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.

Todd Wolfenberg – CEO, Yoga International

I’m a leader and chief executive with a passion for working with diverse teams to find innovative ways to solve complex issues in the rapidly changing digital space.

I’m currently CEO of Yoga International, a global digital media company that serves 300,000+ members with exclusive content on yoga, ayurveda, meditation, and mindful living on a subscription basis. Our entire mission is centered around helping people live happier, healthier lives by making yoga more available, inclusive, and accessible to all.

As chief executive, I’ve led the organization through a time of tremendous growth. Since 2012, we’ve expanded our user base to over 300,000 members, have established a network of 500+ expert teachers and writers who create content for our members, and have grown our in-house team from 8 to 45+ full-time employees.

Before Yoga International, I worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, where I managed a wide array of businesses from real estate to retail sales to e-commerce.

I believe in using my platform for social good and have a passion for social-impact projects. Most recently, I joined Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and other business leaders to discuss strategies for closing the digital divide.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending quality time with my family, playing sports, meditating, and outdoors activities.

Tell us about the early days of Yoga International.

We didn’t start completely from scratch because we had an existing print magazine. This made it both easier and harder—easier because we had content, but harder because we had to create an entirely new model both for our employees and our customers. When we transitioned to being a purely digital organization, we lost a lot of our existing customer base. This was hard and painful, but also necessary to go where we knew we needed to go.

Three months after we launched YogaInternational.com, we were served with a cease-and-desist letter from another online yoga platform that was patenting its camera angle. At first, this seemed like a major roadblock in that we could no longer film classes in an easy, standard way, but it actually became a blessing as we shared the patent news with the yoga community and received a massive outpouring of support.

In the early days, we leveraged everything in order to maximize growth—our contacts, our assets, our brand, everything. We had no marketing budget, eight employees, and a willingness to do anything to figure things out. We worked from desks that we had repurposed from the doors of an old barn nearby. Non-attachment was a huge factor in our success and growth. We had to iterate daily in order to figure out what was working—marketing, content, strategy, pricing, audience. This helped us organically grow our Facebook reach from 40,000 followers in mid-2013 to 500,000 followers a year later.

As we grew our team from 8 in 2015 to 45 in 2019, we have focused on three key things: culture, innovation, and values. The workplace culture is prioritized above all else. It has to be fun and lively and supportive. Reinvesting in our people has yielded amazing results. Innovation is at our core. We have launched all kinds of new digital programs, new collaborations with yoga teachers, and new technology. Plus, our marketing has to be innovative as trends and technology constantly change. Finally, we have to always keep our core mission of making yoga inclusive and available to all, and keep in mind and remember that our product is for the benefit of the end-user. We want to help people feel better and more healthy in both mind and body, and we have to stay in integrity with our employees and all of the teachers we work with.

These three focuses helped us reach the Inc. 500 list in 2018 and 2019, ranking as one of the 122 fastest-growing private companies in America. We also won “Inc. Best Workplaces” in 2019 and are planning rapid expansion in 2020.

Kristen Denzer – Founder & CEO, Tierra Encantada

Kristen Denzer is the founder and CEO of Tierra Encantada. Kristen has a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Psychology, a Master’s in Advocacy and Leadership, and has completed doctoral work (ABD) in Educational Policy and Administration. Kristen started her first entrepreneurial endeavor in 2008 – an event rental company. She grew that company from 20 events to 500 events annually in just six years. While operating the successful event rental company, she started a second business in 2010 with a childhood friend called The Woof Room – a dog daycare and boarding facility. She managed to grow both to serve thousands of clients each year. She continued to operate all three businesses until 2016 when she sold her event rental company and dog daycare facility to focus solely on Tierra Encantada. Today, Tierra Encantada has four corporate locations in Minnesota (five in 2020), multiple franchised locations in the works, and over 100 full-time employees. Kristen is actively involved in the community and serves on the Board of Directors of Women Venture and the School Board of her children’s school. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the world. Her exploits have included gorilla trekking in Rwanda, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, and playing with seals in the Galapagos.

Tell us about the early days of Tierra Encantada.

In 2013, while struggling to find childcare that reflected my values, the idea for Tierra Encantada first came to life. I had already started several businesses that I was operating at that time. When you start and grow successful businesses as a 23/24/25-year-old, you start to feel a bit invincible by age 29. Like you can do anything. That was how I felt starting Tierra Encantada, and wow I was I wrong. I figured how hard could it be? Well, let me tell you, childcare is A LOT different than other types of businesses. It’s highly regulated and capital intensive. I made many, many mistakes with my first location and I learned a lot.

Tierra Encantada was the first business that I started that needed outside capital and got my first Small Business Administration loan. I grossly-underestimated how much money I needed for pretty much everything – particularly working capital. When we opened that first day in July of 2013, we had more full-time employees than we had children enrolled! It was my first brush with failure, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had two other successful businesses in addition to Tierra Encantada, I may not be where I am today. Those first six months I poured money into the business. I exhausted all the working capital I had asked for within the first two months and put every penny I had into Tierra.

Fortunately, after much trial and error, I figured out what worked – and what didn’t – and about a year after we first opened our doors, we finally hit break even. And of course, like any serial entrepreneur, I immediately started thinking about what’s next. That was five years ago, and in that time, we have experienced exponential growth, which is what landed us on the Inc. 5000 (774% growth in three years) this year. I went on to purchase a building and opened Tierra Encantada – Bryant (2016), which went on a waiting list within a few months of opening. In 2018, I purchased my largest building yet – a church – and redeveloped it into Tierra Encantada – Windom, which filled all 200+ spaces before we even opened our doors.

This year has been an exciting year for Tierra Encantada. I opened location #4 (Tierra Encantada – Seward), and launched franchising in late Spring 2019. Within months of launching franchising, we already awarded a multi-unit deal to open locations in Charlotte and Houston and have multiple other deals in the works. We also have our corporation location #5 currently under construction (Tierra Encantada – Hiawatha), our first new construction location. I’m very excited for the future, and I feel incredibly thankful to have a truly amazing team that helped make this possible.

Tierra Encantada is the leader in Spanish immersion early education. Tierra Encantada provides care for children ages six weeks through six years of age. Our fresh-cooked, organic meals are designed to expand children’s young palates and we are proud to use cloth diapers in our program to do our part to help reduce waste.