Wilminvest Swims to the Top and Wins Over Sharks

Sometimes the idea is the easy part for entrepreneurs. And for the competitors of the Emerging Enterprise Center’s (EEC) Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, the idea is just the beginning of a very long road. We’ve all heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is similarly true for the entrepreneurs that competed last Friday, November 1st for the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch competition.  All of the finalists represent the successful summation of the village of a positive economic ecosystem represented by local universities, other mentor entrepreneurs, a cooperative local government, investment companies and of course the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCCCC).   And of all of the entrepreneurs it is especially true for this year’s winner, Wilminvest, LLC.

Over more than 10 years, the EEC has worked with 44 companies, generating $68.8 Million in revenues and employing 231 people. These results don’t happen alone. Both the NCCCC and the EEC have actively reached out to the entrepreneurial community to partner on efforts to create awareness among small businesses and budding entrepreneurs to let them know that they are not alone; there are resources available to help them. Competitions like the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition not only provide seed money for young entrepreneurs, the help to raise visibility in the marketplace, build investor and advisor networks, and uncovers new ways to cut business costs. Our four competitors have seen just that happen due to their exposure at the competition. In fact, two of our finalists have already been approached by potential investors and partners just days following the competition.

For the third year, the EEC, Delaware’s first small business incubator located at the NCCCC, partnered with the New Castle County Government, NCC Innovates Program, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer the prize package which included:

Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and oral pitch. Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills. Four finalists were then selected to pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Annual EEC Luncheon, which was held at the Harry’s Savoy Grill and Ballroom in Wilmington. The four finalists included 2M LLC, AnCatt Company, Lignolix, Inc, and Wilminvest, LLC.

The Grand Prize winner was selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (75%/25%). The judges included Keith Ellison (Urban League of Philadelphia Entrepreneurial Center), Holly Flanagan (Gabriel Investments), Mark Olazagasti (InfoSolutions, LLC), and former Swim with the Sharks winner Dr. Sumedh Surwade (SAS Nanotechnologies).

Bryce Fender and Joel Amin, Jr from Wilminvest, LLC win the 7th Annual Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition. Pictured left to right: Matt Meyer (New Castle County Executive), Bryce Fender, Joel Amin, Jr, and Bob Chadwick (President of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce & Emerging Enterprise Center).

Wilminvest, LLC beat out 25 other applicants and despite a very tough competition, narrowly winning first place for the EEC’s Swim with the Shark Pitch Competition – now in its 7th year with a Grand Prize totaling over $14,000 in cash and services.

Wilminvest, LLC pulls together family and resources to buy and restore houses in the city of Wilmington. The company then provides these homes in rent free short-term leases with the assistance of Delaware State Housing Authority to consumers experiencing substance abuse recovery, mental illness, and chronic veteran homelessness. By pulling together community resources, Wilminvest is investing directly back into our community to help better the economy by getting ‘hard luck’ folks off the streets and into a bed. Two young men, saw a problem, had an idea, and pulled the community together to help solve that problem. With this pitch competition grand prize, Wilminvest plans to reinvest it back into the community by purchasing two additional houses putting them ahead of their projections for the year and helping two more families off the streets and into a home. What a great example of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and “it take a village.”

And the Finalists Are…

An impressive group of entrepreneurs presented to a team of judges this past few weeks in the preliminary pitches for the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Annual Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition.

A total of 18 companies pitched before the finalist were chosen. For the first time ever in the history of the pitch competition, we had a tie in our judges scoring. Since there has never been a residence for this, the judges felt the need to include the third place winner in the competition as well since the scores so close. We are happy to announce that this year there will be four companies pitching in the finals.

These four companies will compete for more than $14,000 in cash and services in front of a live audience on November 1st to be held at Harry’s Savoy on Naamans Road in Wilmington. The Grand Prize represents a combination of partnerships with New Castle County Government and the NCC Innovates Program, as well as entrepreneurial service providers and sponsors, including Harvard Business Services Inc., The Williams Law Firm, Small Business Administration, and World Trade Center Delaware.

The finalists are (in alpha order):

2M, LLC is an advanced battery technology company, commiteed to providing superior, reliable and afford energy storage products including lithium ion battery materials and battery cells through innovation and cutting edge technology.

AnCatt is the first successful high-performance, environmentally-friendly, anti-corrosion paint coating that does not use any toxic heavy-metals such as chromates, lead, or zinc.

Lignolix, Inc. is a technology company that sustainably makes synthetic materials from renewable biomass wast streams. Currently, it has a process that selectively breaks down lignin to make synthetic materials.

Wilminvest, LLC is a company that combats the vacant and abandoned housing plague afflicting Wilmington, DE. The company acquires, renovates, and rents out vacant and distressed resident real estate as permanent supportive housing. The company uses federal and state funds to support displaced individuals and families who are experiencing unstable housing situations.

All 18 applicants submitted a 5 page business canvas and were invited to present a preliminary pitch before a panel of judges.  Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and verbal pitch.  Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills.  The finalists will pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Swim with the Sharks Luncheon to be at Harry’s Savoy Ballroom, 2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, DE 19810.  The winner will be selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (75%/25%).

All of the applicants did a wonderful job. They are as follows:

  • 360VR Technology
  • Addi Naturals
  • As Told by Women
  • Children’s Place Child Development Center
  • Circus Monkeys
  • DX Technology Group
  • Fur Baby Tracker
  • Lunch Karma
  • PS3G, Inc (DocVilla)
  • RiKarbon, Inc.
  • Second Chances Farm
  • Street Xpressions Auto
  • Twisted Theatre
  • YaYa Podcasting

The Emerging Enterprise Center is an initiative of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and New Castle County Economic Development Council.  The Emerging Enterprise Center is a business incubator that helps start-up businesses develop a long- term sustainable model, grow their business, and learn essential entrepreneurial skills.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has assisted 44 businesses.  These businesses have generated over $69 million in revenue and employed 231 people while in the program.

Swim with the Sharks Luncheon to have Keynote

For the first time ever, the Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition Luncheon will feature a keynote speaker. This speaker is Iola Harper, Deputy Commerce Director for the Office of Economic Opportunity of Philadelphia.

Iola Harper is a nationally-recognized, award-winning advocate for small businesses and urban neighborhoods. She has spent well over two decades working diligently with minority and women-owned firms and economic development agencies across the Delaware Valley, helping them gain access to needed financial, technical, and contract opportunity. The small business and economic development agencies that she has worked with are too numerous to name, but her work and efforts have benefited thousands of small business locally and regionally.  In 2016 she began work as the Deputy Director of Commerce for the city of Philadelphia. In this role she runs the Office of Economic Opportunity. This job involves ensuring that people of color, women and disabled-owned firms have equal access to city, quasi-city and some private sector contracts. Iola looks at this as an opportunity to open the door for businesses that she helped prepare to walk through.  Her success working with not only small businesses but in urban neighborhoods garnered the attention of former Governor of PA when she was named one of Pennsylvania’s top 50 Women in Business. Her work drew a national spotlight several years ago when she was honored by the Small Business Administration as one of the Nation’s top small business advocates and when she was named one of Philadelphia’s most influential women by the NAACP.

Come and hear from Iola and get inspired by our three finalist entrepreneurs on November 1 . Click here to register.

Tunnel-Vision Innovation

Excerpt from The Daily Drucker written by Peter Drucker

Often a prescription drug designed for a specific ailment sometimes ends up being used for some other quite different ailment.

When a new venture does succeed, more often than not it is in a market other than the one it was originally intended to serve, with products or services not quite those with which it had set out, bought in large part by customers it did not even think of when it started, and used for a host of purposes besides the ones for which the products were first designed. If a new venture does not anticipate this, organizing itself to take advantage of the unexpected and unseen markets; if it is not totally market-focused, if not market-driven, then it will succeed only in creating an opportunity for a competitor.

The new venture therefore needs to start out with the assumption that its product or service may find customers in markets no one thought of, for uses no one envisaged when the product or service was designed, and that it will be bought by customers outside its field of vision and even unknown to the new venture. If the new venture does not have such a market focus from the very beginning, all it is likely to create is the market for a competitor.

Action Point: When innovating, go with the market response, not with your preconceived ideas. Don’t marry your pet ideas about a new venture.

Social Studies: Being socially responsible is a key element of running a small business

Written by Rhonda Abrams, featured on Costco Connection Magazine

Small businesses have long been the backbone of their communities. Small businesses support local charities, Little League, food drives, school fundraisers and more. Most small-business owners don’t have to be told to be charitable-they already are. But being charitable is just one part of the wave of interest and increasing demand for businesses to be socially responsible.

In addition to focusing on the bottom line, being socially responsible is a smart part of a company’s strategy for success.

Social Steps:

  • Create an inclusive workplace with fair pay.
  • Donate a portion of profits. Choose an organization and make it clear a small percentage of your pre- or post-profit sales will go to that cause.
  • Think and work sustainably. Look for ways your business can reduce waste, consume less energy and lower its carbon footprint.
  • Donate time. A good way to build team morale as well as contribute to your community is to have your employees volunteer-on paid company time-for a good cause.
  • Donate products or services to causes you believe in.

The Mentor Mentee Relationship: A Two-Way Street

Article taken from “Chamber Executive Fall 2018”

This article is written by two chamber executives from the Texas coast who have shared many years together in the same office but now get to share on a different level. The mentee has been at the helm of the Portland Chamber of Commerce (Texas) for a little more than a year. Prior to serving in Portland, she worked at the Rockport-Fulton Chamber (Texas) for 13 years. The mentor has led the Rockport-Fulton Chamber for almost three decades. The two communities are 25 miles apart.

Let’s Negotiate: Switch From an Adversarial to a Collaborative Approach for Best Results

Negotiating is most effective when you build in breaks between sessions and anticipate some back and forth. Pressure can derail the process.

Article by Jessica Notini

Learn to Listen:

To conduct a successful negotiation, don’t launch into a monologue about your business or your budget. Instead, ask the other party open-ended questions about their long-term goals and visions.

The more information you can gather, the better you will understand what motivates them, and the more targeted and effective your negotiations will be.

Listening has another benefit, too: focused, authentic attention builds trust and goodwill, and you’re more likely to want to work out a deal when you feel a genuine connection.

Want to learn more about overcoming customer objections? Register today for our upcoming workshop by clicking here.

Creating Customer Value: There is no loss to the customer by eliminating activities that do not add value

Excerpt from The Daily Drucker by Peter Drucker

Activity-based costing provides the foundation for integrating into one analysis the several procedures required to create customer value. With activity costs as a starting point, the enterprise can seperate activities that add value to customers from those that do not, and eliminate the latter. The chain of value-creating activities uncovered during value analysis is the starting point for analyzing the underlying process of value creation. Process analysis seeks to: improve the features of the product or service, restructure the process while reducing costs, and maintain or improve quality.

Process analysis in an automobile company involves designing and redesigning components and subfunctions in order to carry out each function at predetermined cost targets. For instance, the basic function of an automobile is to provide transportation, but secondary functions include comfort, fuel efficiency, and safety. Each of the functions and subfunctions require components or services that create value for the customer. Each also contributes to the quality of the automobile as well as to the cost. A process team is formed from personnel who perform the value-chain activities. This team often include suppliers and customers. The task of the team is to identify the functions the product or service is to perform and to analyze the components or services that go into each function with the objective of achieving value and quality objectives while meeting cost targets.

Action point: Eliminate activities that do not create value. Analyze the underlying processes of value-creating activities and redesign the processes if necessary to enhance customer value.

Continuous Learning in Knowledge Work: A knowledge organization has to be both a learning organization and a teaching organization

excerpt from “Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker

Knowledge workers must have continuous learning built into their tasks. And a knowledge organization has to be both a learning organization and a teaching organization. Knowledge today, in all areas, changes so fast that knowledge workers become obsolete pretty soon unless they build continuous learning into their work. And that is not just true of high knowledge such as that of the engineer, the chemist, the biologist, or the accountant. It’s increasingly just as true of the cardiac nurse, the person who handles payroll records, and the computer repair person. But also, a knowledge organization depends on knowledge specialists understanding what their colleagues are doing or trying to do. And each of them has a different specialty. Knowledge workers need, therefore, to hold themselves responsible for educating their colleagues, especially when the knowledge base of their own specialty changes.

This means that knowledge workers are well advised to sit down and answer two questions:

  1. What do I need to learn to keep abreast of the knowledge I am being paid to know?
  2. And what do my associates have to know and understand about my knowledge area and about what I can and should contribute to the organization and to their own work?

Action Point: Answer the two questions at the end of this reading.