I should mention a few things before I dive too deep into the story; the story of Mixtroz, my tech start up, and how unconventional in the current tech/startup climate we’ve come to be. I am a 28-year-old extremely type-A Scorpio from the Midwest – Cleveland to be exact. I had a great childhood, though it was filled with the normal ebbs and flows of life: divorce, then remarriage (my Mom and co-founder); a remarriage that was not only the matrimony of a man and wife but the connection of two families of two very different ethnicities that are seemingly colorless at this point.
After attending high school in Lexington, Kentucky I moved onto my undergraduate degree at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio (suburb of Cleveland) by complete chance. I was “supposed” to be an anesthesiologist with a degree from the prestigious Emory University. As luck would have It, the decision to attend BW (people from Cleveland are very familiar with famous or infamous “decisions”) was the correct one. In the summer before my Junior year after immersing myself in the campus community – Class President, Varsity Cheerleader, Sorority Social Chair, Dance Marathon, Radio DJ, Deans List, Tour Guide – I made the connection that changed the course of my life.
While randomly working on fundraising for Dance Marathon and being partnered with someone I knew of within the Greek community, he, after a face-to- face conversation with me, made the introduction of a lifetime that lead me to become 1st intern to NBA Star LeBron James. Looking back, the face-to-face theme of conversation and the impact that it has on business and personal relationships has been a reoccurring theme in my life, even then.
I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication and Public Relations in 2009 and 6 months later moved to New York City. In the winter of 2009, I began my career and transitioned from colorful suburbanite to all black everything city girl rising from executive assistant to the CEO at a prominent luxury events and hospitality company to Director of Events in just 5 years. To date, I’ve done events for everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Leonardo DiCaprio to, of course, LeBron James. It has been an exhilarating ride to say the least. At age 28, I was young and successful, but coming to the realization that I was completely unhappy, unhealthy and had figured out how to live like a real New Yorker, which I find for many is a lot of material things and not a lot of life.
I’ve never fancied myself an entrepreneur. Working so closely with the CEO at my former company I saw what “entrepreneurship” looks like, being “on” all the time. To many, the life seems glamorous and believe me, it is. But no one considers the other side that even though you are out having a blast until 4AM, you are then back in the office at 11AM, staying until 9PM, over and over. I used to wonder how my boss did this. Now I know as an entrepreneur myself… I. GET. IT. The hustle is different when it’s your own.
This leads me to November 8, 2014. Chasing continued professional development and frankly bored in my professional social circles, I attended the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Life conference in NYC. The conference was great; the magazine’s first stab at a brick and mortar large scale function. The programming was stacked with inspirational women from all walks of the entertainment industry. At lunch, the Cosmo team advised attendees to approach someone and strike up a random conversation. Being that I attended the conference alone, the thought of this “social suicide” proved VERY awkward and keep in mind, I am the extrovert of extroverts.
I had the choice between that lunch or a fantastic lunch with my phone instead. I chose the latter.
That same November weekend, my Mom had her own social epiphany during a conversation, like many other Sunday conversations, between the two of us. That conversation, in turn, lead to the birth of a very primitive version of Mixtroz! For the last several weeks of 2014 both my Mom and I stepped into completely new territory. She was a Senior-level HR Professional. I was the Event Producer. But we put our combined 30+ years of knowledge, business know how, street savvy and ZERO tech background to work!
Kerry Schrader (CEO/Co-founder), holds a BBA, MBA (Kent State U Alum), SPHR and SHRM-SCP designations. In 2013 she decided to take a break from her successful corporate HR career to pursue other interests that included focusing on her teenage son’s journey through high school, traveling and enjoying her friends and family. Residing in Franklin, a suburb of Nashville, TN, Kerry is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, serves as the Corporate Treasurer for a Nashville-based investment group and has volunteered for local charities including Big Brother Big Sisters of Williamson County and Girls, Inc.
In in-depth, but simplistic language I can now tell you that Mixtroz is the mobile app that combines the importance of physical presence with the power of technology to form stronger, more sustainable social networks. Mixtroz is the ONLY tool that solves the current ineffectiveness of building and SUSTAINING strong and meaningful networks formed exclusively by a “click” online or by brief, often awkward, personal introductions. In essence, we are using TECHNOLOGY to overcome the pitfalls of the impersonal side of TECHNOLOGY when building personal and business networks.
At the Cosmo Conference event back in 2014, attendees could have been instructed by the event organizer to download the Mixtroz app that day in anticipation of a predetermined “Intentional Networking” session in the event’s agenda. Attendees would download and start their “virtual” nametag process including name, email, and selfie. You then answer a series of questions that have been pre-selected by the event organizer based on what’s important to the specific event attendee demographic. The organizer has the option to purchase this analytic information for improved consumer and market understanding.
Mixtroz is the result of a conversation between dynamic mother-daughter duo Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons that questioned the sustainability of relationships formed solely from a “click” online and reimagined the process coupling technology with face-to-face interactions
This entire virtual nametag process takes about 5 minutes and you are done. A few minutes in advance of the start of the “Intentional Networking” session, you get a push notification to your phone letting you know that your “complimentary” matches of 3-10 like-minded attendees are ready. Mixtroz matches groups of 3-10, unlike dating apps like Tinder, Bumble,etc. This is all about real-time group networking. The app shows you your group members virtual nametags and exactly where to meet them right then, in real time, in the event space. Once the entire group checks in at the meeting location, the app provides conversation starters and then, miraculously, humanity takes over and the conversation flows. At the end of the day there is no technology that can replace the power of physical presence and the relationships that it drives both online and off. Mixtroz, however, is the tool that reminds people that before face and book came together face-to-face connected the world.
To date, in the just over 18 months since we’ve begun, we’ve secured developers, aesthetically designed, built a prototype, raised over 100K via amazing friends and family, exhibited at Tech Crunch (with a demo version of the app – INSANE!), built a functioning version of the app, held Mixtroz events and generated revenue, survived a cancer scare (I am happy to report that my Co-founder and Mom is breast cancer free as of 2/12/16!!!), auditioned for Shark Tank and continue to move and groove everyday as we look to raise our seed round of funding ($1M) to move our model to self-service.
A very cool friend of mine, a female engineer, shared a quote with me recently from Reverend Jesse Jackson:
We didn’t know how good baseball could be until everyone could play… We don’t know how good technology can be until everyone can play.Reverend Jesse Jackson
My Mom and I champion Mixtroz because we are astute business women. Although the lofty idea of connecting people is awesome; as business women we see how to use our technology for the greater good while also driving dollars to the bottom line in a big way. We are glad to be in great company and at the forefront of people from all walks of life being able to “play tech” and even better yet easily “play tech” (we get told at least once a month that we “need” a white guy and we generally have one simple answer, “We have one, my husband/step-father”). Our hope is that our entry into the tech market is a familiar one; the one Jackie Robinson paved for us, the one we’ll pave for great entrepreneurs to come.
For more information on using Mixtroz and investment opportunities, please visit Mixtroz.com . #getmixing