After yet another year of uncertainty for small businesses, local entrepreneurs still prevailed and continued to adapt to the world around them. Of the thousands of small business owners in Austin, 23 were named on Forbes’ Next 1000 list
The Next 1000 list is a year-round showcase for America’s small businesses and sole proprietors with under $10 million in revenue. The list is fueled by nominations to create four seasonal installments of 250 people redefining what business means to them. The list is still accepting nominees for the next installment.
More Austin-based companies were named than any other Texas city, though Dallas comes out on top if you include the full metro area of Fort Worth and Frisco, with 24 businesses.
Meet the entrepreneurs from Austin:
Antoinette Alexander Adefela | Exp.Design founder
After more than 10 years of consulting, Adefela started architecture and design firm Exp.Design at the onset of the pandemic and quickly scored big with her first client, Apple's Inclusion and Diversity team.
Nitin Agrawal | Cofounder and CEO of Interstride
Interstride was inspired in 2016 by the real-life experiences of Agrawal and cofounder Christian Eder, who moved to the U.S. several years back to pursue higher education. The result: an interactive portal to help close the opportunity gap for international students by putting community, job opportunities and visa guidance all in one place. Now, Interstride is used at more than 150 universities, including Duke University and UT Austin.
Tim Angelillo | Founder and CEO of Source Craft Cocktails
Austin-based company Source Craft Cocktails spurred to life after the COVID-19 pandemic rendered the bar industry inoperable for months with luxe cocktails delivered to your door. Source Craft Cocktails now serves more than 900,000 customers per day in 10 cities and holds virtual happy hours, called “Sourced Socials.”
Ruben Arias | Beereaders cofounder
Along with cofounder Luis Gringas, Arias started digital learning platform Beereaders to help close the reading comprehension gap among Spanish-speaking students. The platform has helped 135,000 students improve in their native language and has raised more than $2 million in venture capital funding.
Heather Emerson | Prep to Your Door founder
Farm-to-table meal delivery service Prep to Your Door was founded by Emerson after wrapping up a fashion career in New York City and cashing out her 401k savings. Though the service only delivers in Austin and Houston for now, the company has plans to expand nationally by 2024 and has doubled its revenue every year since it began.
Mbiyimoh Ghogomu | Tradeblock cofounder and CEO
Cofounded by Ghogomu, Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith, Tradeblock offers a social marketplace for sneaker collectors with barter-based transactions. Now with more than 38,000 users and 180,000 pairs of shoes, Tradeblock charges a service fee of up to $60 for sales.
Christopher Jane | Proper Good cofounder
Another clean eating company, Proper Good isn’t Jane’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. Proper Good started in 2020, eight years after Jane’s organic condiment company Montana Mex, and offers pre-made meals for all types of diets through its e-commerce platform.
Caren Kelleher | Gold Rush Vinyl founder
As the former head of Music App Partnerships at Google, Kelleher ordered vinyls to sell as merch for an indie band she managed and received them months too late. The late delivery inspired Kelleher to start Gold Rush Vinyl, making the manufacturing process three times faster than the industry standard with energy-efficient practices.
Ariel Lee | Remane cofounder
Personalized hair care company Remane is aiming to disrupt the Black hair care industry by offering personalized recommendations driven by machine learning to those with natural hair. Since starting the company in her junior year of college in 2018, Lee has received funding from Target Accelerators and Blackstone x Techstars.
Charles Li | V2 Admissions founder
At just 21 years old, Li started V2 admissions to help students achieve top-level university acceptance. With its master class on college applications, 150 clients and a three-step approach, V2 Admissions boasts that more than 95% of enrolled students attended one of their top three university choices.
Daniel Marcos | Growth Institute founder
Marcos is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, including Hispanic-serving mortgage lender Unika Mortgage. Most recently, Marcos founded the Growth Institute, an executive coaching company with master classes and online programming. Growth Institute says it helps mid-market companies “scale up with less drama.”
Julia Niiro | MilkRun founder
In the pandemic sphere, a trip to the grocery store can be a formidable task, especially while many home cooks are searching for local alternatives in the kitchen. Niiro’s company MilkRun gives consumers a marketplace to buy produce, dairy and meats from local farmers and has since expanded to Portland and Seattle on top of Austin.
Victoria O'Connell | Golightly cofounder
After having her home burglarized by some renters in 2017, O’Connell started Golightly, a members-only home-sharing platform in 2020. Now with more than 7,000 members in 90 countries, Golightly offers an online and offline community for members to connect.
Janice Omadeke | The Mentor Method founder
Having already raised over $1.5 million in seed funding, The Mentor Method is a reinvigoration of tired corporate mentorship programs and has clients like Deloitte and Chegg. Omadeke did this by creating a double-blind algorithm that matches mentors and mentees, combating unconscious bias and helping increase workplace retention.
Jen Pinkston | La Paloma founder
Pinkston wants kids to be just as cozy at nighttime as their parents, so she created La Paloma, a children's and women's loungewear with garments made from 100% cotton. Now, La Paloma has more than 700 customers including Molly Sims and Meena Harris.
Alexandria Porter | Mod Tech Labs founder
After spending 15 years in the entertainment sphere, Porter created Mod Tech Labs in 2020 to fill a need for realistic content. The business uses machine learning to speed up digital content detailing.
Scotty Reiss | A Girls Guide To Cars founder
Giving women more agency in the auto industry, Reiss founded A Girls Guide to Cars in 2013 and has since gained a digital audience of more than 2 million. Reiss works with brands like Volkswagen, Lexus, Toyota and Cooper Tire while giving car tips on her blog.
Yash Sabharwal | CherryCircle Software cofounder
Working as COO at Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Sabharwal discovered that data management issues delayed product manufacturing and medical availability. Sabharwal cofounded CherryCircle with partner Ryan Shillington to help bridge the gap, accelerate treatments and provide products to patients at cheaper price points. CherryCircle has since raised $4.6 million in funding.
Krista Sampson | Argument-Driven Inquiry founder
Giving teachers tools to create the classroom resources they need, Sampson founded the company in 2015 for educators teaching grades 3-12. Argument-Driven Inquiry provides instructional materials for science, engineering and math teachers through a browser-based application
Benjamin Smith | Disco founder
After a lifelong skincare struggle, Smith started premium care line Disco to give men comfort and confidence in buying skin products. His face cleanser, eye cream, face masks and more are sold at Nordstrom with gender-neutral packaging. The company has raised over $5 million in funding and around $10 million in revenue.
Mark Stern | Custom Box Agency founder
When Stern launched a virtual events company in 2018, he didn’t expect the custom boxes to morph into his main offering just two years later. When the pandemic hit, Stern began to offer more than 100 types of packages to help onboard employees, foster business growth and build business relationships. Custom Box Agency made $450,000 in revenue in 2020.
John Paul Udenenwu | JP’s Pancake founder
A former college basketball player, Udenenwu began experimenting with pancakes for his coworkers while working at a Mexican restaurant. The experience led him to start the first deluxe pancake food truck in 2019, offering toppings like pecans, raspberries, bacon and cookie butter. Since, JP’s Pancake has served more than 20,000 customers.
Lauren Washington | Fundr cofounder
With a mission for bringing equal opportunity to the world of investing, four-time entrepreneur Lauren Washington created Fundr in 2020. Fundr is an online marketplace that automates seed investing by creating portfolios of AI-vetted startups for angel investors and institutional VCs—the company tested the algorithm at the Black Women Talk Tech pitch competition and correctly predicted the winner.
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.