Cohort Spotlight

Coko Eason
Cohort Spotlight

Cohort Spotlight (12/8)

We are nearly through our Fall Cohort, made possible by support from Comcast NBCUniversal. Over the past few weeks, Founders have been integrated in 2GI’s programmatic trainings aimed at helping improve business models and enhancing entrepreneurial skills.

We’re thrilled to introduce Christine Dodaj, Founder of SpEd Connect and Diego Vicioso, Founder of Clew, two of our accelerator participants. Read more to learn about their story and experience. 

Christine Dodja, CEO SpEd Connect
Diego Vicioso, CEO Clew

Tell us about your company and your entrepreneurial mission.

SpEd Connect is a groundbreaking platform designed to support families navigating the challenges of special education and raising children with special needs. The inspiration behind this initiative stems from my personal journey, where I encountered significant hurdles in accessing resources and building a community around shared experiences.

During my own experience, I found a noticeable lack of a dedicated community, organization, access to providers or an efficient way to manage the overwhelming paper trail that often accompanies special education. This gap in support made my journey unnecessarily difficult, prompting me to create SpEd Connect to ease the burden for other parents facing similar challenges.

My entrepreneurial mission is rooted in the belief that every family raising a child with special needs deserves a supportive and accessible community. SpEd Connect aims to fill the void by providing a centralized platform that facilitates connections between families, offers valuable resources, and simplifies the management of the intricate paperwork associated with special education.

Our vision extends beyond a technological solution – we aspire to foster a sense of belonging, understanding, and empowerment among families in similar situations. Through SpEd Connect, we aim to revolutionize the way families navigate special education, ensuring that no parent feels isolated and overwhelmed on their journey.

Diego: Clew is an indoor navigation app for the blind, such as myself. Originally, I was hoping that somebody else would develop a solution I could use without doing any of the work, but I realized that not everybody could do this, especially people with my disability. But ultimately, I want to show blind people in my country that it is possible to be successful, despite not having many resources readily available. 

As a Founder with a Disability, what would you deem to be the biggest challenge along the way to achieving your goal and how have you navigated that challenge?

Christine: As a Founder with a Disability, one of the most significant challenges I have faced on my journey is the pervasive tendency to overlook entrepreneurs with disabilities, particularly female founders. Society, at times, tends to underestimate the capabilities and unique perspectives that individuals with disabilities bring to the entrepreneurial landscape.

Diego: It is rare to find unwavering support. Even in my circle, I’ve found that the people who have always supported me, such as family and friends, can underestimate you. While that puts a limit on you, it can create the benefit of forcing you to perform under pressure. 

What has been the most valuable aspect of 2GI’s Cohort accelerator program?

Being part of the 2GI Accelerator community has allowed me to share experiences, exchange insights, and collaborate on solutions to common challenges. Having instant feedback from my peers with sound and solid advice is nothing short of amazing.  This collective effort not only benefits my own venture but contributes to the broader goal of fostering inclusivity within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

While the journey as a founder with a disability may come with unique obstacles, finding strength in a community of like-minded individuals has proven to be a transformative and empowering strategy. By leveraging the collective power of this community, I am not only overcoming challenges but actively working towards breaking down barriers and reshaping perceptions about the capabilities of entrepreneurs with disabilities, particularly women in this space.

All of the people you get to know, all with interesting stories. The bonding I’ve had with some of my fellow participants cannot be understated.

What advice do you have for other Disabled Founders? 

Christine: My advice to other Disabled Founders is simple yet powerful: never stop. Recognize your immense capabilities and inherent worthiness. Treat every 'no' you encounter as a 'not now'—a temporary setback on the path to your goals. Perseverance is key; just keep going.

In the face of negativity, develop the ability to tune it out. Focus on your vision and the positive impact you are striving to make. If you can envision it, you can build it. Trust in your abilities and the unique perspectives you bring to the table.

Embrace the journey, celebrate small victories, and keep pushing forward. As a Disabled Founder, you have the potential to achieve great things, and your unique perspective adds immense value to the entrepreneurial landscape. Stay resilient, stay inspired, and keep creating positive change.

Diego: Hold tight to your ideas and dreams no matter what people say. At the end of the day, not everyone has the vision to start a company and see it through, otherwise everyone would do it.

Cohort Spotlight (11/14)

As we reach the midpoint of our Fall Cohort accelerator, our program is full steam ahead.Our cohort members have been immersed in our trainings to enhance their businesses. Up next this week, they will partake in a media and PR training. 

This week we met with Jordan Freeman, Founder of Ariel Community, and Esosa Ohonba JD MPH, Founder of Layman, two of our Cohort members who shared their journeys.

Jordan Freeman, Founder of Ariel
Esosa Ohonba, Founder of Layman

How has your experience been so far with 2GI’s Cohort accelerator?

Jordan: My experience so far with 2GI’s Cohort accelerator has been immensely beneficial, blending challenges, key lessons, and the pursuit of success. The sessions stand out for their practical focus, offering real-world insights and direct feedback on our strategies, which has been essential for improvement.

Being part of a cohort of founders with disabilities has added a unique and valuable dimension to the experience. Despite our different backgrounds, experiences, and diversity of startups, there’s a shared understanding of the additional challenges we face, creating a supportive and relatable environment.

Additionally, the international aspect of the accelerator has been particularly valuable. As an Australian startup aiming for global reach, gaining perspectives from diverse geographic locations has broadened my understanding and equipped me with insights for international expansion.

Esosa: 2GI has been one of the warmest, most welcoming accelerators I've been a part of. There's much to be said about the corporate culture of the startup world and how alienating it can be for those who come from underrepresented backgrounds. But, I never felt that way with 2GI, at each step care and authenticity have been presented to make sure that each of us feels seen.

What did you wish you knew going into the Fall Cohort that you know now?

Jordan: Reflecting on my journey to date with the 2GI’s Fall Cohort, one aspect that stands out is the uniqueness of participating in an international accelerator as an Australian founder. Adapting to the time differences initially seemed daunting, but it turned out to be a minor adjustment in the grand scheme of things.

This challenge has come with rewards. The value that this experience has added to my startup is extensive. The growth and learning I've been able to achieve, and the support network I've gained, are immeasurable. These benefits have far outweighed the inconvenience of the time zone differences.

In hindsight, a greater personal consideration of these logistical aspects would have been beneficial. But, the journey has been a testament to the fact that the most enriching experiences often come with their unique set of challenges. This has been a reminder of the resilience and adaptability required in the entrepreneurial journey, especially when venturing into international waters.

Esosa: How much the startup world has become based on financial performance. 2GI is the first entity I've worked with that has really laid that bare. It would've saved so much time had I previously known this,  and this new knowledge base will lead to more strategic decisions in the future. 

What has been the most valuable takeaway to-date?

Jordan: The most valuable takeaway from my time with the 2GI Fall Cohort has been the opportunity to refine critical aspects of our business strategy. Specifically, the accelerator has helped me sharpen our communication strategy and streamline our acquisition approach.

Our existing strategies were functioning adequately, but the insights gained from the cohort sessions have opened our eyes to potential improvements. These refinements are not just incremental changes; they are strategic pivots that promise to significantly bolster our growth trajectory and improve customer retention.

Implementing these changes has been an enlightening process. It’s clear that the knowledge and perspectives gained from the cohort have been instrumental in pushing our strategies from good to great. This experience underscores the value of continuous learning and adaptation in the fast-paced world of startups.

Esosa: The breathtaking honesty of each of 2GI's speakers has revealed that the greatest strength of any founder is their resilience and conviction. When the going gets tough I remember how many people who persevered for a lot longer to see their mission statements come true.

(10/26) The Founder Corner: A Q&A With Our Fall Cohort Members

We’re a few weeks into our Fall Cohort, with support from Comcast NBCUniversal. Over the past few weeks, our Disabled Founders have been immersed in 2GI’s accelerator program, to further build up their business models for continued success. 

This week we sat down for an interview with Ian Ramsdell, Founder and CEO, Kupros Inc. and Stephanie Thomas, Founder and CEO Cur8able. Learn all about their experience with 2GI.

Ian Ramsdell, CEO of Kupros Inc.
Stephanie Thomas, CEO of Cu8able

Tell us about your company and your entrepreneurial mission.

Ian: At the helm of Kupros, we're not merely running a tech startup; we're shaking up industry norms. Our flagship invention, Cu-29, an all-metal copper filament, is pioneering the way electronic components are developed, significantly enhancing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of small-batch prototyping. With a clear focus on sectors such as aerospace, defense, and medical devices, our mission is to create design and manufacturing processes that pave the way for new heights of creativity and productivity.

Stephanie: Cur8able is a Woman and Disability owned fashion styling consultancy specializing in Simplifying Shopping and Destressing Dressing for the disabled, chronically ill, and injured.

Cur8able’s Core Cur8tion service, guided by Stephanie Thomas' award-winning Disability Fashion Styling System®, offers a proven solution to help designers, creative directors, marketers, and merchandisers reimagine both the brands core products and customer groups without the added expense of adaptive design. Additionally, cur8tion addresses the costly problem of dead inventory (unsold merchandise).

What inspired you to apply to take part in 2GI’s Fall Cohort?

Ian: The decision to join 2GI’s Fall Cohort sprang from the desire to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and industry experts. The potential for growth, rich exchange of ideas, deeper insights, and structured guidance perfectly aligned with my entrepreneurial journey. As a service-disabled veteran myself, the empathy and support from 2GI towards disabled founders have been incredibly refreshing and encouraging.

Stephanie: Scale, Scale, Scale! We want to learn how to find and attract early adopting clients, and that is what we've already started learning and it's only week three.

What has been the most valuable aspect of the Fall accelerator so far?

Ian: The networking opportunities and workshops have been fantastic. The ability to learn from professionals who've unraveled similar paths and challenges is priceless. The shared knowledge, perspectives, life lessons, and the assurance that challenges are stepping stones towards success have been pivotal moments of the journey.

Stephanie: The willingness to support the needs of us Founders.

What advice would you like to share with other Disabled Founders?

Ian: Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey is filled with challenges and victories, highs and lows. My advice to other disabled founders is to not let your disability set your limits. Embrace it as your unique strength and perspective, often leading to innovative solutions that others may not see. Make the most of the resources available, never shy away from asking for help or advice, and most importantly, believe in yourself and your vision. Remember, the entrepreneurial journey is a marathon and not a sprint - enjoy every step, every stumble, and every leap forward.

Stephanie: When you see a gap in an industry that you know you have a solution for, trust your gut and go for it, create the product, test the product, start the product and start that business. It would also be a great idea to apply for 2GI's Accelerator.

(10/11) Introducing our Fall 2023 Cohort

We’re thrilled to kick off our Fall 2023 Cohort accelerator program with support from Comcast NBCUniversal. Over the next ten weeks, our 11 participants, all of whom are Disabled Founders of early-stage, high-growth, tech startups, will be immersed in 2GI’s ten-week accelerator program designed to improve their pitch and business model, and to instill the mindset that disabilities can be a competitive business advantage.

For the first time, we’re giving you an insider look into the 2GI Cohort experience - from start to finish. We spoke with Kristin Gross, Founder of Navdee, a digital health platform that connects patients and family caregivers to virtual Health Advocates; and Peter Conroy, Founder and CEO of The Difference App, a Digital Health Technology startup providing an innovative weight management App, who shared their insights and experiences with us.

Peter Conroy, CEO of The Difference App

Kristin Gross, CEO of Navdee

What inspired you to apply to take part in the Fall Cohort?

Kristin: After listening to Spring 2GI Cohort members pitch, I was impressed by the overall presentations and group of entrepreneurs. That didn't happen by coincidence. 2GI was a part of making that a reality and I couldn't wait to apply for the opportunity to take part in the Fall Cohort.

Peter: I was inspired to apply because I have been living with a disability for nearly two decades and I thought this program might present an interesting opportunity to both benefit from and contribute towards being part of this community.

How have you navigated previous challenges or obstacles on the road to achieving your goals?

Kristin: I don't give up - there's a drive and passion that fuels me through the challenges. That being said, I'm getting better at asking for support and guidance, tapping into other's expertise and lessons learned. It makes the challenges easier and faster to overcome.

Peter: I believe some of the same skills I have learned to use to cope with my mental illness have helped me as an Entrepreneur. For example, giving myself grace when I recognize that I am not feeling well, while at the same time being more productive when I am feeling more capable.

What are you hoping to get out of 2GI’s accelerator program?

Kristin: I want to take advantage of being with other entrepreneurs and facilitators in a program that's tailored to the unique experiences of individuals with disabilities. I'm looking forward to the cohort interaction that will allow Navdee to grow. After our first week of sessions, I'm already inspired by the feedback given by various cohort members to support one another.

Peter: Personally, I hope to expand my network and learn about how to be a more effective Founder with a disability. For the company, I hope to find further traction and growth.

The Fall 2023 Cohort was made possible through the ongoing support from and partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, who remains committed to supporting underserved entrepreneurs. In 2022, the partnership facilitated the launch of 2Gether-International Cohort for BIPOC and Disabled Entrepreneurs, which supported 11 Founders. Graduates have since raised substantial funds, generated new jobs, and developed products that benefit other marginalized communities.