The GROW program at Bounce supports both aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs as they bring their ideas to life. The program focuses on minorities and women. Celeste Brown is in our Next Level Business Incubator.
If you’ve flown anywhere in the past several years, you’ll be familiar with what looks like vending machines full of stuff like makeup, electronics and toiletries; i.e., everything other than snacks and soda. It’s an idea that is, frankly, brilliant and it has finally caught on at our very own regional airport, Akron-Canton, thanks to Celeste Brown, CEO of Defining Enterprises, a serial entrepreneur and a client of Bounce’s Next Level Business Incubator.
To say that Celeste Brown dreams big is an understatement. Her first business idea developed shortly after 2019 while at a fast-food restaurant. She and her fiancé noticed the parking lot was trashed and discussed options for owners.
That’s how Defining Lots, a parking lot cleanup and snow removal business, was born. But her business ideas didn’t stop there.
While traveling, Celeste discovered Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic machines at an airport – as mentioned above, picture vending machines with various makeup products. Having not seen anything like these machines in Northeast Ohio, she researched and found there was a market for automated retail – not vending – machines. And if you call an automated retail machine a vending machine, Celeste is quick to correct you.
“We think of vending machines as machines that sell soda, chips or other snacks,” she explained. “Automated retail machines sell various products tailored to customers and locations. The technology is also different.”
While Kylie Jenner’s machines are specific to a brand and a cosmetic line, Celeste’s machines can carry a variety of products like curling irons, iPads, toothpaste and medicine. Her machines also provide opportunities for other businesses to advertise on HD displays, or showcase and sell local products.
Currently, Celeste’s Defining Essentials machines are in the Akron-Canton Airport. She is the first business to participate in the airport’s business catalyst program, which aims to jump-start minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses with the hope of growing into permanent retailers at the airport.
“Traditionally, it’s hard to get into the airport environment. For me, it was about the right place, right time and taking a chance,” she said.
She hopes to encourage more businesses to advertise with her machines and would like to place more of them in local colleges, universities, hotels and mid-size airports.
“My daughter was at Kent State University for a short period, and when she had a cold, she couldn’t find any cough syrup located within walking distance,” she said. “We can place items in the machines that attract students like her, who don’t have access to a car.”
Celeste has also created a luxury 3D mink lashes line that is an extension of her Defining Essentials brand. You Define You lashes can be found in her machines or online to purchase. Eventually, Celeste would like to add more products to her line and become a distributor of automated retail machines.
“The industry is growing rapidly. The machines have the potential to be everywhere,” she said. “Everything is still so new. We are helping people understand the concept.”
Bounce’s Next Level Business Incubator has been a valuable resource for Defining Enterprises, especially when using the insight and knowledge of the program’s entrepreneurs in residence – veteran entrepreneurs and business owners who provide one-on-one advising and mentoring to program participants.
“My EIR was a great sounding board to talk about my ideas and to get guidance and direction,” she said.
Celeste encourages other entrepreneurs to research and try out their business ideas. Following her gut has been instrumental, especially as a Black woman entrepreneur.
“Men always go for their dreams, whether it’s a good idea or not. They take risks. For women of all backgrounds, if you have an idea, go for it. We get stuck in being scared, and we don’t move forward,” she said. “If your dream isn’t big enough for people to tell you it’s crazy, it’s not big enough. I think my dreams are so big and crazy. I would love to see my machines all over U.S. airports.”
To learn more about Defining Enterprises, visit the website.