Kevin Roche – Co-Founder & CTO, Wellthy

Kevin Roche is the co-founder and CTO of Wellthy, Inc. based in New York City. Wellthy is a modern care coordination service, helping the 66 million Americans who care for sick and aging loved ones.

Prior to founding Wellthy, Kevin was a VP at Goldman Sachs and led a team of developers building strategic platforms for the bank.

Kevin received a BS in Computer Science and Mathematics from Northeastern University and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Tell us about the early days of Wellthy.

From the beginning, my co-founder Lindsay Jurist-Rosner and I were committed to building what we call a family-first business. That was the foundation upon which Lindsay had approached me to co-found the company so it has always been important to us. Neither of us had professional backgrounds in healthcare but we were both passionate about providing a modern solution for the growing caregiving crisis in the US.

We translated this passion into obsessing over the quality of customer experience from day one. Thankfully, it paid off as our earliest customers became our champions in sharing amazing testimonials, which led to word-of-mouth growth. The overwhelmingly-positive feedback continues today and is an important source of ongoing motivation for the whole company. Reminding ourselves of these daily stories of the lives we change is a big factor in helping us work together to overcome challenges.

Wellthy started as a direct-to-consumer business since we wanted to focus on building the perfect experience for families, without worrying about other stakeholders. While we still offer this, we weren’t able to grow that business as quickly as we had hoped, so we began rigorously testing various growth channels. This willingness to experiment and quickly iterate allowed us to make the most of our runway. It turned out that providing care coordination to caregivers as an employer benefit was a very promising opportunity and is now the core of our business.

A few years ago, employers weren’t necessarily aware of the caregiving challenges their businesses face but through persistence and education, companies across the country and across different industries are realizing they have this silent crisis that they need to address. Incentives are well-aligned since both the employer and the families want what’s best for the caregiver and their families. Employers get increased productivity, presenteeism, retention, and loyalty, while the employees receive invaluable assistance in one of the most important and stressful areas of their lives. That said, we continue to look at other ways we can provide this critical solution to as many caregivers as possible, while never sacrificing the family-first and mission-driven model we have built from the beginning.

Carol Gee – Owner, A Feast of Words, LLC

Carol Gee, M.A, a retired military veteran and university administrator, is owner of A Feast of Words, LLC, VenusChronicles.net (her one-woman writing service), and is also an author and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in a number of venues, including the Chicken Soup series and Woman’s World. She lives in Stone Mountain, an Atlanta, Georgia suburb.

Tell us about one of the toughest periods of your life.

The toughest period in my life began just before starting my senior year of high school. My mother retired after 20 years working at the Library of Congress and announced we were moving back to her small hometown in Virginia. As you can imagine, being the ‘new’ girl in the twelfth grade was tough. While the other students weren’t necessarily mean, they weren’t overly welcoming either. After all, many had gone to school together forever and had their friends.

Graduating high school, and with no money to go to college (I had taken many college prep classes and had good grades), and with few job opportunities, I took a job with the local shoe factory. There were a total of three factories in that small town. Not only was the work dirty, it was hard and we were paid by the piece so we had to work fast to make quota, and it was frequently dangerous.

Doing this day in and day out made my life seem desolate. Then, one day on break and flipping through a magazine, I came across an ad for the United States Air Force. In the ad, a young African American female sat alongside a young Caucasian female and a Caucasian male in front of board with some kind of knobs. Suddenly, this seemed like my answer.

Filling out the postage-paid postcard, I dropped it in the mailbox on the way home, and completely forgot about it…until a recruiter called. Before I knew it, I had taken the entrance exam, a physical that checked me from head to toe (where I fainted twice) from the long day and stress, and was on my way to military basic training.

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to write. I remember jotting down little short stories to entertain my younger sister as early as age ten. On the other hand, the women in my ‘village’ (folks who came to my mother’s beauty shop, members from our church, etc.) thought I would make a great teacher. “Because you speak so well,” many said, and because few knew many African American women writers making a living through writing. Without a college degree, I knew that both were impossible.

The AF changed my whole life’s trajectory. Not only did I travel the world and learned to embrace other cultures, I also earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees courtesy of the GI Bill (no student loans), as well as met and married my life partner – a union that has spanned over 46 years.

Suddenly, opportunities abounded. Twenty-one years in the military, a short stint as a mental health counselor, and over twenty-eight years in higher education at the college/university level – yes, this did include teaching. Then, nineteen years ago, I finally did it. I wrote and published my first book. The Venus Chronicles was a spoof on the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Today, I am author of four books, three of which are part of a series that women fondly coin ‘girlfriend’ books. These books chronicle a day in the life of the modern woman, me. With such essays as Now That I Got My Mind Together, The Rest Of Me Is Falling Apart, I May Not Be Able To Find My Way Out Of A Paper Bag (what my husband says), and I Can Make A Mean Pound Cake – these are laugh-out-loud fun books. Today, I also enjoy a vibrant freelance career; proof that what does not kill you, indeed, makes you stronger.

Cindy Lee – Founder, President & CEO, LYNC Logistics

Before founding LYNC Logistics, Cindy served as vice president of human resources at a large commercial truck dealership, then as president of a regional freight carrier operating more than 50 trucks. Raising three daughters honed her ability to detect malarkey in all its forms.

Tell us about the early days of LYNC Logistics.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I had been managing our family’s trucking company, Lesco Logistics, for several years and it was time to make some changes. Trucking is one of the most frustrating but engaging businesses I have ever been in. It was a love-hate relationship. I loved the challenges and the drivers but hated dealing with freight brokers. The brokerage model is like insurance – you have to have it but you really just grit your teeth every time you have to use it. I kept thinking, “There has to be a better way.” We needed to be the masters of our own fate. Years ago, the trucking company (in 2000) tried getting into the brokerage business – it was a disaster. Someone in the office forgot to verify if the trucking company had insurance….oops. The truck hauling the freight rolled over ten minutes after leaving the shippers, and the financial and emotional damage lasted a long time.

In the fall of 2013, we bit the bullet and decided to open a brokerage separate from the trucking company. In a really pleasant southern voice, I demanded to start, fund, and run this business. I wanted to build something on my own. I called my grown daughters and asked them very nicely, “Remember all of the good stuff you got as kids – the cars, the trips, and that great college education you got? Well, payback has arrived. I need some money to start a brokerage. You’ll be stockholders. It will be a good investment.”

LyncAmerica was born on May 1, 2014 as a woman-owned business. In 2018, LyncAmerica was rebranded as LYNC Logistics, LLC. The fate of this company was in my totally-unprepared hands. The first hire was interesting to say the least and to say it didn’t turn out well was an understatement. Lesson learned, when someone says that they had a dream they should work for you, it might be other things talking. I moved a couple of people over from the trucking side; we moved a little freight. Six months in, I made the best hire of all – the moment I met Keith Gray, I knew he had the same vision as I did. Lync grew rapidly, Keith brought Mat Soloff into the business, and things began to turn. Hiring has been one of the hardest things in this business. You must find someone who not only has the skills, but also who fits into the culture. In a new business, it is important that everyone, including the owner, understands that all ideas are worthy and that stars should be in the sky, not the office.

The company grew quickly from the start. Revenues doubled every year. The rapid growth quickly brought up the main issue all new companies face: cash management. We were rocking along basking in the glory and then one day reality struck. I approached several banks that my husband and I had both business and personal relationships with in the past. LYNC wanted to get a revolving credit line to help with cash. The first bank wanted a personal guarantee, no problem…then they wanted me to move the money behind the guarantee into their bank. Another lesson learned in this process – women and men are not treated equal in the financial markets. The trucking company had numerous loans given without that kind of ask, but they said it was different with us. I went to another bank in town, who bent over backwards to make the credit line happen. They embraced the fact that we were a woman-owned business and have always been there when any need arises. We have been able to grow with their help.

Starting a company brought out every insecurity I have ever had. Am I smart enough? Bright enough? What happens if I screw it up, and the employees hate me? Would I lose all of my savings? All the people I had convinced to leave their secure jobs and take a chance with me, how could I let them down? If that sounds like a lot of I’s, it is. I took everything on my shoulders. Every day, I would sit in my car in front of the building thinking that today would be the day someone discovered I was an impostor. Once I acknowledged the phenomenon to my team, things got better, but the real saviors were Google, the Internet, and incredible female friends. Because of them, I am able to walk in the building, face the day, and get through it without throwing up.

LYNC Logistics, LLC has been very fortunate. Rapid growth allowed us to place on the Inc. 500 list in the first year we were eligible (2018) – we came in at #415. In 2019, we placed #366 on the list. We were named a Best Place to Work by Inc. and LYNC was named the third fastest-growing women-owned/led company by the Women’s President Organization. Women in Trucking also honored LYNC with 2019’s top woman-owned business.

What are some of your favorite books?

Books have always been a huge part of my life. The first book that I remember reading was Cindy Goes To Space, around 1962. For a child who grew up in the 60’s, the thought that I could be anything but a housewife, teacher, or a secretary was mind boggling. From that point on, I used reading as a way to increase my perspectives, to learn about the world way beyond a small city in Tennessee. Books have become both my escape and my saviors. With the business, I am constantly looking for information that will help in sales, development, and leadership. The one book that I think has had a big impact on our employees is Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount. He states that there is no magical way to make sales but that it takes persistence. His book gives salespeople the tools to achieve more success, especially in the brokerage field where you just make call after call until you get a toe in the door. Several of our employees have done the Dale Carnegie course How to Win Friends & Influence People. I bought the book by the same name (it was exactly what I needed at that moment) and have determined that we will offer all of the managers a chance to take the course. Personally, I found the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young, Ed.D. to be enlightening when my anxiety and fear of being an impostor was at its worst. It worked better than the Xanax that my doctor wanted to prescribe. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman has provided insights into developing the belief in yourself to combat insecurities. Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope was an interesting read though I don’t think any of Bernie’s tactics would serve me well in business. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove is on my nightstand currently. Then, of course, there is the fiction on my reader, my phone, and on every flat surface in my house allowing me to always have an escape nearby.

Maria Wendt – Founder & Influencer, Maria Wendt, Inc.

Maria Wendt helps female entrepreneurs get clients online. She is on a mission to help women leave their soul-sucking 9-5s and get paid doing what they love. She lives in Wilmington, DE with her husband and an enormous collection of books. You can find her (and a bunch of great free resources) at www.mariawendt.com.

Tell us about one of the toughest periods of your life.

One of the toughest periods of my life was when my grandfather passed away. I was extremely close to him and he passed away just a few months before my wedding. I took his passing really hard and slipped into depression. It was extremely hard for me to motivate myself to work and I found myself asking, “What is the point of all of this?” It really caused me to question a lot of my goals and my desire to be in business. If we are being totally honest, I almost quit my business and got a “real job” because the idea of hiding away in a cubicle was extremely attractive in the moment.

I got through it by leaning on my support system. My husband, sister, and my entrepreneur friends all refused to allow me to quit. “You’ve come too far. Don’t quit now. You’ll regret giving up on your dreams.”

And deep down, I knew they were right.

Even though in the moment I wanted to close up my business and settle for a corporate job, I couldn’t bring myself to give up on my dream. I had worked too hard for too long to quit now.

These days, I am doing much better. I have a thriving business teaching women how to get clients online. I just hired my 7th team member. I am happy and fulfilled – and so glad I persevered through that challenging time!

What books helped you through it?

I am an avid reader so it’s hard to choose! I find that the book The Big Leap was extremely helpful. In it, it speaks about how we tend to self-sabotage right before we hit a new level of our lives. I know this was the case for me. I could see into the future and I knew my business was about to blow up and it really scared me. The Big Leap helped me realize this was normal and it gave me tools to push through the fears and overwhelm.

Royce Gomez – CEO, RoyceTalks

Royce Gomez, CEO of RoyceTalks, knows what it’s like to have wealth and assets and knows what it’s like to start from the bottom. She has spent more than 25 years as a serial entrepreneur in a variety of verticals, and today coaches entrepreneurs who want to scale sustainably. Royce resides in Colorado with her husband and three dogs. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, wine tasting, traveling, and seeing her adult children as often as possible.

Her love of strategic planning and marketing have married beautifully to create a thriving, international business that allow her to travel and enjoy her hobbies.

Tell us about one of the toughest periods of your life.

In 2006, Royce was on top of the world. She owned 29 investment properties, was spending time with her children, homeschooling, and enjoying hobbies as a family. The family had the quintessential Colorado lifestyle with horses, dogs, a hobby ranch, and the SUV, but in 2008, when the Great Recession hit, Royce lost everything. With tenants out of a job, there were multiple mortgages to pay, and cash was spread too thin.

Royce had also taken literal falls. Having been thrown from horses several times, she had permanent neck injuries and concussions that had their effect on memory loss.

Her horse business was taking its toll on her body and her finances. She made changes that required her to be less involved with horses to save what could be salvaged for the family. Opportunity presented itself over 1,000 miles away, and the family relocated to Florida. Royce got a job and spent the next few years rebuilding.

Hitting Rock Bottom

A few years after arriving in Florida, and working hard to rebuild, the second fall happened. This time, it sent Royce spiraling until hitting rock bottom. She had left her job to go full-time into entrepreneurship again; she was starting to build momentum when a divorce came along.

Royce left a marriage of 23 years with nothing. No job, no health insurance, and no savings. The only thing she had left was the responsibility of her 18 year old who wasn’t ready to enter the world on her own as an adult, and the family dog. There were days she got up only to show her kids she could set the example. She wanted them to see “it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you handle it.” This was Royce’s motivation for the next few years.

During this time of rebuilding, it was also a time of blessing, learning, and expanding her circle of influence. There were times, 31 weeks out of the first year to be exact, Royce didn’t have the money to pay rent. She sublet the apartment and used couchsurfing and Airbnb to keep a roof over her head. She would’ve been homeless if it weren’t for the generosity of friends at times. The time Royce traveled, however, opened up numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth. She was invited to Costa Rica to cover a social enterprise story, was introduced to a gal in Sicily who is now a lifelong friend, and so much more Royce covered these amazing vignettes in a book, The Spontaneous Journey.

The Climb

This time was a blessing in disguise, and a time she will never forget. After three years of toiling, Royce had built a 6-figure business coaching and copywriting. Her clients expand far and wide, having coached more than 200 startups, mentored at numerous Startup Weekends and business incubators, and using what she learned from The Spontaneous Journey to build her business. Royce has written copy for startups, nonprofits, and national brands like Calvin Klein, Berkshire Hathaway, and others.

Because of Royce’s dogged determination and business acumen, she was given the opportunity to grow an insurance agency that had faltered and gone through numerous owners in a short period. Royce successfully grew the agency 11% in a year before handing it off to someone who loved the industry.

Today, Royce is blessed to live a life where she is not in survival mode, but thriving. Thriving spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. She spends her days investing into the lives of entrepreneurs who are giving their all for their dream. Her perspective changed two years ago, from a coach to a partner. Royce considers herself a partner in their success, and understands she is a teammate. Their success is her success. This mindset shift has propelled her business forward with hyperspeed.