by Fundify on September 10, 2021
Armand Dauplaise
Cofounder & CEO
The Hydrogen Group

What inspired you to start this business?

A long-time friend of mine had an idea about using hydrogen to help a lot of people and do a lot of good in an area with great business potential. He knew that my experience with creating strategic business plans and building companies could help bring this concept from an idea all the way to market adoption. 

I researched the concept further and got really excited about the possibilities here. So together with Jim Lowe and the inventor, Tim Watson, the three of us founded The Hydrogen Group and got to work on solving the massive problem of high diesel fuel costs and toxic emissions in an entirely new way. 

 

What’s your mission? 

We’re on a mission to improve the environment, help those in the transportation industry save money and provide a superior return on investment to our shareholders. We are committed to the continuing pursuit of excellence. 

 

What’s your background? 

I grew up in Indiana in a family where hard work was valued. Like many people in that area, I was a basketball junky and enjoyed playing back when short people were still welcome on the court. Even then, I knew my future wasn’t in the game and would depend on my mind rather than my body. 

I went on to study business and finance and have found great joy leading business development and planning. Over the course of 40 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in six industries, building business operations across the U.S. and internationally in the China and Canada markets. 

One of the highlights of my career was bringing a company from launch all the way to the OTCBB stock exchange. We grew from zero to $21.5M in capital raised and $40M in revenue with an annualized EBITDA of 15%. 

 

What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role?

In my 40-year career, I’ve tasted both success and failure. And while success is more fun, failure is a better teacher. 

My biggest lessons came from my experience taking a company from concept to being publicly traded and growing well. I’m highly skilled at developing business plans and growth strategies. I know how to lead teams working to execute those plans, how to attract and service a growing customer base, and how to manage shareholder relations.

But as a publicly traded company, we became the target of a hedge fund that didn’t share our long-term goals. I had to walk through some incredibly difficult days with this fund shorting the stock and taking actions that weren’t in our best interest.

While that was an incredibly painful experience, I was blessed to have a supportive family that grew even closer during the struggles. The experience made me more humble and motivated me to work even harder to achieve success. 

We’re a team of seven, each highly skilled and experienced in our areas of responsibility. Each hand-picked team member is also a shareholder who purchased stock, rather than receiving it as an employment perk. Everyone here believes strongly in our mission and has a vested interest in our success.

 

Tell us about the team you’ve built.

Our team includes people with massive business backgrounds, a former NASA senior scientist, a pro with 35 years of experience in the trucking industry, a brilliant engineer experienced with government contracts and a former FINRA member compliance officer. I couldn’t ask for a better team!

 

Describe your company culture.

We’re a goals-focused team that believes in open communication and welcomes different perspectives. We’re distributed across the U.S. and work efficiently with all of today’s technology that removes geographical barriers.

We believe that teams succeed or fail together, and we’re committed to helping each other be as successful as possible. If I had to go into war, I’d want these people covering my back.

 

What brings you the most joy on the job?

Seeing our team work cohesively together and seeing the relationships grow. 

 

What are you most proud of?

That’s a long list. 

I’m proud that we have more than 70 shareholders who have been very supportive and many have made add-on investments. I take our responsibility to shareholders seriously and work hard to take care of them and keep them informed about our progress.

From a product standpoint, I’m proud that we’ve worked through 6 prototypes to arrive at our current solution. Proud that it has proven effective during 15,000 miles of road tests. And proud that we’ve earned three patents -- covering more than 60 claims -- assigned to our corporation for our unique approach.

I’m proud of the way our team has pulled together to establish a proof of concept and is proceeding to market readiness in the next four to six months. 

 

What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?

This is a hot market with so many changing factors. There’s widespread agreement that we must reduce toxic emissions in the transportation industry. Public pressure plus EPA mandates give this a real sense of urgency. 

Many companies and government leaders are looking to electrification to help solve this problem. But there’s much misunderstanding of how this would work in the U.S. transportation industry, and the infrastructure is simply not in place for the trucking industry to make good use of electric solutions. 

It would take 8,000 pounds of batteries to drive 500 miles, which doesn’t work in an expansive country like ours. Electrification will only work for short-haul drivers, like UPS and FedEx, that travel less than 200 miles a day.

There’s much discussion about building out charging stations, and some industry leaders forecast significant progress over the next 10-15 years. But that infrastructure also will not meet the needs of long-haul drivers. 

We believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the answer for the transportation industry. With our approach, it can be delivered in a compact manner and leverage regenerating fuel cells, which eliminates the need for charging infrastructure. We’ve designed a solution that creates hydrogen as needed and uses 1 pint of water to replace 11 gallons of diesel fuel. For long-haul drivers, that’s a real solution that fits the way they drive. 

In addition to long-haul transportation, there’s massive application with the U.S. military’s 6,000 humvees and maritime vehicles that aren’t currently under environmental scrutiny but may face more as awareness grows.

Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?

We’ve had a lot of success raising funds for The Hydrogen Group, having raised $1.2M before launching our equity crowdfunding campaign. Knowing that so many Americans are concerned about the quality of the air we all breathe and are eager to see scientific solutions hit the market, we decided to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to open our company to a broad range of investors. 

We were introduced to the team at Fundify, and their leadership team was so supportive that we decided to raise funds on Fundify. 

 

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

  1. Diligent -- I work harder than most.
  2. Optimistic -- I see the good that has the potential to surface.
  3. Persevering -- I’m fully committed to achieving the goals before me. If you want to see proof of this, just ask my wife Linda whom I dated for eleven months before she finally became Mrs. Dauplaise. 

 

What is the most important habit of a startup founder?

Diligent focus. Let me explain. 

When you’re building a new company, there are so many facets to consider that it’s easy to get distracted by busyness. If you don’t focus, you’ll never get the business off the ground. You have to focus on the tasks that move the business forward.

Even with focus and a plan, you’re going to hit barriers now and then. When some people hit a barrier, they want to try something different. But that also makes it hard to get the business off the ground. 

Startup founders have to make a solid plan, seek advice, make refinements along the way and then stick with the plan -- during the good days and the difficult ones. That’s what I call diligent focus.

A good example of this is Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A. Early on, he decided that Chick-fil-A would be closed on Sundays. He faced a lot of pressure over this decision as shopping malls and strip malls didn’t want anything to do with a company that would be closed on one of the busiest shopping days. But Truett Cathy remained focused on his mission of delivering an excellent quick-dining experience six days a week while saving the seventh for worship and family. 

You probably know how this story goes now that Chick-fil-A is one of the top five restaurant chains in America. Virtually every shopping center and real estate developer wants a Chick-fil-A on their property to generate traffic, and they’re still closed on Sundays. Diligent focus.

 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

This is a joy to answer. I enjoy spending time with my wife. I feel like we’re still on our honeymoon 47 years later. We still have a date night every weekend and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. 

I also enjoy spending time with our grandkids, reading and exercising, but time with my wife is at the top of my list. 

Armand & Linda Dauplaise

If you were on stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene.

Easy. My wife will tell you that I cannot dance or sing. I would teach. I would love to answer questions about the definition of success and the steps to achieve success. I would describe what I’ve learned over the course of 40+ years in business. 

My guiding post has always been this treasure from Proverbs: “Trust God with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” That’s my formula for success.

 

Learn how you can invest in The Hydrogen Group here

 

 

 

This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.

by Fundify on August 1, 2021

What inspired you to start this business?

I grew up working odd jobs in construction and saw how this industry largely operates from word of mouth, which can be time consuming and limiting -- for both the workers and employees. I went on to get a degree in engineering and built a career in technology, but I’ve remained close to the construction industry through family and friends. I’ve frequently thought about how technology could make it easier and faster for people to find safe, reliable work.

A few years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Rudy Rucoba who had an idea for a business that would connect construction workers and contractors with a customer-centric approach that leverages technology in a way that’s not being done today. I was drawn by the business opportunity and the chance to help people. 

What’s your mission? 

To increase the efficiency of both hiring workers and being hired for short-term construction gigs. We want to connect the right people through technology and cut down on the time it takes someone to find work.  

 

What’s your background? 

I was born into a blue collar family in Texas and grew up as an electrician’s helper; I was kind of a Jack of all trades at construction sites, constantly learning and pitching in where I could. I worked hard in school and was accepted at Stanford University where I earned a degree in electrical engineering and an MBA. 

Post graduation, I started working in marketing and worked my way up to executive roles, eventually running companies in the U.S. and internationally. Eventually I left public companies to work with startups and really found my calling. I love the startup environment, especially when you get to solve big problems with technology like we’re doing at Work4Workers.

I love the startup environment, especially when you get to solve big problems with technology like we’re doing at Work4Workers.

 

Have you founded other companies? Any exits?

Yes, I’ve founded multiple startups with several successful exits. The most challenging and the most rewarding exit was for a startup I helped found in the semiconductor industry around the year 2000. We were achieving good growth and had raised our seed funding and our series A funding from traditional venture capitalists. We were negotiating a strong series B funding round when 9/11 happened, changing the economy and investing landscape. All the term sheets were pulled, and we ran out of cash. 

We needed a buyer and found one in corporate giant AMD. This soft landing enabled us to take care of our investors and employees in a significant way. 

I’ve also been able to play a key role in several turnarounds where we’ve pivoted the business for a better outcome. I’ve managed acquisitions, such as that of Sigmatel being acquired by Freescale at a 69% premium to the previous trading price. 

 

What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role?

Being part of startups that have succeeded and those that have failed has taught me a lot about running and funding a business. It’s vital to have funding, of course, but it’s equally important to have the right funders for your business. Startups need funders who are eager to help them and then the funding needs to be structured in a fair and equitable basis across the board. That’s one of the things I appreciate about equity crowdfunding where we can offer the same terms to all levels of investors. 

The experience of leading companies in the private and public sectors has also taught me how important it is to take care of your employees and build a cohesive team. You’re going to have to deal with challenges; it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes the difference. And a cohesive team is much better positioned to work through the challenges.

You’re going to have to deal with challenges; it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes the difference.

 

How did you and your cofounder meet? How did you come together to build this business?

Rudy and I were introduced through a mutual friend, and we hit it off immediately. Rudy described his vision for Work4Workers, and it was a great fit for my operational and marketing background. We both know the construction market well and have a deep desire to help people. We know the limitations of the current approaches to finding short-term jobs and believe we can solve this long-standing problem with technology designed the way users need.

 

Tell us about the team you’ve built.

We’ve built a team with deep experience and strengths in complementary areas, with a focus on the core areas of our business -- construction, labor, recruiting and technology. We’re serial entrepreneurs who understand what it takes to move an idea from initial planning to market launch to growth. 

Our executive team is well connected in the construction and labor market, so we’ll be able to connect with our target users quicker. And three of us are graduates of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative where we continue to mentor other entrepreneurs. 

We’re members of the Latino and Hispanic communities, we have an in-depth understanding of our audience and their pain points, and we’re eager to help them.

 

Describe your company culture.

Our culture is one where we encourage open communication and welcome feedback. We’ve built a solid plan that we’ll refine and iterate based on market feedback. Our team is focused on our mission of solving employment issues in the construction industry.

 

What brings you the most joy on the job?

For me, it’s hitting milestones. I like to set goals and then see us get to the next point. 

One of the big milestones we hit recently was finalizing all of our inputs to launch our funding campaign on Fundify. A lot of startups don’t have all the financial and structural information together in a way that’s required to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Going through that process helped us mature further as a company. We’re excited about the early results we’re seeing and are eager to move to our next milestones.

 

What are you most proud of?

My family. The success that my wife and I and our children have been able to achieve is so much more than we ever imagined. It’s given us incredible opportunities and the ability to help others in meaningful ways. 

Because of my professional success, I’ve been able to participate with the Latino Business Action Network and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative where we train and mentor business leaders. More than 800 people have completed the executive training program and have been responsible for creating 35,000+ jobs with $4 billion in revenue. These businesses are changing people’s lives and impacting communities in a positive way. 

Sometimes my wife and I think we should pinch ourselves. We’re so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and wish our parents could see this. 

 

Phil enjoying beach time with his granddaughter.

 

What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?

We’re at an unprecedented time where people are struggling to find work while construction companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire. For workers, the inability to find a job each day means they don’t earn money that day. For companies, the lack of enough skilled workers is a limiting factor in how many projects they can take on and complete.

The market was already in need of a tech-based tool to solve this problem, and Covid made it worse as it introduced more uncertainty to the market. 

We’ve all seen images of day laborer camps on the news. Those are not a good solution for workers or employers. It’s a difficult environment to navigate and can be dangerous for all parties if not managed by a local entity.

We need to launch our platform and get it into the hands of workers and employers so they’ll have a faster, safer, more efficient method to find and fill jobs. 

We’re at an unprecedented time where people are struggling to find work while construction companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire. ... The market was already in need of a tech-based tool to solve this problem, and Covid made it worse as it introduced more uncertainty to the market. 

 

Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?

As we’ve described Work4Workers to people, many have told us that they’d like to invest. They’re retail investors who are looking to invest a few hundred or few thousand dollars, unlike venture capitalists who invest larger amounts in later funding rounds. 

It can be difficult for a startup to accept more modest investment amounts due to the associated administrative expenses and management overhead.

The beauty of Fundify and crowdfunding is that it gives us a way to take all of those interested parties and let them invest whatever amount they’d like. Whether you invest $100 or $10,000, you’re treated the same and given access to the same information. I think it brings a lot of integrity to the process. 

 

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

  1. Hardworking 
  2. Opportunistic
  3. Appreciative

I consider myself lucky and blessed. Of course luck is what you make of it, but I’ve been lucky enough to have been given interesting opportunities. From there, I’ve worked hard enough to be able to take advantage of those opportunities. 

And I’ve been struck by the need to be mindful of these blessings and stop and say thank you. I’ve taken the time to go back to Stanford and knock on the doors of some of my former professors just to say thank you. There were days when I didn’t think I could finish certain courses, and my professors encouraged me along. I think it’s important to let people know you appreciate the role they played in your life, and I try to pass this on by mentoring other business builders. 

 

What is the most important habit of a startup founder?

Tenacity. If you really believe in your idea, keep charging forward. Know that it won’t be all roses, and some people will think your idea won’t work. That’s ok. You can listen to their concerns, adjust if needed and keep pushing forward. 

As I mentor entrepreneurs, I sometimes see ideas I don’t think will work. As I give feedback, I tell them -- “Take my advice or take this as an opportunity to prove me wrong.”

 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

My wife and I enjoy traveling, and it gives us great joy to be part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. I also enjoy getting to mentor other entrepreneurs, helping them with lessons I’ve learned or providing contacts that will help them. 

 

If you were on stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene.

I would teach to a smaller audience so I could see the feedback from people and measure the results from the material I was teaching. In a different life, I would have loved being a teacher. I tutored in college and then after in underserved schools in San Antonio. I helped kids with calculus and physics, and it was extremely rewarding to see the light bulbs go off as they understood these subjects. 


Learn how you can invest in Work4Workers here.

This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.

by Fundify on July 8, 2021

What’s your background?
As an early sales leader at Vimeo, I experienced the power of social media to influence social movements. That gave me a deep desire to find a way to leverage that influence for good, and that laid the groundwork for Cluster. Our mission is to weaponize kindness, slow judgment and create micro-moments for people to connect around shared ideas and experiences that are larger than themselves.

Over the past 20 years, launching and ramping up startups has become part of my DNA. As part of the founding teams at Crisp and Speakr, I learned even more about branding, agencies and influencers. I also developed hands-on experience in launching and growing a SaaS company with cutting-edge technologies. I've advised a number of businesses with venture capital, social and influencer marketing, and entertainment. All this has led to my current role as Founder and CEO of Cluster. Let me tell you more about what we're doing.

What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role? 
Life has a way of placing us on the right path even if we’re not expecting it at first. Technology has always been something that I’ve had the fortune to be exposed to, starting at a young age. Working in and around startups in e-commerce, mobile, video, social media, influencer and now social impact. It’s been very much of a natural progression. I’ve always wanted to effect positive change, and Cluster provides us with the platform that can achieve this in a way that fits our natural digital behavior.

Tell us about the team you’ve built.
We're a small but extremely passionate team. Passionate about truly creating change in our own and all communities across the world and passionate about each other and the work we do. With a startup, everyone is required to wear many, many hats and have the extra initiative to jump in for all the work we do. 

We’ve quickly built a team that brings years of experience in their respective fields across product, UX/UI, marketing, sales and more. Our team brings experience ranging from leading entertainment brands such as Fox, CBS and Beats by Dre to top NGOs with Wetlands International and FUSE Corps to some of the top producers and directors across movies, TV, and music (Mulan, The Hangover, Heroes, JLo and many more). More importantly, we all have that next-level drive to achieve this massive goal of changing the world. 

What key ideals drive you?
My parents always said, “Patience is not a virtue; it’s a pillar for success.” That statement is a work in progress, because I’m sometimes a little extra. But I do patiently pursue five key ideals:

  1. Empower those around you
  2. Inclusion over avoidance
  3. Seek the truth
  4. Speak the truth
  5. Compassion and kindness are the only weapons we need.

I’ve always been an observant person and I’m good at understanding what really motivates us and why. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity with Cluster to leverage that understanding to empower people to do more good.

Aside from financial growth, what’s your mission for your company?
As I mentioned earlier, my mission is to weaponize kindness, slow down judgement and create micro-moments for people to connect around ideas and experiences larger than themselves. If we do this, people will gain perspective on what matters from one another. From there, we can get the country back on track.  

Regarding social movements, all projects that inspire or move people to action will be supported by Cluster. We’re all about enabling people to do more good in their communities, whether that’s a geographical area or a community of like-minded people supporting a shared cause.

As our platform grows, we hope to allow people to use their social channels to earn incomes like influencers do today, at a local level and in a programmatic purchasing manner. 

What brings you the most joy?
The things that bring me the most joy are growth and learning, and I’ve put that to great use while developing Cluster. I have dreamed for over half a decade now of what it could look like for people to work together to better their communities and then the world through social impact. It’s been amazing to see brands, partners, talent and investors share my vision and want to be part of it.

What are you most proud of at work?
The work our team is doing everyday. It’s exciting to me to see our plans take shape and to see individuals begin to use Cluster to extend the impact of their volunteer efforts. It’s exciting to see brands buy into the way Cluster makes it so easy for them to get involved in social impact projects and meet their customers at a place of impact.

What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?
The larger shift in focus on social impact from consumers and brands. There was already a shift of consumers holding brands, influencers, society and others more accountable for social actions. But then 2020 hit and all the issues that bubbled up from social justice, the economy, politics and more elevated the social impact space. Now, we’re seeing true action versus just talk of social impact. Talk about a good time for Cluster to launch!

Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?
I had begun raising money for Cluster before the pandemic, but as it took hold and our economy suffered, all of our investors stepped back from their plans with us. I remember sitting there at 3 a.m. as my pregnant wife slept beside me and thinking, “What are we going to do? What is the path forward to funding for this incredible platform?”

After a few months of nonstop virtual activity, we met some amazing people and a family office of investors who changed the game for us. And we were introduced to the idea of crowdfunding, which is a great fit for a business like ours that can reach and impact so many people.

Raising money, launching a business and having a baby is not something that usually happens all at once, but it allowed us to think quite dynamically and originally about how we wanted to go about affecting positive change and creating a community of inclusion through kindness. 

What is the most important habit of a startup founder?
Being tenacious while showing patience for yourself and your employees, family and business. 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?
Relaxing by spending time with my amazing wife and two beautiful daughters.

 

If you were on a stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene. 
Listen … then teach. We are in one of the most exciting times in our country’s history, a period of change and potential growth. Millennials and Gen Zers have a massive appetite for purpose and now make up almost half of the U.S. population. There are an estimated 70M+ volunteers composed mostly of Millennials and Gen Zers where 70% of Millennials and Gen Zers believe they can create change. I say potential growth because if we can complete the journey that Cluster has set out to do, we can ensure that communities across the country get the chance to work together to do more good and even enable individuals to build secondary income streams.

Learn how you can invest in Cluster here.

This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.

by Fundify on June 30, 2021

 

Meet Cara Armstrong, an ER nurse turned CEO who aims to shake up the infant nutrition market with Baby Barista.

 

What inspired you to start Baby Barista?

My daughter Mia is my inspiration and my “why.” Mia was born with Down Syndrome and -- characteristic of her condition -- was unable to breastfeed. Early on, my husband Jack and I were still in the phase of accepting that Mia would have a disability, I found myself struggling with even ordinary tasks, like making bottles. Traditional bottle making is time consuming, messy and aggravating. When I learned that parents had been preparing bottles by hand for more than 100 years, I said: "This needs to change, this can change and I am going to be the one to change it!” That was the genesis of the Baby Barista mission. 

 

What’s your mission? 

We want to remove all of the friction and pain points from infant formula feeding. We have created a complete ecosystem to totally reimagine an antiquated process. With an affordable Baby Barista counter-top machine caregivers can have premium organic baby formula conveniently delivered to their door by subscription. There’s even a connected app that allows caregivers to prepare a bottle from anywhere (even from bed, at 3 a.m.). The app allows parents to track their baby’s feeding and to manage their formula supply. The result is an end-to-end feeding system, unlike anything that has previously been available. Baby Barista is perfect for millennial and Gen Z parents who embrace technology to solve everyday problems and simplify their lives. 

 

What’s your background? 

I’m a registered nurse and worked for 12 years in a busy hospital emergency room in Los Angeles. In 2018, I traded in my nursing scrubs for my CEO seat. I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my career. I have such a passion for reinventing the infant formula feeding experience, that building Baby Barista alongside a world-class team doesn’t feel like work at all. I’m also an active, committed disability advocate. I believe in the value and dignity of every human life. Compassion for every parent’s feeding journey is at the heart of the Baby Barista brand. 

 

What experiences along your career path help you most in your current role?

There are so many transferable experiences from my days as an ER nurse that I carry into my life as a CEO. My time in the ER was especially helpful in learning how to triage a relentless flow of challenges!
(1) You must have the ability to pivot. In the ER, when a treatment plan isn’t working, the health care team has to be ready to pivot to ensure the best outcome for their patient. The same is true as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have to be prepared and willing to recognize when plans aren’t working and to pivot to a better solution.
(2) You have to work as a team. No one saves a life alone, and no one runs a company alone. I’m surrounded by incredibly talented professionals who, as an added bonus, are kind, warm people who genuinely care about others.
(3) You have to be prepared for the unexpected. The ER is a never-ending stream of new challenges. You really have to stay on your toes because, at any moment, a patient could come through the door with an urgent, life-threatening emergency. In business, like the ER, change is a constant; you have to be prepared to keep your cool and press forward, particularly in the face of rapidly changing circumstances. 

 

Tell us about the team you’ve built.

We have a fantastic team and we’ve worked together for several years. Lisa Silverstein has been with me for seven years, keeping us organized and compliant. Jud Currie is our VP of sales and brings incredible experience in this market. Previously, Jud was responsible for bringing Canada’s number one and two baby food brands to market. Doug Levinson is our brilliant business strategist that has been a college professor and worked both in the public and private sector. We also have a varsity advisory board with two Harvard MBAs, a world-class infant nutrition expert and executives that have worked at Google, Facebook, Disney, Amgen and the 3 largest infant formula brands in the world. 

Cara Armstrong and Baby Barista team members

Describe your company culture.

Our culture is “baked into” everything we do, every decision we make. Family comes first … period. We’re all ready and willing to backstop each other, so that no one ever misses a once in a lifetime moment because of work. We also believe that everyone we encounter in our personal and professional lives is deserving of kindness and respect. Finally, operating with the highest possible ethical standards is a given for our team -- it’s who we are.

 

What brings you the most joy on the job?

Crafting a social mission into the DNA of Baby Barista that is centered around Down Syndrome Awareness and supporting the Down Syndrome community. People with Down Syndrome are still a marginalized people group. Anything I can do to proclaim their worth and to help the world appreciate their special value brings me tremendous joy. 

 

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my ability to persevere and build this company ... against all odds. Even in 2021, female founders are grossly underfunded compared to their male counterparts. Being able to accomplish so much with my team, while managing the demands of motherhood with the added complexity of having a daughter with additional needs isn’t easy ... but it’s deeply gratifying. 

 

What are the top factors influencing your industry or company right now and how are you managing them?

Baby Barista is a David vs.Goliath story. In this industry, 86.6 percent of the market is controlled by an oligopoly -- a few large companies that have dominated the infant formula market for years. These big players really only have to compete with each other. That has led them to become complacent; they’re making a ton of money and they have no incentive to shake up the market, let alone to innovate. But the tide is changing, thanks to scrapy, brave startups who are using technology and cutting-edge nutritional science to improve the lives of all babies. We’re at an inflection point and we are thrilled to be the vanguard of this exciting movement.

"But the tide is changing, thanks to scrapy, brave startups who are using technology and cutting-edge nutritional science to improve the lives of all babies." - Cara Armstrong, CEO & Founder, Baby Barista

 

Why did you decide to raise capital through crowdfunding?

I know the founders of Fundify and appreciate how their mission aligns well with ours. Part of our mission is to democratize the infant feeding ritual in the family so that everyone can help -- not just Mom or the primary caregiver. We’re making it so simple to make a safe, healthy bottle that everyone can be involved. 

Similarly, Fundify is on a mission to democratize startup funding and investing so that everyone has access to investing early in disruptive innovation. I trust the founders and believe in their ability to execute.

 

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

  • Courageous -- It takes great courage to put forth a company in an environment where only 2% of funding goes to female founders. It takes faith to step away from your career and go into a whole new area. This experience has forced me to face fears and insecurities and to overcome them.
  • Sincere -- I genuinely believe in what we are doing. We’re tackling a very serious, important problem that so many parents and caregivers struggle with. This problem can be solved; the challenges of bottle-feeding can be nearly eliminated. Today's parents routinely turn to technology to help solve everyday challenges. Baby Barista is a shining example of how that can work. 
  • Joyful -- I approach each day with heartfelt joy and gratitude for all that I have. Having worked as an ER nurse, I see life differently. I’ve seen how quickly everything can change and know that every day is a gift. I’m joyful for each day that God gives me. 



What is the most important habit of a startup founder?

I’d say self-care. When you’re focused on building a business and being on the battlefield, it’s easy to forget to take the time to care for yourself. But losing sight of self-care impacts not only us, but also our loved ones. It’s tough to balance motherhood, leading a company and being a vocal disability advocate. So, I think it’s really important to set aside time to take care of myself, too -- to honor myself physically and spiritually. I start each day with a hot yoga class to care for my body and mind. I strive to ground myself by prayerfully considering all the tasks put before me on any given day. As moms we have to remember that we don’t always come last -- we have to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of others. Self-care isn't selfish. 

 

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

I also love spending time with my husband Jack and our kids and watching them grow into amazing loving, caring human beings. Our daughter Amber is about to complete college at UCSB. She is a wonderful young lady that we are confident will do great things. My daughter Mia and son Jack both surf and I love to watch. My son Jack enjoys water polo, boxing and is a gifted singer. Mia is a SAG-Aftra actress, voiceover artist and model who continues to break down stereotypes about intellectual disability. Having a front row seat to our children’s unique passions and activities makes my husband Jack and me very happy. I also enjoy gardening, long walks, hiking and learning all sorts of new things.

 

If you were on stage in a spotlight before a packed audience, would you rather teach, sing, dance or accept an award? Tell us about that scene.

I would teach. I’m passionate about helping people understand the importance of “person-first language,” especially as it relates to people with special needs. As the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I often hear people refer to her as a “Downs kid” rather than a child “with Down Syndrome.” People need to realize that someone’s disability is simply one small component of who that person is. They’re lots of other things, too -- maybe an artist, actor, surfer, a math-whiz, a good cook, a singer or dancer. By leading with the diagnosis, you miss out on seeing the full person and you trivialize the complexity that makes us all human. No one would think of saying, “look at that cancer child.” So why lead with a label for people with disabilities? God loves everyone; we should, too. 

 

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This blog article is published by Fundify, Inc. The comments and opinions expressed within are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or Fundify, Inc.