Jose Tellez’s life was transformed when his son was born.
Tellez was an unhappy, unhealthy alcoholic in denial, he said. But he knew he needed to change for his son’s future. In 2014, shortly after he became a father, he got in shape and fell in love with personal training. And he wanted to help others make a change.
“We can all agree that just having a gym membership isn’t enough. It isn’t going to change our lifestyle,” he said.
In 2016, Tellez founded his Racine business, Nitro Training Unlimited LLC, to provide personalized group training.
“We are not a gym; I’m sorry,” Tellez said. “We are a health club and we train personally and we individualize every custom routine.”
Tellez was the winner of the inaugural WWBIC Growth Accelerator Demo Day on Thursday at Gateway Technical College’s SC Johnson iMet Center in Sturtevant. A panel of judges awarded him the $5,000 top prize, which he plans to use to hire more sales employees to ramp up its marketing “so that we can reach more lives.”
Husband-wife duo Hugo Saavedra and Nancy Davies design and build high-end custom furniture at their Kenosha County business, Hugo Saavedra Studio. They took second place at the Demo Day, and a $4,000 prize.
“When you take solid wood and sound construction, you create a lasting piece,” Davies said. “And this is so important because did you know that furniture is the No. 1 least recycled household item?”
The pair works part-time in this first year of business, and expects $40,000 in sales, with most of it being profit, Davies said.
They plan to invest their winnings in customer reach in the coming months, Saavedra said.
In third place was Martha Nicks, owner of Sturtevant-based Navigator Career Solutions LLC, which offers customized career guidance for individuals. She received $3,000.
“We alleviate the frustrations among professionals by providing a customized career guidance program that can simplify their route to success and help them manage their employment transition quickly and seemlesssly,” Nicks said.
Navigator is targeted to degree holders, and Nicks helps them on evenings and weekends since they are working during the day, she said.
Currently, Nicks and her husband, who have backgrounds in career development, are the sole employees. But they have plans for growth.
“As we build traction and revenue we will be adding an operations manager and an accountant to help us with our finances,” Nicks said.
In fourth place was Robin Shiels, owner of Robin’s Nest Cakery Inc., who received $2,500.
Next month, Robin’s Nest is opening a new bakery shop on a prominent corner in downtown Kenosha. With the help of a Kiva loan, it has raised most of the funding for the buildout.
From 2011 to 2017, Robin’s Nest grew 30 percent each year. In 2018, it grew 20 percent and in the new location, Shiels projects it will grow 35 to 40 percent annually.
And in fifth place was Wansheba Lawal of AYA Health & Wellness Café, who received $2,500.
“We have seen an increase in health care costs associated with obesity and chronic illness,” Lawal said. “Obesity costs our society $149 billion per year in medical costs, and corporations lose about $66 billion per year due to low productivity costs.”
Many of these costs can be drastically reduced with a healthier diet, Lawal said. AYA Health and Wellness will be a healthy café, but also a wellness hub to teach people skills they need to continue their healthy habits. She hopes to open AYA in late 2019 or early 2020 in the Racine area.
The WWBIC Growth Accelerator, a 10-week program, was designed by the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. and business growth consultant Thalia Mendez to provide entrepreneurship training in the Racine-Kenosha area when the Launch Box co-working space and startup program closed last year.
“Congratulations on all of those that are in the competition here,” said Gateway president Bryan Albrecht. “No matter how it turns out today, know we’re here for support behind you.”
“I’m just thrilled – you guys have no idea of the huge growth that all of the participants went through,” said Mendez, who facilitated the accelerator.