Stop By Wednesday May 22, 11a-2p, Grand Opening Open House: Tours, Gifts, Networking, Excitement

Shark Tank it’s not: It’s better than that! Check out Innovation DuPage’s new headquarters at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, 535 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Everyone is invited to stop by on May 22, between 11a-2p, for a Grand Opening Open House.

Everyone is invited! Innovation DuPage Grand Opening Open House

Meet some of the start up businesses that will be incubating at Innovation DuPage. Also, ID staff will be offering tours to show off the renovation of the former Glen Ellyn police station and introduce you to the business development incubator that is Innovation DuPage.

The space is beautiful, the tours take just a few minutes and then you can take your goodie bag, go grab a bite at the nearest restaurant or stop by your favorite Glen Ellyn shop for a look/see (and there are many shops and restaurants to explore in downtown Glen Ellyn)!

Participating retailers are offering a free gift with a minimum purchase for anyone who stops by the ID Grand Opening #GO_ID #MyID

How COD Graphic Design Students Created for GOtivation

Portfolio Night 2019 is where design students from College of DuPage and high schools in the community were invited to present their work to a panel of judges and the public. Portfolio Night presents an opportunity to review the work of each student and talk with each artist in person.

One emerging company that worked with COD graphic design students was GOtivation. GOtivation worked with student designers at College of DuPage through their professor, Gautum Wadhwa, to create a series of icons and animated graphics to be used on the GOtivation mobile app. The app helps people get more fit by providing mental motivation through texts and messages to stick with a fitness plan via a game-like interface.

The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use.

GOtivation Founder and CEO Dennis Timpanero said, “The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use. We immediately started using the medals, badges, and other game graphics in the training course this week. Customers replied with comments like ‘ooooh,’ ‘nice!’ and even ‘fancy!’ Customers reached out unprompted and were really impressed with the professional level of the design. We really appreciated how the students worked this project into their busy class schedules and their other commitments.”

GOtivation plans to continue working with College of DuPage students in the future and was visible cheering them on at Portfolio Night 2019.

Portfolio Night 2019 at College of DuPage, an annual event, featured creative work ranging from a graphic design and illustrations to packaging and website designs. Graphic design students were recognized with awards and prizes in the following categories: Portfolio, Identity Design, Publication Design, Illustration, 3-D Design, and Web Design.

Learn more at


How a Glen Ellyn entrepreneur made toys for the #MeToo era.

Written by Travis Linderman, managing director of Innovation DuPage, and Ginger Wheeler, a copywriter/marketer in Chicago. The article first appeared in Glen Ellyn Living’s February 2019 edition as “Mom on a Mission: Helping Girls Achieve Their Full Potential.”

A perfect world to Jodi Norgaard, a long-time Glen Ellyn resident and mom of three, would be one where the world viewed equally the contributions of men and women for equal gender balance. As a mom of two boys and one girl, Norgaard became concerned about how the world would treat her daughter as compared to her sons. This epiphany happened while shopping for an age-appropriate toy for a girl’s birthday gift in Glen Ellyn. One thing led to another in a string of events – with some successes and many challenges – and now Norgaard is a public speaker on a mission to make change and help others as a mentor with Innovation DuPage.

For the past two years, Norgaard has been speaking to women’s groups, corporations, universities and even the Obama White House. She talks about how her experiences in the toy aisle and her research on how toys shape long-term perceptions and values for our culture changed her as well as what she learned from the challenges of creating and launching a line of dolls: “Go! Go! Sports Girls.”

A Mission Taking Shape

It all began one day when Norgaard and her 9-year-old daughter, fresh from soccer practice, were shopping for a birthday gift at a Glen Ellyn toy store. The only dolls offered were dressed in provocative, skimpy shorts and halter tops with long flowing hair, dangling earrings and high heels. Even the so-called “STEM” toys, such as building blocks and chemistry sets, sent a message: build a car or watch an exploding volcano for boys, build a house or make nail polish for girls.

These micro-aggressions are like little tiny paper cuts,” Norgaard said. “Saying things like, ‘you throw like a girl’ hurled as an insult just go to show how ingrained the image of ‘girls as less’ is in our society.

Outraged that the toy market for girls was focused so inappropriately on a girl’s appearance, instead of her interest in action and adventure, Norgaard decided to do something about it. She got the idea to create a female-positive role model doll that reflects the reality of who little girls really are: active, energetic and interested in more than makeup and fashion.

Much hard work and many months later, armed with tons of research to prove the product would be welcomed profitably in the toy aisle, Norgaard launched Go! Go! Sports Girls. The soft, plush dolls had a body that reflected the actual measurements of her own (by then) 10-year-old daughter. (As opposed to the unrealistic measurements of, say, a certain best-selling toy with a name that rhymes with “Darbie.”)

Each doll in Norgaard’s line was provided a name and a backstory that included a love of a sport, such as gymnastics, swimming, soccer, tennis, or cheerleading, along with some accessories tied to that sport. Norgaard introduced Go! Go! Sports Girls to the toy market through national toy shows attended by toy store buyers, ready and excited to see change start to happen.

Launching a Winning New Product in a Hesitant Market

Go! Go! Sports Girls won awards. It was applauded as innovative, a breakthrough, the next big thing. It was featured in national magazines and talk shows on television. During a test run at the U.S. Open, 500 pieces sold out. All the research pointed toward a product winner. Market research showed people would buy it. Experts claimed the toy would offer long-term benefits for girls’ self-esteem and boys’ attitudes toward girls.

Yet, against all logic, Norgaard heard, “Nice, but no, thanks. It’s not mainstream, it won’t sell.” Even after Walmart agreed to carry the toys along with a book accompanying each doll (making publishing yet another industry, in addition to manufacturing and the toy industry itself, Norgaard had to learn from scratch), traditional toy store buyers still were reluctant to give her product a chance.

Why? Because it wasn’t about fashion or a girl’s appearance – which, incidentally, was the whole point.

The Pivot

Ultimately, treatment of her product by retail buyers convinced Norgaard that attitudes needed to change. She said, “Mainstream ideas don’t create change, so I dug in my heels.” She sold her promising company to a toy manufacturer with more marketing muscle and resources and pivoted to become a public speaker on a mission to create change.

Two years after relaunching herself as a public speaker, she is as busy as she wants to be, speaking approximately weekly during the “convention” season of spring and fall across the country. She is represented by two speakers’ bureaus and is paid for her speaking engagements. Her travel costs are covered as well.

Norgaard said, “The goal is to truly inspire people by telling my story: the hardships, the challenges; how I figured out how to manufacture a toy for the US toy market and the roadblocks in the way; how my idea that girls deserved more; and that I had a pulse of what parents really wanted for their girls, an idea way ahead of its time.”

“Today, with #MeToo and #TimesUp and the concept of unconscious bias coming to light, things are different. But there are still what I call micro-aggressions that say boys are strong and girls are weak. We need to be aware of these, and I highlight that in my talks,” she added.

Norgaard was twice invited by the Obama White House to speak at conferences on the issue of gender parity in children’s toys, toy promotions and their media. She said her message is to make people aware that, to reach the pinnacle of success as a culture (or a business), changes in the way girls are treated in our society are imperative. One stunning fact: 94 percent of women occupying the C-Suite said they played team sports as a child. Yet before Norgaard launched Go! Go! Sports Girls, there were zero toys that linked girls with sports.

But before change scan be made, problems must be identified.

“These micro-aggressions are like little tiny paper cuts,” Norgaard said. “Saying things like, ‘you throw like a girl’ hurled as an insult just go to show how ingrained the image of ‘girls as less’ is in our society.”

Making Change Happen

Norgaard said her message is resonating with all audiences. “Everyone that I talk to – especially men who are raising daughters – are shocked when they hear me. They agree that treating women and girls as equals is right. If you are going to create change though, it has to start at a young age. We have to create change with boys and girls.”

In addition to her ongoing speaking schedule, Norgaard will be mentoring other up-and-coming entrepreneurs at Innovation DuPage. She will be sharing her experiences and advising participants in the program to help them achieve success faster than they might have on their own.

“Collaboration and working with others is key,” Norgaard said. “I asked and asked and asked anyone and everyone questions along the way. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with Innovation DuPage and can’t wait to see the results for our County.”

Tech entrepreneurs talk startup struggles: “It’s not really like Shark Tank.”

What does it take to be a technology startup in today’s world? How do you break through the barriers of early entrepreneurship? And what do you wish you knew before you began your journey?

During the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Week, Innovation DuPage organized a panel of investor-funded entrepreneurs. They came together at Benedictine University to discuss the struggles and triumphs of the startup business.

Meet the Panelists

Christina York, founder of SpellBound, a therapeutic tool that helps children cope and engage with medical treatment using immersive Augmented Reality (AR) technology.

Ashley Kern, data scientist and founder of SightLine, an organization that uses data science to predict student success, improve financial performance, and increase graduation rates at higher education institutions.

Phillip Coleman, community and events manager at Ann Arbor SPARK, an innovation-driven economic engine within Southeast Michigan.

Brianna Wolin, founder of Find Your Ditto, a platform that uses modern technology to create a supportive community of individuals with chronic illnesses.

On the Daily Grind

Brianna: “You have to be passionate, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to wake up and love your company every single day.”

Christina: “There’s an amount of tenacity you need to launch a startup. Sales and marketing strategies are constantly being tweaked and constantly adapting to market changes. I started in one direction and went that way for 10 months, and then had to kill it and go in another direction. It’s okay to do that. I let go and that was painful for me.”

Brianna: “A startup’s journey is not really like what you see on Shark Tank. You still have to take care of yourself. Working on something else as a freelancer does not make you any less of a founder. It just helps you pay your bills. You don’t have to have an awful way of living when you are building your company.”

In the entrepreneurial world, there’s a lot of unequal power; the people with money have it all. But finding people who treat you with respect is the number one tell of who I want to do business with.

On the Surprising Benefits of Competition

Phillip: “Competition is not a bad thing. Have an entrepreneurial mindset and think, no matter what happens, I’m going to overcome. Look at competition as a pathway. Where is their disruption? It’s easier to look at a full picture [of the market] than a blank canvas.”

Brianna: “Don’t be afraid to launch and don’t hold off until it’s perfect. See over the competition and have consistent deep conversations about core competencies: Discover what your business does best and stick with it. Focus on what you do best and keep doing it.”

On Hiring Early Employees

Ashley: “If you’re a technical founder, do as much work yourself as you can and then hire people and continue to scale. Be stingy with your time and your equity. You’re creating that value, so don’t give away too much equity.”

Christina: “During interviews with new potential employees, I’ll let them know we’ve missed payroll three times in the last year and I’ll ask, “What does that mean to you?” Not everyone is cut out to work for a startup.”

Ashley: “When you build your team, it’s really important to keep in mind some tough questions. I ask, ‘How do you feel about working for someone who’s younger and female?’ And if they act weird, that’s a good sign that it won’t be a good fit.”

Phillip: “With employees, they may not tell you or speak up if they don’t feel supported and they are not going to operate at their fullest potential. Not everyone is going to understand and love you intimately, but you can still get to a base level of respect. And then maybe you can grow, but it takes time on both sides. You are the business. Make sure your team believes in you.”

On Being a Female Founder

Christina: “In the entrepreneurial world, there’s a lot of unequal power; the people with money have it all. But finding people who treat you with respect is the number one tell of who I want to do business with. If there’s a pattern of disrespect, I cut ties quickly. Telling potential investors goodbye is hard. You have to do due diligence on potential investors and advisors yourself. When was the last time they operated in their area of expertise? At the end of the day, you have to decide which advice you are going to take.”

Brianna: “I think it’s important to recognize among a community of female founders that everything is shared. If some investor says something even a little bit fishy, we all are going to know. One local female founder has a running list of investors across the country who have not treated entrepreneurs respectfully.”

Christina: “When you’re an entrepreneur and you speak up, you run a risk of being blackballed. You have to decide: Do you want to put your time and energy into building your company or fighting injustice? Sometimes I do feel a responsibility to share with others who might be impacted. Some investors have bad reputations with female founders and word does get around.”

What They Wish They Had Known on Day One

Ashley: “Turn each customer into an advocate. Find out their pain points, solve them, and communicate them to others.”

Christina: “Always be raising money.”

Ashley: “Find value for your customers. Go back and quantify victories for your customers.”

Christina: “Choose to do business with people you respect and who respect you. Fundraising isn’t a side job – it’s your other full-time job as CEO. And there are rules around it. I’m not bothered by dilution, but I am bothered by giving up control. I’ve been generous with my options for team members because I feel like they deserve it. I think you have to give up what you’re comfortable with. When you are negotiating and fundraising, be aware of what impacts control and understand what you’re giving up.”

On the Importance of Community

Brianna: “Participating in programs like startup accelerators and business incubators helps you get noticed. I participated in an accelerator and received media write-ups which were a huge benefit. The attention and the program mentors helped me gain traction with customers and assisted in gaining early-stage capital. Without that capital, we couldn’t have kept going.”

Christina: “Community is especially important when you’re a solo entrepreneur. To be successful, you need to build a community, and networking is part of that.”