It Takes a Village to Raise a Millennial Entrepreneur 1

Editor’s Note: Graham Blus, a North Barrington resident, is CEO of start-up company Rovely, LLC, that provides small businesses across the country with a technology-based solution to make stronger social media connections with customers. SW Lake recently talked to Graham about his journey to becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 23.

SWL: Who mentors you?

Graham Blus: My dad. He backed my idea and we have worked together to bring it to life. Beyond him, there have been other people who influenced me to think out of the box. I’ve had teachers along the way who have encouraged me creatively, which has helped me to have an open mind and think about things creatively.

Others that inspire me are other young people who are pursuing their passions, whether in a business or through their art or craft. Several of my film school friends are into interesting projects and we support and try to help each other as we can.

SWL: When you were younger was there a moment in time when you thought you would want to start a business?

GB: One of my earliest memories along those lines was making a lemonade stand out of a refrigerator box along the road by our house. We didn’t have a lot of traffic, but it was thrilling when somebody actually did stop and buy something.

During a middle school trip to Europe, I discovered a love for photography, and that lead to further pursuit of photography and film in high school. Ultimately, that led me to Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, a Chicago film school, where I collaborated on projects with classmates and real-world clients. That’s where I found an interest in doing work with clients and brands.

SWL: How do you keep everything in your life in balance?

I try to eat healthy, work out three to four times a week, get plenty of outdoor time and keep mentally calm. I carve out time to think about the business in a calm, reflective way.

SWL: Why Rovely? What does it do? What problem does it solve?

GB: Businesses spend a lot of time and money developing strategies to communicate and connect with potential customers. These days, customers have a lot of choices in both places to connect with and ways to make that connection. Rovely simplifies that process for both parties—merchant and customer—while customers are in-store. The “Like Us on Facebook” messages are limited and getting a bit stale. Rovely’s tablet product encourages customers to connect with any or all ways that a business already interacts—social media, email lists and blogs—in a simple way, while they are enjoying their experience.

SWL: Rovely is a family enterprise. How is that working?

GB: We are all working together by sharing ideas and business strategies. My dad handles most of the financial and legal stuff, keeping the ship headed forward. My mom helps with the blogs and communication aspects. I do the social media and am the brand ambassador—making connections and informing people about Rovely. At this point, we are now all salesmen as well. We’re proud of being a family enterprise. Keeping it genuine is a big part of who we are.