How can entrepreneur coaches better serve clients? Going through the development process themselves

Leslee Hill is taking a dose of her own medicine. For the past two years, she has coached entrepreneurial women and minorities as director of the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC).

Recently, she launched her own mobile app business to practice the principles she preaches at WEOC.

“Developing an app company sharpens my skills to better serve our clients in tech, like those in our Launch Women Business Builders Program,” Hill says.

The idea for the new app came to her during training to become a Certified Coach for the Wendy Kennedy International (WKI) Institute.

The NIIC is the only entrepreneurial service organization in northeast Indiana to offer The WKI methodology to business builders. Hill is one of four certified coaches, which also includes the NIIC’s Karl LaPan, Mike Fritsch, and Tammy Allen.

“I needed a business concept to apply what we learned,” Hill says. “Having previous experience as a fashion-consulting business owner, it was natural to choose a fashion app as my business concept.”

Hill’s new mobile app, RIDME, offers users crowdsourced feedback on their clothing choices. Women can upload to the app a selfie of them wearing an outfit. Then other users of the app provide advice about whether to keep or pitch the item, how to accessorize it, or modifications to make it better.

Advanced versions of the app will offer personalized guidance from professional image consultants, Hill says.

“The app is called RIDME, which has an intentional double meaning,” she explains. “It helps users get rid of clothing that doesn’t work for them. It also helps them get rid of the stress of getting dressed. I want women to be confident in their wardrobes, save money, choose clothes that match their body types, and feel better about themselves.”

The RIDME app offers users crowdsourced feedback on their clothing choices.

The app is for women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

“The app helps women create their ideal personal image, from the inside out, all from the convenience of their mobile phone,” Hill says.

While Hill has extensive experience in fashion, this is her first foray into the highly competitive world of app development, and she’s applying the valuable lessons she has learned as she coaches WEOC clients.

“I’m more confident coaching female founders in tech after putting into practice the WKI principles and bringing this new app to market,” Hill explains.

“I want this to be successful, but not for idealistic American Dream reasons,” she adds. “I want it to be successful, so I can tell founders that these are the right steps. These are the things that work and don’t work, so that I can coach others more effectively from personal experience.”

That desire meshes with Hill’s role and passion for serving women through WEOC.

“Women often come to us with big dreams, but may not know how to develop a viable business plan or raise venture capital,” she explains. “If they have launched a small business, they may struggle to understand how to scale their company. At WEOC, we’ve always offered expert coaching to these business builders. Now, I am working alongside them in developing my own business.”

Hill, right, presents on a panel at the NIIC.

What about her dual roles as a full-time WEOC Director and business owner?

“It’s challenging, yet so rewarding,” Hill says. “I love both roles. I appreciate The NIIC and the U.S. Small Business Administration for catching my vision for learning by doing and their continued support. They express confidence in me and help me find the resources I need. That’s the same kind of support I want to continue to provide to female founders at WEOC.”

Fun facts about the NIIC

The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) serves entrepreneurs at all stages of their ventures as they launch and grow. Since its inception two decades ago, entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC:

  • 467 new products
  • 189 patent applications submitted or granted
  • 2,290 jobs created

The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is located in a U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone.

The NIIC campus was designated in 2018 as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury.

The NIIC is an Indiana Certified Tech Park.

The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program.

To learn more, visit theniic.org.

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