Entrepreneurial Sisters Discuss Keys To Starting A Business At LaunchBox Ladies Event
CENTER VALLEY, Pa .– Continuing to showcase the talents of female entrepreneurs, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox powered by Penn State introduced sisters and business owners Cory Dahlia Varona and Nicol Varona Cancelmo at their latest LaunchBox Ladies Speaker Series held at Penn State Lehigh Valley.
At the event, titled “The Next Entrepreneur: Steps to Get Started,” Penn State Berks graduates shared the story of their women’s natural hair products company, DN Organics, and offered the campus community a hard-earned wisdom about the challenges of running a business.
The sisters, who refer to themselves as “sister-entrepreneurs,” recently entered the third annual StartUp Lehigh Valley pitch competition hosted by Lehigh Valley LaunchBox and Factory LLC. There, they received one of three LaunchBox Boost awards of $ 500 to help them grow their business.
At the start of the program, PSU-LV Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson praised the sisters’ talents and thanked them for sharing their story with students on campus who may possess the same type of entrepreneurial spirit. than them.
“Today we will be exchanging ideas on how we can encourage future entrepreneurship,” said Richardson.
From there, Colleen Krcelich, PSU-LV Lecturer in Accounting and Business, facilitated a thoughtful and enlightening discussion with the sisters.
The origins of DN Organics date back to 2018, shortly after the sisters made a commitment to keep their hair in its naturally curly state. Having trouble finding hair care products that didn’t contain potentially harmful chemicals, they decided to start making their own.
“We wanted to take it to the next level and make products that are safe and that we can share with others,” said Nicol.
“Once we started making our own, we realized, ‘Wow, this works just as well as products sold in stores,” Cory added.
Of course, finding a way to manufacture and distribute their products on a large scale was a challenge. Once they developed a solid business plan, the sisters got to work in a number of ways, ranging from finding a name (their initial choice had to be abandoned due to branding issues) to setting up an LLC to obtaining a web domain to find a place to manufacture their products.
Many obstacles followed, including a fire at their original manufacturing plant and the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the rollout of their products by a year.
“The fire was actually a blessing in disguise because we found a better maker,” said Nicol.
The sisters kept their day jobs in order to maintain financial stability while growing their business. And they gave students lots of other helpful tips, such as: invest heavily in social media to build word of mouth about your product; share your story with everyone because you never know who might have access to a valuable network; and make a concerted effort to apply for as many available grants and competitions as possible, like StartUp Lehigh Valley.
Of course, the sisters also noted that having a strong support system to lean on is very helpful.
“I really couldn’t have done this without Nicol,” Cory said. “Having your sister, whom you have known from day one, is a partnership that is never going to break.”