How two start-ups marketed their business to consumers

Some start-ups find it easier to market to other businesses than to consumers. Here are the experiences of two women who have worked in the Washington region’s business-to-business sector:

Lisa Morales-Hellebo, Shopsy

The idea for Shopsy came to founder Lisa Morales-Hellebo in a dream, and within a few months the former Wheaton resident had patented a “semantic commerce platform.” Using an algorithm, this site can create different groups of goods based on parameters – color, price, and style, for instance. For example, a user could create a $3,000 outfit from items found online, and then create a $300 version using Shopsy.

Initially Shopsy targeted consumers, but failed to get sufficient traction. After her start-up was accepted into Techstars, a Boulder, Colo.-based start-up support group, she realized it could be more useful to businesses looking to present their merchandise online. Today, Morales-Hellebo is working to revamp Shopsy to highlight its business-to-business focus — and hopes to generate more revenue by targeting retailers.

Marlena Edwards, iPitchTech

D.C. native Marlena Edwards is starting a business to help other tech entrepreneurs start their own. By putting their start-up ideas on her site, founders will be able to ask for small amounts of funding from many donors in a process called crowdfunding.

IPitchTech is intended to help struggling start-ups raise capital, and Edwards’ decision to start during the economy’s slow recovery is intentional — she hopes to create jobs for entrepreneurs who haven’t found angel investors or other help.

Edwards is familiar with the challenges of starting out – several years ago, she obtained a patent for a Global Positioning System tracking device for pets and animals, but found the patent process to be very expensive. Still, she succeeding in bringing it to market with moderate success — the item was featured on QVC.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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