Tulsa Business Journal: Tell us a little bit about your business. When did/will you start it? Why? What is the overall mission of your business?
Cog Togs: Cog Togs was formed in 2007 by Shawna Sims, Melinda Ryan and Jeff Johnson. We will begin operations in October or November of this year. Our mission is to provide a fun way for kids to connect in person and a safe way for them to communicate online.
More than 90 percent of children in the United States have access to the Internet. More than 70 percent of children online are approached by a stranger, and 14 percent of those children will actually meet the stranger in person.
Cog Togs, Inc. has developed a patent-pending solution to the high tech problem of protecting our children on the web.
Instead of trying to keep out millions of strangers by blocking those connections, we’re creating a safe environment where children communicate only with people they already know. Our proactive approach requires the face-to-face trading of a one-time use encoded item and parental approval prior to engaging in online communication.
TBJ: If you have not yet started your business, do you have a timeline for when you will start it?
CT: We have written our business plan, raised initial capital, started programming and graphics for our website, developed working prototypes, and ordered our initial inventory. Beta-testing of the product and sales should begin in October or November of 2009.
TBJ: What is your background? What made you interested in starting this particular business?
CT: The background of the three founders is varied. We have an accountant (Shawna Sims), an attorney (Melinda Ryan), and an entrepreneur (Jeff Johnson). All have owned or managed business in the past. This particular business was appealing to all of us because we all have children and it is a great way to provide a safe way for children to engage in online social networking.
TBJ: How are you funding your business?
CT: Our business is funded by private investors and by the $100,000 TBFP (Tulsa Business Finance Program) award we received through i2E.
TBJ: Where would you like to take your business in the next year?
CT: We would like to be the company people talk about when they talk about safe social networking. We also want to grow a family-friendly company where employees look forward to getting to work.
We’d also like to launch sales teams across the United States in the next year and to start teaming up with various interest groups to offer them our method. We plan to break even within 18 months.
TBJ: What do you hope to gain from participating in the Spirit Award?
CT: The Spirit Award is important to us because it is a local achievement. We have tried to keep all of our business resources in the state of Oklahoma and to use local manufacturers, businesses, and artists whenever possible. We live in Oklahoma and have raised our families here. We love what the state has to offer, and we’d like our company to help the state grow.