Editor’s note: The following is part of a three-part series spotlighting U.S. military veterans who also are Kansas City entrepreneurs.
Hustle runs deep for Jannae Gammage, she said, looking back on the one thing that’s been uniquely hers since childhood: entrepreneurship.
“My first business was at 14,” said Gammage, founder and CEO of The Market Base, explaining the circumstances that led to her earliest venture.
“My mom wanted me to go to a better school, so she had to drive me every day — of course, that meant I got there about 45 minutes before school started,” she said.
The arrival time gave her plenty of opportunity to learn new things about her surroundings.
“I noticed a problem. The bookstore closed when school started, so people really didn’t have a chance to get things,” she said. “So, I bought everything using my weekly allowance of $20 and then resold it.”
With $45 burning a hole in her pocket after the first week, the operation quickly scaled, Gammage said.
“It kept increasing. It got to the point where the principal had to say, ‘You can’t do that,’ and I was like, ‘I just wanted to buy shoes, no big deal.’”
A self-described military brat, Gammage’s parents wanted her to find consistency in her high school years, so they hunkered down in their hometown — Southbend, Indiana. There, she quickly launched another operation that saw her drawing designs on her classmates’ clothing.
“Then I went to Indiana [Tech] because my parents went to Indiana [University] and after that I joined the military because my parents were in the military,” she laughed, noting a recurring theme of following in her parents footsteps that temporarily pushed her away from doing her own thing.
But the business bug bit again in the form of a side hustle while enlisted.
“I had started my own gym,” Gammage said, noting the business ultimately pushed her to leave the military in 2015.
“I was like, ‘You can’t do both. You’re deploying. You’re either going to focus on the gym or you’re going to close it or sell it,’” the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst said. “I ended up getting out, I had the gym, I did it full time and by 2019 I sold it.”
The exit — which saw Gammage transfer ownership of the Bowie, Maryland-based gym to one of her trainers — came on the heels of another major revelation for the entrepreneur, which ultimately led her to Kansas City, she said.
“I started doing one-on-one mentorship with gym owners or trainers, [teaching them] how to get to the gym level and all of a sudden I realized, ‘It’s not fitness that I love. Its marketing; its helping people with their business.’”
Gammage then assembled a team of co-founders and moved to the metro to begin work on The Market Base — an all-in-one marketing platform that eliminates small businesses having to hire their own on-staff marketer and gives them access to top talent in such areas as SEO and social media management, while creating and deploying marketing campaigns for as little as $18 a day.
“You’re going to start your campaign within 24 to 48 hours. We have a proprietary on-boarding process that just makes everything so streamlined,” she said of unique benefits the on-demand marketing startup offers.
“The founders get access to someone who is a strategist, a marketing expert. They can [post] on their Slack channel and say, ‘Hey, I have this idea what do you think about it?’ … [They get help from] someone that’s been around the block, that’s had 10 years of marketing experience.”
The venture pairs Gammage with the talents of Milad Ghasempour, co-founder and chief product officer.
A third co-founder, Donette Lowe, left the startup and her role as COO for a position at Kansas City-based Barkley earlier this year, Gammage said, noting the change to the startup’s founding team brought with it necessary lessons that have shifted the company into overdrive.
“At this point, we don’t have time to play around. We lost a huge part of our triad,” she said. “As a startup founder who’s never really gone through this — I’ve had plenty of businesses but never a tech company, never a true startup — it grew me, it grew Milad, because we had to react fast.”
Next steps included transitioning Lowe into an advisory role and figuring out how to meet growing demands from customers as the platform prepares for its official launch in January, she added.
The Market Base was recently awarded a grant from Digital Sandbox. Click here to read more.
“I hate that she had to leave, but it shifted us and it shifted our perspective — and it shifted our KPIs (key performance indicators). We’re moving and growing even faster,” she said of lessons learned in the company’s earliest days and listing reasons founders should connect with The Market Base.
“There’s really nothing to lose. Let’s move forward, let’s make you some money, let’s get you some customers, let’s grow your business.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.