Ryan Ryker and Rod Baradaran, Founders of Zokos https://www.facebook.com/ZokosWholesale/
Where some see trash, others see treasure. But Zokos founders, Ryan Ryker and Rod Baradaran see opportunity.
“Eight out of 10 Amazon returns are thrown in the trash,” Ryker explains and clarifies that the majority of these returned items are in perfect condition.
In April of 2020, Ryker and Baradaran, both Ivy Tech Entrepreneurial students, saw this black hole of inventory as a profitable opportunity and started Zokos, an e-commerce company that buys and sells returned online goods from companies like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, and more.
In less than one year and during a global pandemic, what started as a two-person operation with a half truck load of inventory in just 400 square feet of facility space has flourished into a growing team now operating in a 15,000 square foot facility and having already sourced a quarter of a million dollars in returned goods during the first two months of 2021. Furthermore, Ryker and the Zokos team expect to double, perhaps even triple, their 2020 revenue of $39,000by the end of 2021.
“Everyone wants to meet with you. Everyone wants you to succeed,” Ryker says of the community. Through collaboration with various people and organizations, including RISE, Ryker explains that he has received invaluable leadership, mentorship, funding, and advertising opportunities.
Want more? See Ryan and Rod’s full story here.
Laquisha Jackson, Founder of Soulful Kitchen and Hope For The Hungry https://www.soulfulkitchensb.com/
Her specialty? Hot and tasty, gourmet southern cuisine. Her passion? Feeding people.
And through her business, non-profit, and consulting services, Laquisha Jackson feeds people in more ways than one.
Laquisha is the founder and owner of Soulful Kitchen, which caters hearty, gourmet Southern cuisine dishes. Laquisha has been cooking since childhood and brings over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Through Laquisha’s participation in the RISE Entrepreneurship Program at Ivy Tech Community College, which equips emerging entrepreneurs with the skills necessary to contribute to economic development and sustainable communities, Laquisha further developed her expertise in scaling, growing, and networking for her business.
Laquisha says, “RISE helped me understand and develop the intricacies of the infrastructure of my business.”
Through the program, Laquisha also perfected her public speaking and problem-solving skills,she explains. In particular, Laquisha noted specific assignments which required her to pitch new business ideas with only a few minutes of research.
In addition to running Soulful Kitchen, this busy mother of eight children, who for years has been serving and feeding people suffering from food insecurity, started Hope For The Hungry in 2020. This social enterprise provides food as well as other tangible solutions, such as educational programs who suffer from food insecurity.
“Everything that I do is rooted in food. It’s rooted in service,” Laquisha says. “It’s rooted in encouraging, empowering, and impacting people, and making people feel good over a plate of food.”
Want more? See Laquisha’s full story here.