Katie Sullivan’s road to Buffalo’s startup scene

By Dan Miner
Buffalo Business First

Katie Sullivan
Katie Sullivan, senior vice president of finance and accounting at Circuit Clinical.

Katie Sullivan’s pathway has the shape of a boomerang – a familiar story in Western New York.

What’s different is that when she came back, she immersed herself in business ownership and entrepreneurship.

Sullivan and her husband, Brian, are high school sweethearts who grew up in West Seneca, went to Canisius College and then headed to Virginia, where he continued his education while she worked as an accountant at PricewaterHouse Coopers.

But as their young family grew, the Sullivans moved back to their hometown in 2014. He took a job at M&T Bank while she worked at Moog.

But what really caught their eye was the entrepreneurial energy rippling through the community.

“When we got back we felt this insane energy,” Sullivan said. “The small business community was growing and the community was starting to flourish.”

By 2017, Katie Sullivan was sure she wanted to buy and own a company. After researching a number of potential deals, she settled on a preschool. She left Moog in January 2018 and acquired Launchpad for Learning, a preschool in East Amherst.

By last year, Sullivan was putting the infrastructure in place to start building a daycare empire, with several pending deals around by the time the Covid-19 pandemic hit. She still has plans to put daycares in Seneca One Tower and on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, but the coronavirus has highlighted the low margins and tight labor market of the preschool industry.

In the meantime, Sullivan has been working as a valuation consultant for investor Charles Lannon, a Western New York native who now lives in Florida, and has been hired as senior vice president and accounting at Circuit Clinical. The health-tech startup, which seeks to make experimental medical trials accessible to everyone, won a runner-up prize in the 43North business competition last year and now has about 28 employees.

Sullivan, who worked briefly as ACV Auctions’ assistant controller last year, said that Buffalo has proven to be an extremely accessible business town. She said it’s a chance for ambitious people to make a fast impact in the local startup economy.

“It’s really just one small living room, and people are so genuinely willing to help and connect and see you succeed,” she said. “I’ve spoken to many people out here who are doing great things.”

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.