Three Treasure Valley companies run by innovative and highly successful entrepreneurs were showcased at the Jan. 29 Idaho Technology Council’s Capital Connecting in the Idaho Room at Zions Bank in Boise.

The companies were chosen, said Jay Larsen, ITC founder, president and CEO, because they represented the true entrepreneurial spirit. They looked at “how the companies moved forward” and how they overcame challenges and take risks.

Larsen, who had recently returned from a trip to Australia, relayed a poignant moment at the conference introduction. He had recently visited Phillip Island which is off the southern coast of Australia, “where Tasmania is,” Larsen said. There, he was able to see and observe “the little penguin,” which stands about 12 to 13 inches tall.

The little penguins have to be innovative and fast to survive; they are constantly avoiding menacing prey. They spend most of their time in the sea, but every day at sunset, the waves bring them tumbling onto the beach, and they make a sojourn up the mountains to their nests. “They run as fast as they can,” Larsen said, “chirping as they go. It’s an amazing sight.”

Larsen said the little penguins impressed him, just like the successful entrepreneurs, for their diligence, nimbleness and “the risks that take place.”

The three companies featured at Capital Connecting included Saalt, a women’s period care company; FiftyFlowers.com, a company started by a Peace Corps veteran who decided to linger in Ecuador after her stint was up; and Red Aspen, an online cosmetics company with first-year revenues of more than $3 million.

“I often hear the quote ‘empowered women empower women,’” said Alison Johnson, partner with Holland and Hart LLP and co-chair of the Capital Connecting committee. “While that’s true, a more accurate statement is that empowered women empower everyone around them — not just women. Hearing these three female-founded and led companies — Red Aspen, Saalt, and FiftyFlowers.com — share their entrepreneurial passion and stories of triumph and learning as they went was truly inspiring.”

The Idaho Technology Council will be hosting its larger conference on May 8 at Boise State University, where the 2018 Deal Flow Report will be revealed. The report highlights capital investment throughout the state and also helps identify industry sectors primed for growth and development opportunities.

For the past two weeks, Idaho Press has published conversations with Saalt co-founders Cherie Hoeger and Amber Fawson and with Liza Roeser-Atwood of FiftyFlowers.com. You can read both of the Q & A’s online at idahopress.com.

In this our final installment of the Capital Connecting Q & A’s, we meet the three founders of Red Aspen, a beauty and cosmetics direct sales company that features false eyelashes.

The avant-garde cosmetics company calls its corporate headquarters “TheTreehouse” and names all of its products after inspiring women, both internationally well-known and those who may be known only to them and local.

Here now, Amanda Moore, Jesse Reese McKinney and Genie Reese, talking about life, love — and the power of a fluttering eyelash.

Idaho Press: Did you all know one another before you came up with Red Aspen?

Genie Reese: We did! Amanda Moore, our COO, and Jesse McKinney, our CEO worked together and are dear friends. Jesse and I (Genie Reese is CSO) are actually sisters, so it goes way back!

IP: Why eyelashes?

GR: Lashes and Nail Dashes (a pop-on, reusable manicure) are both our signature products. We launched with lashes for a few reasons — first, there was a gap in the social selling market. No other direct selling company offered false lashes and we saw an opportunity. Next, lashes are trending. Pinterest listed it as a top beauty trend of 2018. Finally, lashes are also easy to share and show off on social media to friends. It’s difficult to know how lashes will look on your eyes based on how they look in the package, so it is the perfect product to buy based on recommendations from friends.

IP: Do you use/wear your lashes?

GR: Absolutely! We each have our favorites. Amanda loves the lighter lashes and rocks the Bella. Jesse loves a dramatic full lash and is partial to the Rosie. I am a middle-of-the-road gal and love the Miss or Gigi! All of the lash styles are named after women we find inspirational.

IP: What’s the difference between faux mink and silk lashes, besides price? For instance, is it worth it to pay a little more for mink?

GR: Most of our silk are light to medium in length and density and last about five to seven wears. The faux mink lashes are denser, fluffier and longer, and last about seven to 10 wears.

IP: How hard is it to apply them?

GR: There’s a little learning curve, but ANYONE can apply lashes! We taught our moms, our grandmothers, our friends, our sisters. Once you’ve applied them two or three times it definitely becomes second nature. For those lash beginners, we also have helpful tutorials on our website and YouTube channel — we do how-to-apply videos for all of our beauty products.

IP: Where and how do you see the company going/growing in the future

GR: We see ourselves in Boise! We’re growing every month and hope to see that growth continue for both sales and Brand Ambassadors. We also see our product line continue to expand — we’ve already gone from six lashes to over 60 beauty products over the past year-and-a-half and are interested in expanding our cosmetics line further.

IP: What do you all do for fun?

GR: Amanda loves to get off the grid and enjoys camping and fishing with her two boys and husband in the Idaho wilderness. I enjoy hiking in the Boise foothills with my poodle, Targhee, and skiing at all the amazing spots in Idaho. Jesse is always down for popcorn and a movie at the downtown Boise Flicks with her girlfriends. I’d also say that right now, Red Aspen is not only our jobs, it’s also what we do for fun — it’s not your typical 9 to 5. It’s more like 9 to 5, plus nights and weekends. We’re having so much fun running and growing a business that it doesn’t feel like work, though, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.

Community Engagement Editor

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