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Cincinnati, Ohio

Lillie Ranney of Foleeo

Meet Lillie Ranney, founder of Foleeo, an online portfolio service.
What is Foleoo?
Foleeo is an online portfolio service where business professionals, companies and organizations can upload their body of work, whether that be transcripts, papers, proof of profit, references, projects, products, or presentations in order to best exemplify their skills and talent so that they can market themselves in a unique light. A portfolio is exactly what you think, an aid you bring in when you interview for a job or to show off your work, except now it’s online. 
Companies who use Foleeo would be able to show their company products, pictures, employees, awards, references, community service work, and basically anything they would want to show a potential customer. We are different from the competition because we allow the user to be randomly generated in the system so that they can be "stumbled upon" without having a user type in that person’s name to find them. Foleeo has many features where the users can prove their credentials rather than list them like a résumé would be set up. We found that most of the professional social networking sites do not allow people to market and show off whom they really are. That's where we come in.
How did you come up with the idea?
Well, I found that a lot of people, who have an immense amount of skill to do high-quality work, weren’t getting jobs because their résumé didn’t have the proper keywords in it, or they didn’t have a college degree. I also saw a huge need for it. I was asked in an interview if I could send the company I was interviewing with some of my work in an email. I have so much collateral, but nowhere to put it. 
It didn’t make sense to use a résumé as the sole decider on who gets a job seeing as six out of ten people exaggerate on it anyways. Through customer validation and market research, I found that people wish they could show their skills, rather than list them. 
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The biggest surprise I found was that there are so many people who want to advertise themself or their company, but there were no cheap alternatives. That’s why I created the campaign portion of the site. Our final site launches in August, but our pre-launch site allows anyone to advertise their products, their company, or themselves as an individual. We wanted to help people get their name out there before the final site launches. If anyone wants to advertise on our pre-launch site and use the final site, they can contact [email protected]. We would love to help any way we can. 
Where did you find your first employee?
My first mentor actually had set us up. He thought this employee would be a great fit, which he was. He made some fantastic financials for us that I’m still using today. 
What does a typical day in your business look like?
It’s different everyday. I’m either researching or talking to potential customers.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
There are so many advantages. This is a state where people are willing to use whatever resource that will help them get a job because there is a high unemployment rate. There are a lot of outlets like JobsOhio that are trying to assist people in their pursuit of getting a job or marketing them in a better light, so it’s a really positive thing to see. 
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The Innovation Engine Accelerator at Ohio University (IEA)! It’s a fantastic program that I’m a part of, and it really has helped tremendously. The IEA has helped me go from one level to the next one up. I’m so grateful to be a part of it.  
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
The one that sticks out to me most is when I asked this apparent social media guru for some marketing tips. We met at a coffee shop. I began to tell him about Foleeo and how I really want to help people succeed and get jobs that they will love. You could tell he was getting so angry with me and began saying how Foleeo will never get off the ground because our market has some heavy hitters. And when I say angry, I mean he started sweating. It was cold out. I seriously sat there for 30 minutes listening to him go on and on about how no one would sign up for Foleeo. That day I had an interview at the Innovation Engine Accelerator in hopes to get accepted into the program. I was obviously flustered after that meeting with this guy, so I wasn’t feeling too confident about my interview. Long story short, we thankfully got into the program and have users ready to use the site in August.
Side note: I later found out that he was a promoter for another job site. 

What inspires you?
People who don’t stop trying and help unconditionally. It’s the foundation of what Foleeo has become – people who have the skill and want to prove it, and want to help people get the career they’ve always wanted. 
Can you share some of your favorite off-time activities or hobbies?
To be honest, I sit at my computer and research all day about what people want and need in this type of online service. It has consumed my days. 
I do also spend a lot of time with my dogs, though. I love animals more than I can even describe!
What founders do you admire and why?
Mark Zuckerberg for the fact that he made a product that has become part of our generation’s lifestyle. It was such a simple site, too! Crazy.
What’s next for you?
I hope to take Foleeo to the next level so that everyone can get the benefits of an online portfolio site. The goal is to help everyone who uses the site to advance in his or her career some way. It’s a big goal, but we’re up for it.
Interview by Joe Baur

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