Contributed by Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn Minnehan is the social media and marketing intern at Deliberate Directions through the WorkU program at Boise State University. She will graduate in the spring of 2022 with a degree in Business Administration, and two minors in marketing and entrepreneurial management.
With previous marketing roles and over 5 years of leadership experience, she strives to build her skillset as a leader. Kaitlyn believes that fresh perspectives and new techniques help organizations evolve and grow.
Kaitlyn was born and raised in Northern California, but has come to love Boise, especially hiking Table Rock and biking along the Greenbelt.
Over the last decade, the Treasure Valley has made national headlines for its growth. Powering this growth are the incredible entrepreneurs in our community.
In this article, you’ll meet nine Boise entrepreneurs and their companies. Many have also shared advice on what it takes to start a new venture in the City of Trees.
Table of Contents
- Leif Elgethunm, CEO of Retrolux
- Amanda Watson, Founder and Owner of Atlas Strategic Communications
- Allie Mann, Editor of The Scout Guide
- Preston Lewis, Co-Founder and Owner of Black Box VR
- Brad Wiskirchen, Founder and CEO at Kount
- Cherie Hoeger, CEO & Co-Founder of Saalt
- Scott Fischer, CEO of Melt Organic
- Kasey Allen, Owner and Founder of the STIL
- Isaac Belden, Co-Founder of Belden Nu’uvali Solutions
Leif Elgethunm, CEO
Leif Elgethun is a serial entrepreneur, community activist, and adventure sports junkie focused on solving pressing sustainability challenges in energy and the built environment.
Leif has started 8 companies with 7 in the clean energy industry, including his current efforts to accelerate and scale energy efficient solutions in existing commercial buildings with Retrolux.
Retrolux has built Smart Energy scaleOS, a software platform used by contractors, suppliers, and brands to design, sell, and install smart and clean energy solutions in the buildings we all work, learn, and play in.
Leif’s best advice for starting a new venture is to…
“Be passionate enough about what you’re trying to solve, naive enough about the challenges to start, and crazy enough to keep going when a normal person would give up.”
Atlas Strategic Communications
Amanda Watson, Founder and Owner
Amanda Watson has more than a decade of experience in public relations and communications, working nearly her whole career as a consultant for clients across the United States. She is a planner by nature and brings passion, energy and perspective to every client relationship to help guide an effective strategy.
Amanda was one of two founders who started Atlas Strategic Communications in 2017. She was driven to build an issues-based communications firm to work on projects that matter.
Today, Atlas is 100% female owned and is a registered DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) in the State of Idaho. Her team is focused on public involvement, issues campaigns, public relations and public affairs.
To those starting their own new venture, Amanda’s advises:
“Nervous means to do it. This is the mantra I wrote in an old notebook over and over again until I felt ready to take the leap. I was underprepared, but the only thing that can truly prepare you is just starting and learning as you go.
Lean on the people who encourage you and believe in you. Shake off the rest. Find a network of people who you can support and who can support you.
Doing business in Idaho means being part of a collaborative. You cannot and will not be successful alone.”
The Scout Guide Boise
Allie Mann, Editor
Allie Mann is a Boise State alumni who loves the entrepreneurial mindset of Boise. After moving to Idaho in high school, she graduated Boise State University with a BA in graphic design.
She became familiar with The Scout Guide while living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia. After seeing growth in the Treasure Valley, she decided to bring The Scout Guide to Boise, and quickly began the process of becoming an editor.
Allie’s advice for people who are starting a new venture is to not be afraid to ask questions. She believes it is important to do your research and to reach out to others.
“Reach out to anyone who’s work you admire and who has knowledge that you’d like to learn more about. Always ask.”
Black Box VR
Preston Lewis, Co-Founder and Owner
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Preston Lewis caught the bug early and started his first company at age 13. By the time he was in high school, he had seen his passion grow to a business with over $1M in revenue.
After finishing college, he sold his first business and, after a short break, was recruited to BodyBuilding.com. He led the company’s rebranding strategy and product development, creating the world’s largest online social fitness network with over 3 million members and building $500 million in annual revenue. After going from entrepreneur to intrapreneur for 8 years, Preston got the itch to build another company of his own.
He and his business partner decided to create Black Box VR, the world’s first virtual reality (VR) gym experience, combining gaming with serious fitness to help Hero Members level up their lives.
According to Preston, VR technologies will revolutionize the way we work, play, and learn. Black Box VR takes advantage of these advances to finally fix fitness and end the daily struggle that millions of people go through to get the exercise they need to achieve the body and health they desire.
The best tactical advice Preston can give is to create a product or service that solves a real problem. You’re more likely to succeed if this real problem is one that you also feel deeply and have an intense passion to solve. He says,
“Once you have your first ideas about how to solve this problem, get out in the world and test them.
Get over your fear of rejection, have thick skin, don’t get offended when people call your baby (your product) ugly, take feedback and iterate.
If you aren’t embarrassed of your first product, you shipped too late!”
Brad Wiskirchen, Founder and CEO
Brad J. Wiskirchen is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Kount, an Equifax Company. Brad served as founding CEO at Kount, the premier identity trust and fraud prevention platform. Kount’s Identity Trust Global Network delivers real-time fraud prevention and account protection and enables personalized customer experiences for more than 9,000 leading brands and payment providers. Linked by Kount’s award-winning AI, the Identity Trust Global Network analyzes signals from 32 billion annual interactions to personalize user experiences across the spectrum of trust — from ensuring frictionless experiences to blocking fraud. Quick and accurate identity trust decisions deliver safe payment, account creation, and login events while reducing digital fraud, chargebacks, false positives, and manual reviews.
Brad’s advice for people who are starting a new venture is support open, honest, fearless communication. He states,
“People will fill vacuums of information with misinformation. As a leader, it’s paramount to communicate what’s going on with the company to the team at large. Team members know that they will hear any news, good or bad, from me first, and that it will be unfiltered.
I know that I will learn of any threat or opportunity almost immediately. As a result, the company becomes more agile. Employee morale is strengthened because each team member knows that she is respected for her views and entrusted with valuable information about the company—regardless of her role or title.
This is where innovation truly happens. When team members are empowered to be open, honest, and fearless, they can be creative, direct, and vocal in bringing good ideas to reality.”
Cherie Hoeger, CEO & Co-Founder
Cherie Hoeger is the co-founder and CEO of Saalt, a women-owned period care company with the vision to make cleaner, more sustainable period care accessible to everyone. Saalt supports individuals to make better choices for their menstrual health through stigma-breaking branding and an industry-leading product line that offers modern, reusable products to the mainstream consumer.
Saalt is committed to offering only reusable products that are healthier for consumers and the environment. As a certified B Corp, Saalt allocates 2% of revenue to donate improved period care to areas with the most need, and funds initiatives in menstrual health, girls education, and environmental sustainability. Since their launch in 2018, Saalt has donated over 20,000 period cups to underprivileged women and girls in 34 countries to help them confidently manage their periods, stay in school, and lift themselves out of poverty.
Before starting Saalt, Cherie had been an entrepreneur in multiple e-commerce ventures and worked as a technical writer with 15 years of publication experience. Most recently, she co-authored eight editions of collegiate textbooks in the field of fitness and wellness. Cherie has five daughters, and considers them her greatest success. She is working to create a world where menstruation is no longer a barrier, and where gender parity affords equal opportunity for everyone to accomplish their dreams.
Cherie offers this advice to entrepreneurs starting their own ventures:
“I would love to see more entrepreneurs embrace their ability to serve the world through the B Corp model and through social enterprise. I believe it’s the way of the future.
It blends the best of both worlds from the for-profit and non-profit sector. It’s focusing on conscious capitalism in every aspect of the business, from sourcing products responsibly, paying fair wages, inclusivity and transparency, and using business as a force for good.
There is so much every business can do to maximize their social impact while simultaneously decreasing their environmental footprint. In an era where cheap and disposable products offer far more profit, I hope new entrepreneurs will instead choose better health for their customers and our planet.”
Scott Fischer, CEO
Scott Fischer has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Melt Organic since May 2018. Melt Organic is a Boise-native, plant-based, small corporation dedicated to bringing the world not only butter that is better for our bodies and the environment.
Scott began his career with Arthur Anderson, LLC, acquired a Certified Public Accountant license, and later assumed management positions in Xerox Engineering Systems. Later, Scott held several executive positions at the electronics manufacturing company Solectron, including VP of Worldwide Corporate Planning.
He currently serves on the boards of the Idaho Bike Coalition and the Treasure Valley Partnership.
“When starting a new business, surround yourself with the best people you can find. Understand that there is strength in strong teams.
No one person can do everything well. In a startup, you need a team to make the magic.”
Kasey Allen, Owner and Founder
Kasey Allen has spent his career at the intersection of entrepreneurship, marketing, branding, and sales. Kasey worked as an independent contractor in marketing, branding, and business development, serving small businesses, rapid growth startups, and global enterprise organizations.
In 2017, Kasey co-founded and launched The STIL, an ice cream company that now has multiple brick and mortar locations and grocery store placements across the Treasure Valley. Kasey created a strong brand presence in the community, built a large social following, and garnered exceptional media attention in local and national outlets alike.
Kasey’s primary roles for the company include crafting increasingly better customer experiences, marketing strategy and implementation, business development and strategic partnerships, employee management and training, and the creation of a brand that is inextricably linked to the community. He spends a lot of his time considering how The STIL is positioned in the community, how to deliver exceptional experiences for customers and employees, and how to develop The STIL into a brand that resonates for the long haul.
The STIL is an acronym for The Sweetest Things In Life. The business aims to create a space for customers to connect with the sweetest things – people, moments, and memories – over the shared joy of delicious ice cream, beverages, and treats.
According to Kasey,
“Entrepreneurship is simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding experience you can pursue.
Don’t underestimate the challenge! Self awareness is an enormous part of being a successful entrepreneur and you must be brutally honest with yourself if you’re cut out for the rollercoaster ride that’s about to ensue.
I often tell people that if they aren’t prepared to work twice as hard, make half as much money, and endure three times the amount of stress of their current situation, all for the next 3-5 years, then they shouldn’t do it.
However, if you’re prepared for that possibility and you can’t imagine the regret of not pursuing your idea, then you should go for it with unwavering faith in your own ability to figure things out.
Once you’ve committed to the journey, remind yourself regularly that you can figure it out – whatever “it’’ may be (and there will always be an it!).
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Above all else, believe in yourself, your product or service, and the people you bring onto your team. At the end of the day, your success comes down to executing on your ideas, empowering others, and bringing your vision to life through consistent action, creativity, and iteration.
Don’t forget to treat people – all of them – exceptionally well along the way!”
Belden Nu’uvali Solutions
Isaac Belden, Co-Founder
After 12 years in the military as a Combat Engineer, including one tour in Iraq, Isaac Belden found himself lost. He didn’t realize it at the time but he had lost his sense of purpose and connection when he exited the armed forces.
It wasn’t until Isaac got his first taste of entrepreneurship that he began to realize a new sense of purpose. In 2016, he started his first business, a credit card processing company called 12B Capital. He also created the Veterans Entrepreneur Alliance to help other veteran entrepreneurs connect with their community and get the education and tools they would need to succeed.
Through his nonprofit, Isaac met Matthew Nu’uvali and the two co-founded Belden Nu’uvali Solutions to provide PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isaac and his wife live in Boise, Idaho, with their 9-year old daughter. They enjoy the outdoors and everything Idaho has to offer.