Skandalaris Center alum Connie Fry recently hopped on a Zoom call with me to share her story and how winning the first IdeaBounce® event back in 2005 has impacted her success as an entrepreneur.
Before entering the senior living marketing industry, Connie did not have a lot of previous knowledge about this field of work. However, she always knew she wanted to do something with meaning, and through attending seminars and workshops, she eventually fell in love with the industry and the prospect of making a positive social impact among senior living communities and fighting ageism.
Connie’s journey as an entrepreneur began in 2005, when Connie attended the Skandalaris Center’s first-ever IdeaBounce® event in Simon Hall, and went on to become the competition’s first winner. Connie first heard about IdeaBounce® while pursuing her Master's in Social Work at the Brown School at WashU. She said “it feels like it was just yesterday” that she was pitching her idea to a panel of judges along with other aspiring entrepreneurs. Connie’s pitch idea was Senior Ease, an innovative manufacturing process that applies rubber-like material to bottle tops and containers to make them easier to open for the senior population. IdeaBounce® was an opportunity for her to gain insight from experts and gain a sense of confidence for her future entrepreneurial pursuits. One of the biggest benefits of participating in IdeaBounce® for Connie was the private dinner held at Whittemore House after the event, where she was able to connect with the judges and meet with people who were able to facilitate her ideas by offering advice on legal issues, marketing, and overall business strategy. The experience with IdeaBounce® was the number of people she met with that helped with her Senior Ease idea and the opportunity to greatly expand her professional network. She said that winning IdeaBounce® “opened up all the doors for me,” and gave her the connections necessary to get her business off the ground.
It’s the IdeaBounce® event that gave Connie the confidence to start her own premier marketing and advertising agency: Cfk Creative. Through starting Cfk Creative, Connie was able to combine her interests in marketing and social work and ensure the work she was doing with senior living communities was truthful and honest. Additionally, as the CEO, she was finally able to call her own shots and carry out her vision of helping seniors age better by focusing on the aging market. Even though she was confident and dreamed big things for Cfk, Connie said it was still initially scary to quit her job and start her own business. Being an entrepreneur has taught Connie a lot about the importance of having a support system. Looking back at the beginning of her pursuits with Cfk, Connie emphasized the importance of having a group of people around you where you can ask them questions and bounce ideas off with. Through Connie’s hard work and being surrounded by a supportive and expansive professional network, Cfk Creative has had great success, going on to win the 2019 GDUSA American Graphic Design Award as well as being recognized for advanced sales and marketing.
Connie ended our conversation by expressing the importance and benefits of networking as an entrepreneur. The connections that Connie made at IdeaBounce® have proven to be extremely valuable. In fact, she is still friends with many of the people she met at IdeaBounce® to this day. One of her contacts that she met at IdeaBounce® actually eventually helped draft her business plan for Cfk Creative, which Connie emphasized is crucial to shining light on what it takes to be a success in business. Connie’s connections to the Skandalaris Center and IdeaBounce® have remained strong, as she was recently a judge for the Center’s IdeaBounce® event: Innovations for an Aging Society. Despite attending IdeaBounce® over 15 years ago, Connie continues to give back to the Skandalaris Center, helping and encouraging ambitious entrepreneurs that are in the same shoes as she was back in 2005.
Although it may be daunting at first to start your own business, Connie wants innovators and entrepreneurs to know that by getting your foot through the door and starting the process, “everything will eventually come together because you are so passionate about it.” She has seen first-hand how motivation and drive combined with the resources and connections the Skandalaris Center offers can make a big difference and social impact among communities in need.
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