5 Q's With Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder of Lean Orb

5 Q's With Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder of Lean Orb

We sat down with Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder of Lean Orb, the company that designs plant-based and biodegradable catering supplies to learn more about her inspiration and advice for like-minded entrepreneurs. 

Q. What prompted you to start Lean Orb?

As an environmentalist at heart and a designer by trade, I was always passionate about sustainability, energy optimization, and social equality. Being extremely close with my grandmother gave me an opportunity to learn about resource-based economy at an early age. My happiest childhood moments as I remember them were spent listening to her stories,  in the country house where the nearby lake has been a source of our drinking water through the present. She taught me to understand that everything is interconnected. We are the water we drink, and the waste we create today is a health condition we deal with tomorrow.

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Guest Feature: The Top 5 Things to do Before You Quit Your Corporate Job (and become an Entrepreneur)


Scarlet Batchelor, Founder of COEO

Guest Blog Feature

Guest Blog Feature by Scarlet Batchelor, Babson MBA’06, Co-Founder and CEO of COEO

In the six months since I launched full-time into Coeo, my friends, colleagues, and new contacts have been most interested in hearing about how I just one day decided to quit my corporate job and start this fitness/tech startup.

It really wasn’t just a one-day decision. The concept of doing my own thing started during my sophomore year of college. I remember standing in my then boyfriend’s, now husband’s, kitchen saying I wanted to sell something and build something. At the time, all I could get to was widgets, but as a natural visual storyteller and lover of products and community, I yearned to create something that brought people together, had a deeper meaning, and was frankly… just cool.

I didn’t act right away, but 10 years later I found myself at Babson College starting my MBA with the intention of launching my own company. But the right idea didn’t come at that moment either.

After graduation, I went to Ocean Spray where I relished in the opportunity to build a powerful and differentiated identity for our grower-owners, and later arrived at New Balance where each day we envisioned how to make the incredible 100+ year old company resonant and powerful to a younger generation.

Over those years, I learned a ton. I developed my voice as a leader, I became fluent in talking to multiple audiences with many points of views and, as it turns out, built a powerful network of peers and mentors. Other key highlights during that stretch included getting married, having three kids (!!!), and finding personal and financial stability. My dream of being an entrepreneur never wavered, but I also chose to trust the process and allow for the timing to feel right.

So when Babson WINLab program director Ashely Lucas asked me to reflect on The 5 Things to do Before You Quit Your Corporate Job (and become an entrepreneur), I jumped at the chance to share.

1. Idea: is the idea good enough to take a risk?

My dream to be an entrepreneur started with a vision of selling widgets. A.K.A I knew I wanted to sell or provide a service for something, but I had no idea what. I knew what I wanted customers to feel like when they engaged with my brand, or that I wanted them to feel something deeply, but the question of what was still unanswered.

My idea came along as my subject matter expertise grew and morphed. Coeo was launched between my expertise in the industry, my intimacy of that industry as a participant, and the identification of a pain point that was unsolved. A looser version of Coeo came almost a year before I left New Balance, and a more focused and specific version locked in much closer to my departure.

To define the size of an idea I’ve always found it helpful to tap into the “3 M’s” that I learned at Babson: Market Size, Market Share, and Margin. How big is a market? (For example boutique/studio fitness, the space where Coeo operates, was almost $11 billion last year.) How much market share can I get? And how much profit can be gained from this opportunity? Note, I used this approach in my corporate life for line extensions, new opportunities, etc. so it’s a powerful quick test no matter what you’re up to.

Next, it’s important to figure out if an idea is compelling to your target market. When I was working on an earlier version of my business, I connected with my awesome Babson classmate Carlos Espinal (IG: @iconographico Twitter: @cee) of London-based Seedcamp and he suggested picking up Rob Fitzpatrick’s book, The Mom Test. I really like the approach outlined in the book as it de-personalizes opportunities and ensures that your friends and family (or your mom) won’t say “that’s a fabulous idea” because well, they love you and think you’re great.

Once you confirm that your idea is big enough and that the solution is compelling, then it’s time to learn.


2. Learn: Learn the market, the approach, and throw in a little philosophy while you’re at it

I started to get really jazzed as I dug into Coeo when I started learning everything I could about the boutique fitness space, tech development strategy, and reading philosophical books about different ways of thinking.


Scarlet’s Suggested Reading List:

Related to Coeo’s in particular, I am head over heels about Jason Kelly’s book Sweat Equity that talks about the metamorphosis in fitness over the last few decades and success stories of new enterprises and renewed strategy. Seth Godin’s Tribes is also pretty interesting.

In the broader tech space, our now-tech advisor Joost Ouwerkerk of Hopper sent us to Steve Blank’s Four Steps to an Ephiphany and The Owner’s Startup Manual. Eric Ries and Ash Maurya are also powerful in this space and have informed how we approach development and iteration.

Finally, the philosophy part. In this journey it has been powerful for me to think not only about the what, but also about the how. On the more spiritual side, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist writings that are Western-culture friendly have been quite moving to me, and Angela Lee Duckworth’s writing on grit and growth mindset help inform how I approach challenges and learning. I also cherish Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go. My copy was a gift from the talented and passionate Jane Mason of the Boston startup banking community.


I believe it’s important to make space for this learning and creative thought prior to turning in your notice for that stable job. It helps drive your intimacy with both the market and the mentality that you’ll need to rely on so heavily when you launch.


3. Advisors: Who will engage, call your bullsh*t, and listen when the skies feel gloomy?

It’s important to identify and enroll your army of advisors prior to leaving that corporate career. And when I say army, I mean army! Some will be subject matter experts, some will be technology or operational experts, some will help you navigate financials and some will be a shoulder to cry on or someone who you can share a glass of wine or bottle of kombucha with.

My army of advisors started with five to seven people, but has expanded to include dozens more as I’ve networked in the Boston community, found new friends, and new communities. In one case, Emily Welsh of Pixi and I even created our own community of Boston female fitness entrepreneurs, realizing there were a good number or us and we can support and help each other.

So enroll others, be vulnerable, talk about what you do know, and be honest about what you don’t know. Allow others to be part of the journey and open your heart and mind to their perspectives and expertise.


4. Finances: Making money costs money

The expression “it takes money to make money” drives me crazy, but it’s also true. This is a consideration on both the personal finance and business finance side of the equation.

On the personal side, it’s important to look at your own income and expenses and determine if you can forgo that salary, those health benefits, and other perks for… perhaps a long while. I find this to be the MOST difficult part of leaving one’s job to launch a start-up full time as it is so hard for anyone to say yes to this statement.

And whereas these considerations can be emotionally fraught, I’ve found it meaningful to think of these numbers in the same way that I managed my corporate budget at New Balance or otherwise. Tools like Mint help track expenses. I’ve learned here that while I’ve always been naturally frugal and good at saving, the degree of frugality and restraint as an early stage entrepreneur can be maddening (especially if you have a passion for shoes and fashion like me). So be sure to take a moment to ensure you’re ready for this leap.

On the business side, you have to look at the cost to run your business in steady state, ramp up costs, and means of financing. There are so many options these days from crowd funding (new player ifundwomen.com looks cool for all you women entrepreneurs), to grants, to friends and family investment, to loans and more formal equity investments. And perhaps bootstrapping from your own savings and income could be an option as well.

Looking and re-looking at finances and projections is something I do more often than I’d like (I prefer the sexy marketing stuff), but it’s what will allow you to grow and thrive. So make time for this work before and after you quit that swanky job.


5. Mental Health Check: Are you ready for the stress and uncertainty (and thrills)?

When I first launched full-time into Coeo, I joined the Capital Network, a local non-profit dedicated to educating the startup community about funding and all things related to funding. And when I first met with program director Marie Meslin to pitch my idea, at the close of the meeting I asked for her insights of what else I should be thinking about or doing. The first thing she shared was building my network. And the second thing she shared was creating a support system to maintain my mental health during this wild ride.

When she first said it, my initial reaction was “like yeah totally… I’m psyched… I’ve got this.” But in the days and weeks and months since, there having been times when things have felt more challenging, when I felt lonely, frustrated, and tired. For me my own practice of yoga and my voice as a teacher help me to constantly assess and analyze how I’m feeling, and be mindful of my reactions to moments good and bad in this early stage of Coeo. I also have an incredible husband, a supportive dad, and a few great girlfriends from my Babson days that understand the adventure and all that comes with it. But, let’s be honest, there are still days when it’s hard to get my head on straight and push ahead.

So when considering leaving that job, doesn’t forget this fifth thing! Do you have the support network to help you through those tough days? Do you have the mental and physical stamina? And what can you do to build your strength and tap into the strength of others now to prepare for that moment to launch?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but these are a few ideas about what to consider before taking this big leap. I’d love to hear your thoughts too so please drop a line!

Women's History Month: Featuring Founder Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Women's History Month: Featuring Founder Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner

Did you know March is Women’s History Month? In 1987, Congress declared the very first “Women’s History Month,” and ever since each President has issued an annual proclamation so designating each March in order to celebrate the vital role of women in American history. This March, the WIN Lab is highlighting on our blog some incredible historical women founders including Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner.

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5 Q's With Karley Chynces, Founder of Etc.App

5 Q's With Karley Chynces, Founder of Etc.App

On today's blog, we feature Karley Chynces, Founder of Etc.App, to learn more about her motivations and successes as she begins to launch the all-in-one savings platform for college students this Spring.

Q. What prompted you to start your venture, Etc.App?

As a college student, the conversations with my friends are always the same: books are too expensive, going out is too expensive, living on campus is too expensive, etc. The additional costs of going to college hinder not only students’ education, but their overall college experience. This ongoing problem led me to build Etc.App, the app for students to buy and sell everything they use for college hyper locally. Etc.App is the all-in-one savings platform for college students. 

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5 Q's with Carolina Baigorri, Susana Cappello, & Victoria Roca, Co-Founders of Smart Straws

 5 Q's with Carolina Baigorri, Susana Cappello, & Victoria Roca, Co-Founders of Smart Straws

Q. Tell us what prompted you to start your venture, Smart Straws?

We have co-founded Smart Straws, a plastic straw that detects the most common date-rape drugs: GHB and Ketamine. We collectively converted Susana's original idea of having a pendant change color when detected of a date-rape drug to a straw. We are all beginning college soon and are aware of the date-rape culture, so we wanted to bring a discrete tool to the market. 

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Featuring Prabha Dublish, Founder of Womentum, on #InternationalWomensDay

Featuring Prabha Dublish, Founder of Womentum, on #InternationalWomensDay

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The WIN Lab sat down with WIN Lab alumna Prabha Dublish, Founder of Womentum to learn more about how the online nonprofit platform allows anyone to invest in global women entrepreneurs living in poverty.

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5 Q's With Dale Roseman, Founder of Veggie Table Foods

5 Q's With Dale Roseman, Founder of Veggie Table Foods

We sat down with CEO Dale Roseman to learn more about starting her company, Veggie Table Foods, while working full-time. Read about how she is making it easier for busy people to eat nutritious foods. 

Q. What is Veggie Table Foods?

Veggie Table Foods is the manufacturer of plant based Cauliflower Pizza Crusts, Bagels, Breads and Snackers- frozen and ready to bake.  All of our products are gluten Free, all natural, kosher and non-GMO.  Savory, delicious and provide amazing nutritional value.

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Women's History Month: Featuring Founder Ruth Wakefield

Did you know March is Women’s History Month? In 1987, Congress declared the very first “Women’s History Month,” and ever since each President has issued an annual proclamation so designating each March in order to celebrate the vital role of women in American history. This March, the WIN Lab is highlighting some incredible historical women founders.

This week’s founder, Ruth Wakefield, is the inventor of the most popular chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. Her story demonstrates that happy accidents and discoveries can lead to new product development and a company-pivot that creates overarching success. And, to make the story a bit sweeter, this famous cookie was invented in the home of the Boston WIN Lab - Massachusetts!

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5 Q's With Susan Perry, Founder of SpeechMED

Q. What prompted you to start your venture, SpeechMED?

My Mother-in-law Gisselle died because of a terrible misunderstanding at a local hospital.  When she went home she was given the normal 15 pages of typed discharge instructions in English.  The problem was, although she spoke five languages, she didn’t read English very well. The hospital gave her the typical twenty pages of typed and handwritten discharge instructions in English.  One of her instructions was to stop taking her current high blood pressure and blood thinning medications and start different prescriptions.  When she got home a niece filled the two new prescriptions and gave her all four medications which led to 16 weeks in intensive care and eventually her death.

I wish I could say that this was unusual but every three minutes another person will die and 14 more will be injured.  Medical mishap is the third leading cause of death and miscommunication is the cause of many of them.

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5 Q's with Nathalie Cadet James, Founder of Luxe Fete Social

5 Q's with Nathalie Cadet James, Founder of Luxe Fete Social

Have you always wanted to throw the perfect dinner party? We sat down with Nathalie Cadet James, founder of Luxe Fete Social, which provides a dinner party in a box rental that's sure to make your host/hostess dreams come true.

Q. What prompted you to start Luxe Fete Social?

As an international event planner and designer, I get to travel the world to produce beautiful parties in exciting locations and I realized - not many people can remember the last time they went to a spectacular dinner party. The art of the intimate dinner party is dead because it’s simply too much work and time to create an experience, much less create one that is “Instagram worthy.” So I created Luxe Fête Social, a dinner party in a box rental service.  I know the X Factor. We have placed that magic in our dinner parties for rent. We enable anyone to experience their aspirational dream of throwing a fabulous dinner party in their own home, hassle free. We offer curated themed dinners that include anything and everything one would need to be the ultimate host or hostess. Think of it as the Rent the Runway for Dinner Parties.

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5 Pieces of Advice from Women Leaders on Moving Forward in Business

5 Pieces of Advice from Women Leaders on Moving Forward in Business

For the second year in a row, the WIN Lab brought together inspiring women leaders who have built companies, led teams, and made hard decisions, to speak to audiences about their #HonestStories. Whether rising through the ranks, building their startups from scratch, getting creative around investment, or just figuring it out as they go, here are five pieces of advice they left with us:

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5 Q's With Ana Maria Carrano, Founder of VOYZ.ES

Q. What prompted you to start your venture, VOYZ.ES?

I’m a journalist from Venezuela, a country where access to information is practically non-existent. I learned how important it is for a society to have access to multiple voices in order to avoid abuse, as well as to strengthen collective memory and freedom. I was interested in finding a way to help Venezuelan people find the voices that matter to them.

I partnered with Juergen Fesslmeier, who developed a service that automatically transcribes audio into text, with the idea of creating a place where we can share voices from around the world.

This is how we started Voyzes, Record Your Life. Now we are starting to offer a customized storytelling service where we can produce your story with your own voice. It will be curated by us. We’ll guide you through the process of collecting voices and memories. We’ll also help you to do any research needed to complete the work.

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5 Q's with Cathy Copeland Titus of FriendlyU

5 Q's with Cathy Copeland Titus of FriendlyU

Q. What prompted you to start FriendlyU?

FriendlyU is a web and mobile app and SaaS software platform. We started in a very personal way when my daughter began the college search. There wasn’t a clear path for her to connect with students at the colleges she was considering. She wanted to ask questions that mattered to her and weren’t being answered, such as political climate, rape culture, LGBT acceptance, party life, etc. Even after a visit, she wasn’t sure if she’d find her tribe, feel accepted and fit in.

Through research, we realized the colleges have an enormous financial problem due to freshman-to-sophomore attrition. The national average is 32% of students either drop out or transfer, representing a significant financial loss. With only 15% of the 32% attributable to academics, social-emotional fit surfaced as the number one culprit, even more than financial concerns. This makes the “right fit” crucial to students and the colleges. 

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Experiencing Haitian Culture Through the Senses. Meet CEO Blonde Beauchamp.

Experiencing Haitian Culture Through the Senses. Meet CEO Blonde Beauchamp.

Blonde Beauchamp has spent the last few years building thisHaiti, a food company that aims to give you an opportunity to experience the Haitian culture through the senses. With three initial products, her jars open up a world of sour, salty, and spice, that you might not otherwise get without a plane ticket. Learn more about Blonde's entrepreneurial journey below and hear some of her advice for aspiring food companies.

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Marketplace Tech is a Theme in WIN's Second Cohort

Miami WINners entering the Marketplace Tech industry are streamlining the connection between buyer and seller. If it's time to take a trip on your travel points, check out Pex+. Or if you'd rather stay couch bound this weekend and support minority owned businesses, pop over to Major Marketplace for the purchase of your next product. Even college kids are being taken care of through Etc.’s textbook and dorm supply platform. Miami’s 2017 Marketplace Tech entrepreneurs are:

Jessica Coane - Pex+ - Head Shot.jpg
Leyanis Diaz - Major Marketplace - Head Shot.pdf.jpeg
Karley Chynces - BSit - Head Shot.jpg

Jessica Coane of Pex+

A travel search engine for using your miles and points.

Leyanis Diaz of Major Marketplace

We are an online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them. In wanting to support more minority businesses, we built this platform so that we could bring more buyers to them.

Karley Chynces of Etc.

Etc. is a mobile app that allows for students to buy and sell books and dorm supplies hyper locally

WIN Lab Miami Entrepreneurs Make Waves in Consumer Products from Drug Detecting Straws to Biodegradable Cutlery

Five Miami WINners in 2017 are changing the way you engage with the world and everyday items. Drug detecting straws, straps for your shoes, sustainable silverware, and self-steeping loose leaf tea are just the start. Our 2017 Consumer Products WINners are:

Smart Straws - Team Photo.png
Ashley Sebok - Sayblee Products - Head Shot.jpg
Nicole Tirado - TeaRado Tech - Head Shot.pdf.JPG
Anastasia Mikhalochkina - Lean Orb - Head Shot.jpg
Leana Loh - Ginger Straps - Head Shot.pdf.JPG

Susan Cappello, Victoria Roca, and Carolina Baigorri of Smart Straws

A straw that detects the most common date rape drugs, GHB and Ketamine, found in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Ashley Sebok of Sayblee

Sayblee is a 100% natural, organic, handmade hair care system formulated to repair damaged hair and maintain healthy hair.

Leana Loh of Ginger Straps

Ginger Straps is an add-on ankles strap product for high heels and flats. No more slipping in and out of your shoes while walking.

Nicole Tirado of TeaRado Tech 

We are the anomaly at the nexus of tea and tech, striving to enable busy people that care about their health with a tech infused tea cup. Our patent-pending design allows the second most consumed beverage in the world to be consumed hands free, exactly how the drinker likes it throughout the day.

Anastasia Mikhalochkina of Lean Orb

Lean Orb designs plant-based, biodegradable catering supplies. We use agricultural by-products from sugarcane, wheat straw, and palm production to create value through a zero waste model. In addition to sustainability ethics, we aim at fair trade practices and partnering with organizations that train women in micro-enterprise.

Three Arts & Entertainment Startups Join WIN 2017!

Our 2017 Arts and Entertainment WINners are bringing their creative juices to the table to enrich the lives of artists and party planners alike. Two entrepreneurs in this category empower creatives by both expanding their opportunities to showcase and exhibit while also helping them find the resources to produce it. Rounding out this creative trio, the founder of Luxe Fete Social is revolutionizing the party-planning business by giving you the ability to quickly add flare to any occasion. These entrepreneurs are determined to keep art alive in our modern world. Our 2017 WINners are:

Mikhaile Solomon - Prizm Art Fair - Head Shot.jpg
Jennifer Hardcastle - MADSTUDIOS - Head Shot.jpg
Nathalie Cadet-James - Luxe Fete Social - Head Shot.jpg

Mikhaile Solomon of Prizm Art Fair

Prizm is a cutting-edge art fair that is multidisciplinary in scope. Our goal is to expand the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from Africa, the global African Diaspora and Emerging Markets who reflect global trends in contemporary art.

Jennifer Hardcastle of MADSTUDIOS, Inc.

MADSTUDIOS is a platform that provides resources and access to all creatives with the tools needed to be successful. Users can search and book spaces such as recording studios, dance studios, art & production studios, and other venues all for the purposes of creating and collaborating.

Nathalie Anne Cadet-James of Luxe Fete Social

Luxe Fête Social is a dinner-party-in-a-box service. Led by Nathalie Cadet-James, acclaimed event planner and designer, we have bottled the X-Factor of magical parties allowing our clients to create stunning dinners, from box to table in 8 minutes.