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Sassa Akervall
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November 18, 2015

Winning Advanced Materials Category - Akervall CEO Shares her thoughts

The hardest part of starting a company is…starting it. Especially when you don’t know how to run a company, whom to turn to for advice or find people who can help you. I know all about that.

When we kicked off the company in May 2009, I had literally no idea of what to do except that I knew I needed a website. By creating a VERY modest one with GoDaddy, I was ready to take on the world. Or so I thought...By the end of that year, we had a whole $5000 in sales and I was thrilled! The “sky’s the limit” and “here I come” kind of feeling.

By listening to people around me, I figured out that there actually is help at hand. That is how I ended up at Ann Arbor SPARK, which gave great entrepreneurial support to us.  I attended their boot camp and learned a lot about how to run a business, how to make an elevator pitch and just sharpen my business thinking. Of course it wasn’t nearly enough, but the rest has come along the way.

Today we are 17 employees, in a 15,000 square feet plant. We have a co-branding contract in place with CCM/Reebok and a private branding agreement in place for our SOVA Night Guard with the makers of Mack’s Earplugs. We sell to distributors world wide, to retailers nationally and direct to you, the customer, on our website. We get fantastic feedback from our customers and we are so proud of the great products we are able to deliver to help protect teeth.

Last year we attended the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition where we won the Advanced Material track, which, of course, was a huge feather in our hats.

And this year, we did it again!

If you ever wonder what goes into a competition like this, I can tell you one thing that isn’t included: sleep! You live, breathe and think about how you are going to present your company in the best way, how to make it stand out - 24/7. What to do and say.  What not to say. The preparations go on for months with many deliverables along the way. And the closer we come to the actual semi-finals, the more butterflies move into my stomach. “How can I make myself as presentable as possible?” “What do I say and what don’t I say?” “What do I wear?” And the biggest question: “What do I do with my crazy hair?”

But the biggest take away, for me at least, is to listen to other companies’ presentations, to mingle among seasoned business coaches, journalists, TV-people, executives and others that are interested in fabulous startups with big potential. I like it because I learn so much from this.

And, of course, I’m proud and honored to be counted as one of them. I walked into the office last week with a huge big check in my hand, and was greeted by my fabulous team with champagne and flowers. Ah, how I love my team. How proud I am of them and how proud I am of our second win!

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