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Woodworking Sisters in Covington Become "Bad Girls", Win Funding

It's been a busy time for Grainwell, the wood-centric decor workshop in downtown Covington run by three sisters. 

Last spring, Michele, Melyssa, and Christine Kirn celebrated their first year at their own location on Pike Street. Last month, they shared their story as part of the prestigious NewCo event that highlighted start-up companies across Cincinnati, Newport, and Covington. Their work has also been featured as art at The Carnegie.

Not bad for a business that was first introduced to the city as a holiday pop-up shop.

Now, the Kirn sisters are celebrating a new funding source - $12,500 that they were awarded after graduating from Bad Girl Ventures's Launch program. 

"We needed more funding eventually, in order to grow, so we we figured we might as well try," Michele said in an interview with The River City News

The roll of the dice paid off. Out of 200 applicants for the highly-selective program, only eight were chosen, including Grainwell. 

"Grainwell has received national recognition and they go against the grain, as women in manufacturing," said Nancy Aichholz, executive director of Bad Girl Ventures, the Covington-based organization dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs gain access to opportunities and funding. "We love that these three sisters are joining us as pioneers in the revitalization of Northern Kentucky as their storefront is just feet away from BGV's expanded space in Covington.

Founded in Cincinnati, Bad Girl Ventures relocated to Covington in 2014 and will occupy the first-floor office space at Pike Star, the renovation of the old Tanino's building on Pike Street next to UpTech, the informatics start-up accelerator. Bad Girl Ventures expects to move into its new digs in the coming weeks.

Though they are neighbors in Covington, the 8-week Launch program was conducted in an office in Norwood, north of Cincinnati, and after their successful completion, the Kirn sisters expect to use the new capital to expand their wholesale opportunities and to more strategically target their marketing efforts.

"All of our marketing has been social media or City Flea and word of mouth," Christine said.

"This helps us to come up with a plan - ," Michele said.

" - and not just do it day by day," Christine finished.

"We understand the different issues a woman has when they're trying to start a business," Aichholz said of the Bad Girl program. "The kind of woman we're looking for is a lot like the Kirn sisters: dedicated to what they are doing, with a lot of great ideas, and they have a lot that they are bringing to the party first.

"We were able to help them focus and get a strategy to move forward. The class that the Kirn sisters were in for Grainwell is a lot more advanced. They have been in business for a while. They have revenue, they have customers and they are looking to get their business set up to scale."

At Grainwell, loyal customers have grown fond of their unique offerings like wooden coasters and wall decor that feature the name of a hometown or state. Their Covington and Kentucky signs were popular at 2014's holiday pop-up market. They also help create and re-purpose signage for local businesses. Grainwell created the business sign for The River City News for the newspaper's Madison Avenue office.

The sisters - who grew up in downtown Covington while hanging around their father's auto shop (P&R Auto Repair) - each do a little bit of everything at the business, but Melyssa mostly focuses on accounting, while Michele takes on marketing and sales, and Christine keeps the production line going.
"One of the things that will help them be super successful, I think, is that they have a built-in team and support system," said Aichholz. "They are already way over the hump. They have a foundation that most businesses aren't fortunate to have."
A benefit of their time in the Bad Girl program - aside from the extra funding - is the new network of people.
"It was nice having a small class because we to get to other women - ," Christine said. 
" - you learn from people in the same boat as you, and you can ask, How did you get over this?," Michele added.
"It is comforting because I feel like there is not a lot of people going through the exact same thing," Christine said.
The class also led to a sale. When Bad Girl Ventures moves into its new space, there will be a brand new sign created by Grainwell.
"We help women establish a community of support, with our mentors, our facilitators and us. They don't feel like they're on their own," Aichholz said. 
"And, we have fun."
For more on Grainwell: ​Click Here
For more on Bad Girl Ventures: Click Here
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Top photo via Grainwell Facebook


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