give Bean Sprouts’ 10-week online cooking class, Imaginibbles, free to host partners who shared it with local schools. And think up ways to bring its signature Imaginibbles menu items, like Spagiggles, to children’s hospitals. With health front and center of everyone’s mind, the pandemic also compelled executives of family destinations to evaluate their food offerings. “Many executives realized [the food] didn’t match their goals of being healthy,” says Parthen. “In the past year, we've signed more contracts for future openings than we ever have.” Bean Sprouts will have 21 locations by the end of this year—a good thing for parents desperate to feed their kids something healthier (and tastier) than cold cuts.--Jill Krasny

Company Information
Location
Santa Ana, California
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Adia Gundry

Pluie

For redesigning the diaper-changing experience for the 21st century.

Sometimes the best solutions come from the messiest problems. "My whole world changed when I had my son,” says Adia Gundry. “I just was out and had a dirty diaper experience and thought, ‘Wow, why is it like this?’" Gundry is the CEO of Pluie, a company built around an innovative diaper-changing table for public restrooms that uses a patented UVC light system to sanitize itself. Gundry launched Pluie in 2020 after a successful culinary career that included being a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 13.

The idea for Pluie came after her 10-month-old had a diaper blowout during lunch. The changing table in the women's room was dirty, and there wasn't one in the men's room. "You look around these bathrooms, and what's interesting is that you see hand dryers that are very premium and toilets that flush themselves, indicating people are investing in renovating,” she says. “But then you see the same piece of plastic [changing table] with a ratty strap. I knew I could make something better." In April 2021, Pluie closed a pre-see fundraising round, and there are now 55 changing tables installed across the country.--Teneshia Carr

Company Information
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

Ximena Hartsock

Phone2Action

For connecting constituents with the issues they care about.

In 2012, when Ximena Hartsock co-founded Phone2Action, “digital civic engagement” was a bit of an oxymoron. A lot has changed since then. While civic engagement remains largely a boots-on-the-street affair, the ways citizens have to reach their elected officials have multiplied with the rise of social media. As its name conveys, Phone2Action streamlines the process, with software that allows organizations to connect constituents directly with their elected representatives. It’s been a critical tool in the tumult of the past few years, with the politicization of the pandemic, the social discourse around white supremacy sparked by the spectacle of George Floyd’s death, and the shock of the Capitol riot. “We have had over 100,000 people taking action every day for more than a year,” says Hartsock. “With Covid, we've seen our highest peak of engagement. We became a real strategy that organizations use to make sure lawmakers are not forgetting them.” Phone2Action was acquired by the Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm Frontier Growth in 2020, and Hartsock--now quietly at work on another startup--feels good about where she left things. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done,” she adds. “We gave immediacy to the physical marches and activism in the past year.”--Diana Ransom

Company Information
Location
Rosslyn, Virginia
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021