Meghan Freed – Founder & Managing Co-Partner, Freed Marcroft

Together with her wife, Kristen Marcroft, Meghan is founder and managing co-partner of Freed Marcroft, a Connecticut law firm that devotes its practice exclusively to divorce and family law.

Freed Marcroft developed a goals-based approach to divorce rooted in the decision-making process. By helping clients discover their goals for their lives, their team takes its collective proficiency in family law and designs a divorce for the individual.

Meghan and Kristen live in Downtown Hartford, CT with their opinionated but sleepy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Daphne.

Tell us about the early days of Freed Marcroft.

After I graduated from law school in 2004, I was on track for a pretty traditional, white-shoe legal career. I started out as an associate at one of Connecticut’s largest firms, did a stint at a massive international firm, and then went in-house to manage national litigation for a storied Hartford insurance company. Things were predictable. Things were also getting a little rote. But, without an intervention by my wife Kristen and Ryan, a friend and colleague who became our original law partner, I probably would have stayed on that path forever. They poked a whole bunch of on-point holes in my devotion to conventional wisdom, and we opened the first iteration of our law firm in 2012. The first partnership didn’t make sense (in business as in divorce, when a relationship isn’t a fit it’s best not to belabor it), so we parted ways and Kristen and I became Freed Marcroft in 2013.

We bumped along as a general civil practice in 2013 and 2014. We were doing only about a quarter of a million in annual gross revenue, but we did hire our first employee, loved working together, and enjoyed what initially felt like the freedom of running our own shop. By early Spring 2015, we were feeling the pressure. The firm was our household’s sole source of income, and we were struggling to meet payroll and handle a larger than anticipated tax bill with basically flat revenues.

Another lawyer friend, Sarah, connected us with RJon Robins and How to Manage a Small Law Firm. In our intake call, they explained that they would work with us only if we picked one practice area and focused on it. We had to become the best at something rather than taking all cases that walked in the door that we were competent to handle. Kristen and I said “divorce” simultaneously. Why a married couple knew divorce was the right fit is a much longer discussion, but for our purposes here suffice it to say that on my end, my own decision to divorce had been transformative.

How to Manage became our coaches, and we learned that we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We flipped our mindset and started designing the life we wanted to live, and started building the company we wanted to run. Even though it was initially terrifying, time and time again we took the leap and invested money into our own personal and professional growth – as well that of our business.

Between 2015 to 2019, we grew our team from 3 to 15 and our above-the-line revenues to over $2 million. This year, Freed Marcroft is #732 on the Inc. 5000, the 18th fastest-growing law firm in the country, and the #1 fastest-growing law firm in Connecticut according to the Law Firm 500. We are now able to help many, many more people turn their divorce into an opportunity for personal growth and powerful positive change, and we get to do it with a team that not only “adapts” to change, but leads change, drives change, and thrives in change. Together, we do good work and take great satisfaction in helping our clients create and live their futures. It is honor and a joy.

Josh Watts – Co-Founder & CEO, MedTrust

Josh Watts is the co-founder and CEO of MedTrust, “a South Carolina based mobile healthcare provider with a business model focused on serving hospital-systems throughout the southeast. We operate 24/7 365 for ambulance services driven to become the ‘provider of choice’ in each area we serve. To support our goal of ‘Improving Patient Outcomes’, we use data-driven, innovative methodologies to ensure our key performance metrics exceed industry standards and client expectations.”

Tell us about the early days of MedTrust.

MedTrust was “dreamed up” in 2011 by myself and co-founder, Buddy Koon, in Charleston, SC. With exactly ZERO experience in the Private Ambulance industry, we set out in early 2012 to provide an honest service in an unfortunately dishonest industry. My background was in sales and people in general, having spent years since graduating from Clemson in recruiting, medical sales, and real estate. Buddy was my best friend’s father and I had known him for 30 years. In that time, I had known him as a football coach, chairman of our private school board, business owner, and father figure.

After a fast start, MedTrust grew from running two ambulances per day to six in its first 18 months based on a commitment to good service and integrity. Unfortunately, we hadn’t figured out the business yet with the regulatory, compliance, and process intricacies of medical operations and billing. In January 2014, I received a phone call from my best friend that his dad, my business partner Buddy, had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. After an 11-month fight, Buddy passed away in November 2014. This year was the first real test for MedTrust (of many) as I struggled to manage the “back of the house” that had been Buddy’s forte and responsibility.

I was introduced to a local angel investor who took a chance on a struggling company with a passionate CEO and we set out to rebuild MedTrust from the studs, but with the same fundamental commitment. We both were committed to building a company worth owning which meant that we had to understand, at a granular level, the levers of the business from a capital, operational, and human perspective. For the remainder of 2015, we did analysis, research, and worked hard to build on the reputation. We also decided to hyper-focus on serving a specific sub-market of hospitals, to be the “medicine between the buildings.”

2016 was a year of planting seeds and making investments in people, equipment, and training, and since April 2017, MedTrust has become the primary/preferred provider for thirteen health systems spreading the entire coast of South Carolina, to Lexington/Columbia, Southeast Georgia, and Jacksonville, FL. With more than 350 employees and a fleet of 75+, MedTrust now proudly transports in excess of 55,000 patients/year. We were named the fastest-growing company in SC in 2018 and were twice named to the Inc. 5000. With a mission of “Improving Patient Outcomes through Excellence in Mobile Healthcare”, MedTrust will continue to grow throughout the Southeast as the premier provider of transport solutions for health systems.

Carlton Andrew – Founder & CEO, Retail Service Systems

After founding a college market newspaper and later graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in economics and business management, Carlton went to work in corporate banking to get a high-level business finance education. He spent four years with NCNB (now BoA) in their corporate division handling mergers & acquisitions and corporate accounts, then left the world of finance to begin an adventure as a serial entrepreneur. Over the last twenty-five years, he has founded and/or acquired all or a significant part of more than a dozen different companies spanning multiple industries and countries including beverage wholesale, real estate development, construction, rodeo productions, internet marketing, and distribution in retail and B2B, as well as businesses in the home furnishings and commercial services industries. While building companies, he has also served on several boards including the NC Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association and the Coors Brewing Company Mid-Atlantic Advisory Board. His expertise in distribution led to the development of a broad-based internet business which operated in more than thirty states and several foreign markets. Recognizing a need for disruptive distribution and retail changes in the $100 billion U.S. home furnishings industry, he founded Retail Service Systems (“RSS”). Through strategic team building, asset acquisitions, and specialized program and products development, RSS has become one of the fastest-growing companies in America. RSS offers multiple franchise and licensing models through a team that embraces its mission to “Empower Entrepreneurs”. That mission has resulted in RSS being ranked by Inc. Magazine in the top 10th to 20th percentile of their Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list for both 2018 and 2019.

Tell us about the early days of Retail Service Systems.

Retail Service Systems (“RSS”) was formed and self-funded by me and my wife, Daphne, on an idea for building a company that would strategically develop and continually improve highly-specialized business models, brands, products, and services that would empower entrepreneurs for success. Our first business model was designed to disrupt the traditional brick and mortar retail home furnishings industry and now, six years later, that system under the trademarked name, BoxDrop Mattress & Furniture, has over 350 locations in forty-five states and has helped make RSS one of the fastest-growing companies in America.

In our first year, almost no one including family believed we could make something of our grand idea for RSS. My wife and I, however, strongly believed there was and always will be an endless number of would be entrepreneurial-type customers who wanted and needed a business services company that was customer-obsessed about building models made up of programs, products, and services designed to empower them for success. The traditional main street, brick and mortar retail home furnishings industry was ripe for disruption and we had a big vision about how we would become that disruptor. Our goal for perfecting and building out RSS’s first model directed at the retail home furnishings world was to build a team of committed and passionate industry experts who would work with us to re-engineer some old advertising, marketing, merchandising, and selling methodologies that had proven to work in the pre-internet marketing days, modernize them for the digital era, and then license them to our customers. Looking back on our tumultuous first two years, when we didn’t even have the name BoxDrop yet and called our model “Local Furniture Direct” (“LFD”), it is hard to believe we made it so far so fast. Now that we have built that first model into a national chain under the name BoxDrop, it’s funny and humbling to think back on the “Rugged” war stories our team built in those early years. Maybe this analogical story will give you some perspective.

At the end of its first year, 2013, RSS’s was a want-to-be shipbuilding company whose only model for a boat (LFD) was a skeleton of a sailing vessel that had a broken mast, tattered sails, and a bunch of jagged holes where water could constantly rush in. RSS had a team of six who were so busy bailing water and patching holes on the fifteen or so broken boats whose captains were counting on us, they barely had room to think much less transform those fifteen or so barely floatable boats. We had an idea for building a powerful engine and transforming that LFD boat model into a multi-model high speed line of power cruisers, but at that time, everyone was wearing life jackets and the only destination most could see was one that had the LFD boats sinking straight down to the bottom of the sea. Financial storms, competitive currents, and rogue legal tidal waves were constant forces that kept the boats in jeopardy most of the first two years. Charged with building out the new line of power cruisers, I set about recruiting the right people to help us build the right engines, design the right models, and get them seaworthy.

We built a mastermind team comprised of ship captains, boat builders, navigators, and mechanics who were all working on the multi-model power cruiser boat line together. We created an R&D cruiser called RSSCO Outlets Anderson that was run by my wife, and through that, we cultivated and tested ideas we offered to our fourteen boat captains to improve their LFD boats. Once the team really came together, the multi-model line of power cruisers took shape with a powerful group of engine choices, great navigational tools, and comfortable captains’ quarters for boat captains. The line still didn’t have a marketable name, but more and more people started wanting one and existing boat captains were moving up to better models that were more powerful and cruised at higher speeds. In the latter part of the third year, we re-christened RSSCO Outlets Anderson as the first BoxDrop boat with its signature blue and green colors. Soon thereafter, the demand for BoxDrop cruisers exploded and today the line has four models: BoxDrop Mattress, BoxDrop Sofa, BoxDrop Mattress & Furniture, and Super BoxDrop.

Today, six years since RSS was just a meager boat builder with nothing good to show but a tattered and broken sail boat model, we have transformed the company into a modern day business Cape Canaveral that builds and launches rockets whose payload is a business satellite we get safely into orbit so it can support the navigation of hundreds of boat captains who have chosen one of our many options of boats. Like Cape Canaveral, RSS has a VAM (Vertical Assembly Building) where we build out the rockets designed to get various business model satellites up and into orbit. We have a launchpad team and a control center from which we oversee and service things. In addition to that Cape Canaveral, we have building and training facilities where master boat and navigational satellite building teams custom build and service various models for differing boat captains who have ever-evolving ambitions to traverse the often-unpredictable lakes, rivers, and oceans that boat captains like to adventure out into. RSS successfully builds the boats, rockets, and satellites – all we need is more Rugged Entrepreneur captains.

RSS and our team(s) have now created successful brands, products and programs like BoxDrop Mattress, BioPure, Royal Heritage Home Furnishings, Sapphire Sleep, BioPure Clean, BoxDrop Sofa, Sleep2Win, BoxDrop Mattress & Furniture, Rugged Entrepreneur, and Super BoxDrop Wholesale/Retail Distribution. In everything we build and service, we do it with our simple mission of “Empowering Entrepreneurs” in mind and heart. Keeping that mission simple helps us focus on a “Customer Obsessed” offensive strategy that makes us innovative and disruptive. Our teams understand the modern era of connectivity and build communities that collaborate and work together at the speed of action and thought. Our dynamics for doing this creates competitive marketplace advantages wherein we are constantly on the cutting edge of new developments for the industries we target. Thank you Steve Jobs for telling the world that “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Jon Haws – Founder & CEO, NRSNG

Jon Haws is the founder and CEO of NRSNG, which “is on a mission to end the nursing shortage by building the BEST place to learn nursing.”

Having worked as an ICU nurse, preceptor, Code Team Nurse, ICU Charge Nurse, and mentor to tens of thousands of nursing students throughout the world, I strive to give you the tools and confidence you need to succeed in nursing school, pass the NCLEX, and excel as a nurse.

I have a relentless passion for simplifying the process of nursing education…it has become unnecessarily over-complicated, with too much fluff and politics. It’s time to ditch the old way.

Tell us about the early days of NRSNG.

NRSNG is born very organically from my own personal struggles while a nursing student. I went to a small private nursing school and found the process incredibly overwhelming and over-complicated. Prior to nursing school, I’d already obtained a BS in Business Administration with a minor in Health Sciences and Spanish, so I wasn’t new to education. However, nothing really prepared me for the beast that is nursing school. After graduation, I had the chance to precept new nurses and students. What I discovered was that my experience was not unique by any means. Nursing students were struggling all around the country.

These experiences led me to start a podcast where I began to share some of the tips, tricks, and hacks that helped me to survive. My story struck a chord with nursing students who were searching for help. From the podcast, I was able to build a small following who agreed with my idea that nursing school shouldn’t be so hard. This little audience began to grow more and more. The first “product” I offered to the audience were eBooks and guides that comprised of some of my notes and tips for nursing school success. These books were helpful, but I knew it wasn’t enough. In order to REALLY impact nursing education, we needed to do more.

In 2017, we began producing courses for nursing students following a strict pedagogy that I developed which utilized the methods I used to succeed despite the chaos. The rest is history…we realize that we are just beginning but we know we can do so much more to help nursing students.

As far as gaining traction, I honestly think people worry so much about standing out and making sales that they forget that the person on the other end of the computer is a human who has real problems. In my situation, I had so much empathy for the end user because I KNEW what it was like to be a struggling nursing student. It’s been said over and over again but I’ll repeat it: build something that solves a REAL problem. It helps if you understand the problem. Then, just be yourself. I wish I was more flamboyant or whatever…no doubt we would have a bigger YouTube channel if I was…but I’m not and pretending to be would come off as insincere. When it comes to marketing and building an audience, just be yourself and don’t worry about anything else.

Now the practical side of that also means that you need to be learning all that you can about marketing and business. I read 20-30 books a year, attend conferences, and ask a ton of questions so that I can improve.

Lisa Curtis – Founder & CEO, Kuli Kuli

Lisa Curtis is the founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli, the leading brand pioneering a new sustainably-sourced superfood called moringa. Lisa began working on Kuli Kuli while serving in the Peace Corps and, alongside her amazing team, has grown it into a multi-million dollar social enterprise with products in over 7,000 stores. Lisa was recently recognized on the Forbes “30 Under 30” 2018 list and she has appeared in numerous outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Tell us about the early days of Kuli Kuli.

After experiencing malnutrition as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, I turned to moringa to regain my strength. Moringa is a local superfood that helps with malnutrition, but few people benefit from it. I found that the women in my village saw no reason to grow moringa when there was no market demand. In the US, there are millions of health-conscious people looking for all-natural ways to nourish their busy lifestyles, just as there are a billion people around the world looking for nourishment to survive. Investing in agriculture is, hands down, the most effective method of reducing poverty, but investment in agriculture has been declining for the past two decades.

Upon my return from the Peace Corps, I co-founded Kuli Kuli, a mission-driven business, to drive economic growth, women’s empowerment, and sustainable agricultural development by utilizing moringa as a tool for nutritional security. Together with my childhood friend Jordan, I launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to manufacture Moringa Superfood Bars. The crowdfunding campaign was the most popular food campaign Indiegogo had ever had, enabling Kuli Kuli to launch onto the market in 2014. Whole Foods Market was the first retailer to pick up Kuli Kuli’s Moringa Superfood Bars, starting in Northern California.

It was initially quite difficult for us to gain traction, particularly in raising investment and also in consumer awareness. Most Americans had never heard of moringa and few investors were will to invest in an unproven product led by young founders. However, we kept hustling and sought to form partnerships with leaders in the field.

We launched our Pure Organic Moringa Powder in 2015 and expanded to over 2,000 retail locations. In 2016, we partnered with the Clinton Foundation, Whole Foods Market, and a nonprofit in Haiti to help reforest Haiti with moringa trees and develop the Moringa Green Energy shots made with Haitian moringa. By creating partnerships with small farming cooperatives in Ghana and Haiti, private foundations like the Clinton Foundation, and major retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Kuli Kuli has created a truly sustainable and philanthropic business model. In 2017, Kuli Kuli was one of the first Benefit Corporations to receive investment from a Fortune 500 company, Kellogg. Kuli Kuli now sells our Moringa Superfood Bars, Pure Organic Moringa Powder, Moringa Green Tea Energy shots, and new Organic Green Smoothie Mixes in over 7,000 stores nationwide. To date, Kuli Kuli has planted over 12 million moringa trees and partnered with over 2,400 farmers, providing more than $4.4 million in income to women-led farming cooperatives and family farms. Kuli Kuli has been featured in over 300 media publications, including Forbes, Inc., and in viral videos such as this one viewed 3 million times.