Rev’s 2020 in Review: Members Create 202 New Jobs Despite Challenges
Doing Business During COVID-19
2020 was a challenging year for many startups and small businesses across the globe. In addition to facing temporary—and sometimes permanent—closures, the usual challenges of operating a business, such as navigating supply chain delays and maintaining a skilled workforce, were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges, many members of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works adapted their business models and operations to improve their resiliency, including incorporating social distancing measures and embracing digital tools to sell more products and services online. In 2020, Rev member companies generated $36.5 million in revenue, raised $36.9 million in capital, and hired 202 new employees, demonstrating continued growth from the previous year.
Rev also demonstrated resiliency in its seventh year of operation—the Ithaca-based community incubator quickly pivoted programming, mentoring, and events online, in order to continue to support the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“While this year presented obstacles, it gave us an opportunity to think about how we support our member companies, as well as the services we provide. Pivoting away from in-person events required us to be more conscious and creative about ensuring that we are providing the entrepreneurial support everyone needs right now,” said Ken Rother, Director of Rev.
“Specifically, virtual programming and events meant that we were able to include guest speakers and participants from all over, and virtual mentoring with our Entrepreneurs in Residence allowed for greater flexibility, as these connections can be made from anywhere.”
These virtual events included Rev’s first virtual Networking Night and a series of virtual workshops dedicated to helping entrepreneurs navigate the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic, including topics such as “Reopening and Returning to Work: Best Practices for Startups,” “Remote Leadership in Startups and Small Businesses,” and the “Post-Pandemic Future of Collegetowns.”
New Possibilities Amid the Pandemic
Rosie rises to meet the needs of independent grocers and their customers
Fueled by an increased demand for online grocery shopping and grocery delivery amid the pandemic, Rosie, one of Rev’s longest standing members, experienced skyrocketing growth—tripling the size of its team and increasing the number of retail and wholesale partnerships by 900% in 2020.
Based in Ithaca, New York, the startup provides local and independent grocers with mobile and web platforms so they can do business online on par with national competitors. This benefits customers as well—shoppers who prefer to frequent independent and local grocery stores in their own communities can do so without stepping foot outside their homes. In 2020, Rosie teamed up with DoorDash early in the pandemic to expand its grocery delivery services across the nation and launched a next-gen Omnichannel Commerce Program in partnership with AppCard and ShoptoCook.
Now recognized as the leading provider of e-commerce solutions for independent grocers and wholesalers, Rosie recently raised $10 million in Series A financing led by Avenue Growth Partners, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
“Ecommerce is here to stay in the grocery space, and Rosie is positioned as the industry leader as we continue refining and innovating our platform,” said Nick Nickitas, Rosie co-founder and CEO. “This latest financing will accelerate new capabilities and provide new monetization opportunities to our brand and retailer partners.”
For Kingsley Quality Woodworking, 2020 was a time to reflect and refocus
2020 was a successful year for Kingsley Quality Woodworking, a family operated and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certified architectural woodworking manufacturer. The company, which provides quality lumber, precision manufacturing, and woodworking expertise from its Ithaca and Berkshire, New York locations, broke its first quarter record in 2020—but of greater significance to president and co-founder, Chelsey Kingsley, was the opportunity to reflect and refocus during an unprecedented year.
“When we first started in 2015, we planned to focus on high-end contract opportunities—casework, millwork, and custom woodworking—but there are a lot of competitors in that realm, so you have to spend a lot of time and money writing bids and proposals, which isn’t enjoyable and doesn’t always lead to a contract. We really began to rethink how we would run things as we started to shift away from cabinetry altogether,” said Kingsley.
Meanwhile, the pandemic impacted the supply chain for building materials. Local builders and contractors unable to find the inventory needed for their projects at their regular suppliers began turning to Kingsley Quality Woodworking and their mill.
“We developed a handful of new relationships during this time that allowed us to become more integrated in the local market related to lumber sales. It was really fulfilling to connect with people on a personal level, and to really strengthen those bonds that we have with local customers and people in our industry,” said Kingsley. ‘We plan to keep moving forward with our three pillars—moulding and millwork, then lumber sales, and then historic preservation work. Ultimately, we realized that we don’t have to be making ourselves crazy trying to be something that we are not.”
The new connections Kingsley Quality Woodworking was able to forge in 2020 have led to many upcoming projects in 2021, including a significant historic preservation project that is currently under wraps. Ithacans interested in the quality of the company’s historic preservation work should admire the enormous pocket doors and beautiful stairway refurbishment the next time they stop by Argo’s Inn—a project the company helped complete in 2017.
ShrubBucket blooms as more Americans embrace gardening
It’s no surprise that gardening became immensely popular during the pandemic, as more Americans turned to their own backyards for solace and to break up the monotony of working and learning from home. In 2020, the demand for plants and gardening supplies grew steadily, as did the demand for home delivery services, placing ShrubBucket, a Rev member company that specializes in hand delivering everything that aspiring green thumbs need directly to their doorsteps, at the intersection of success.
At the beginning of the pandemic, ShrubBucket reported in a Wall Street Journal feature that the startup processed 2,023 orders in March 2020, as opposed to 57 orders in March of the previous year, reflecting the growing popularity of gardening. According to Alex Hagen, ShrubBucket co-founder and President and a Rev Entrepreneur in Residence, the plant delivery startup experienced x13 year-over-year growth between 2019 and 2020. With the expansion of its service area—now delivering to 15 states—delivery fleet, and technology, the business is on a steady upward trajectory with no signs of slowing down.
Hagen credits ShrubBucket’s team with its success. “What I’m most proud of is our team’s ability to grow this quickly while also keeping customer satisfaction so high. The reviews that customers are leaving demonstrate that we are delivering real value in ways that no other horticulture company can.”
Welcoming New Mentors and Members
In 2020, Rev expanded its team of Entrepreneurs in Residence, welcoming Steve Sauer, Bennett Thomas, and Gregory Ray. Additionally, Rev also welcomed Amy Cheney as an Entrepreneur in Residence in the first quarter of 2021. Ranging from expertise in organizational management to early-stage venture capital, the four new Entrepreneurs in Residence bring years of entrepreneurial experience and success to the mentorship team.
“I am keen to help founders identify how they may position themselves for the next step in their entrepreneurial journey, whether it be in finding capital, pilots, advisors, and customers, or in identifying value capture strategies that will help them set priorities as their businesses begin to grow,” said Ray.
Rev’s Entrepreneurs in Residence guide Rev member companies, as well as LaunchNY startups and incubators in the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, through business challenges, such as strategizing funding, structuring finance deals, and tackling new markets. During the pandemic, many of Rev’s Entrepreneurs in Residence led virtual workshops to help members and the greater entrepreneurial community navigate the economic fallout of COVID-19.
Rev also welcomed new members in 2020, including Odyssey Semiconductor, Ag & Food Tech, and Conan MedTech Corporation, bringing its membership to 36 startups. In the first quarter of 2021, Rev has also welcomed Cayuga CIimbs and SimpliFed to its membership.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been year since we were able to share a cup of coffee, engage in small talk about our weekends, or collaborate together in the Rev workspace, but we believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rother.
“We are eagerly looking forward to connecting with our members and the greater entrepreneurial community in-person again, but in the meantime, Rev is still here for you.”