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Networking, Referrals, and Storytelling: How an Ann Arbor-Based Startup Won its First International Client

March 12, 2019 Startup Ecosystem
six people smiling at table
Jottful logo

When Natalie Bruno started working in downtown Ann Arbor, a mutual friend suggested she connect with Jenn Cornell Queen, Ann Arbor SPARK vice president of marketing and communications. “It was as much a personal referral as it was professional,” said Natalie. “I had just moved to the area and was starting to build my network.”

Jottful team
The entire Jottful team: (left-to-right, back row) Dawn Verbrigghe, Natalie Bruno, Jordan Adema, (front row) Christine Pontois, Linde Huang, Cristian Guillen

Natalie moved to Ann Arbor from the Detroit Metro area to work at Jottful, an Ann Arbor-based startup founded by Dawn Verbrigghe that provides website design and hosting solutions for small businesses. While chatting with Natalie, Jenn was inspired by what she heard. “It was great learning more about Jottful, a woman-founded business that was providing impactful solutions for other small businesses — it had all the makings of a great origin story.”

This fortunate meeting was not the first time Jottful had intersected with SPARK, either. Prior to Natalie’s hiring at Jottful, Dawn was working with SPARK’s entrepreneurial services team. “We love SPARK,” said Dawn. “The support we received through business accelerator grants helped us get all the legal stuff in place that we needed. We have big plans and will continue working with SPARK as we grow.” Business accelerator grants are funded by the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) and managed by Ann Arbor SPARK.

After meeting Jenn, Natalie sent a follow-up email which Jenn passed through to some regional media contacts. “It was just a few weeks after my coffee with Jenn that we sat down with a reporter,” said Natalie. “Once the article was published, we saw an immediate uptick in website visits and newsletter signups.”

Jottful also received a few valuable leads as a result.

“Someone I knew years ago shared my LinkedIn post about the article,” said Dawn. “Someone within his network read the piece and thought we’d be a perfect solution for her small business located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The funny thing is, at the end of the article we mentioned our goal to expand internationally in a few years. We’re thrilled that as a result of connecting with SPARK, we moved that timeline up significantly!”

Read the story that started it all.

Check out more stories featuring the women leading some of the Ann Arbor region’s successful startups.