Three New Additions to the EEC!

The EEC has added three new clients. Please look for further information on the companies in upcoming Business Matters. Please join us in welcoming them to the EEC.
CircleBack Lending, is a slightly different approach for the EEC, marrying a couple of our successful programs. We are calling them our “Domestic” Soft Landing Program. CircleBack Lending was founded a couple of years ago in Boca Raton, Florida to provide Consumer Loans to customers with Prime & Super Prime FICO scores, using Institutional Investors to provide the funding. With the talent in the banking industry here in Delaware, Scott Lascelles, Chief Marketing Officer, is looking to establish a base of operations here in New Castle County, for his Marketing Team, Programmers  & Developers and perhaps even a Call Center. CircleBack was referred to the EEC by Joe Zilcosky with DEDO.
Karin Roseman, founder of Deer Valley Danes, LLC has joined the EEC Virtual Incubator Program. Deer Valley Danes was the 2015 Winner of the Swim With the Sharks Video Pitch Competition. Deer Valley Danes is a distributor for Oma’s Pride Raw Dog Food, O’Paws Freeze Dried Dog food and manufacturer of DVD homemade hand cut treats for dogs and cats. Their home base is Greenville, Delaware and offer free delivery to New Castle County. They travel to dog related events to show & sell their product, and it is available online on their own website and Amazon.
Direct Mobile Transit, led by brothers Michael and Charles Bantum, addresses the growing need for specialized transportation in Delaware. They provide wheelchair accessible transportation to destinations that include healthcare and non-healthcare related appointments.

Website for Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs – “Business First Steps”: There to help potential businesses find information on licensing and permitting in Delaware

Around this time last year, the State of Delaware launched a new website to help small businesses find information on business licenses, permits, and other State requirements. The site, called Business First Steps (FirstSteps.Delaware.Gov), is an index of almost 200 different industries, professions, and products that require State registrations, licenses, certifications, or permits. The goal of the site is to allow businesses to more easily find information on various requirements across State government.

“In Delaware, our state agencies work together to help small and medium sized businesses on a regular basis. Our State is well known as being business-friendly. Now the aspiring entrepreneur can find a checklist of steps to open a business in Delaware,” said Governor Markell.

This website is the latest effort designed to assist small businesses. New Castle County (NCC) Open for Business, is a monthly event that is open to the public, FREE of charge, to meet 12 to 15 resource organizations and agencies that provide business counseling, workshops, technical assistance, as well as information on how to do business with the State of Delaware. NCC Open for Business is always on the 4th Thursday of the every month from 9am-11am (open house style) at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, 12 Penns Way, New Castle, DE 19720.

In addition to state requirements, the Business First Steps site provides links to and information about, local Delaware governments that have their own licensing requirements. Businesses such as contractors (who perform site work in multiple towns and cities) must have appropriate licenses and permits in each locality where they perform work. Often, businesses are not aware of such requirements. The Business First Steps site can help them avoid that problem.

Companies, such as Delaware Green Mattress Disassembling and Recycling, LLC (DGMDR), were glad to see a clearinghouse for licensing and local permits, and encouraged new businesses to take advantage of the resource. Tanya Whye, owner of DGMDR, and a member of the New Castle Chamber of Commerce, remarked, “The New Castle County Open for Business program connected me with some wonderful mentors, and I am currently navigating the licensing and permitting process. The Business First Steps website is the perfect tool for a one-stop place for a wealth of information,” according to Tanya N. Whye.

Business First Steps is the result of many state agencies working together to share information; and it is the first state website to centralize information on business licensing and requirements for operating a business in Delaware across state government. It was designed and built by the Government Information Center (GIC), an office within the Delaware Department of State. 

“The Governor has made knocking down barriers for Delawareans to start businesses a top priority. This is why a clearinghouse for new businesses to find information about permits and licenses is so important, and why the Business First Steps website will be a great tool that Delaware can offer new businesses,” said Secretary Bullock.

“The Business First Step web site will be a valuable resource for all businesses seeking information concerning licenses and permits. It will save a great deal of time for small business owners and allow them to concentrate on their business.  The site also provides a wealth of information about a wide range of business assistance programs and start up information.  I think Chamber members will find the Business First Steps web site to be an invaluable tool,” said Mark Kleinschmidt, President of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

Organizations such as the Small Business Administration Delaware office, Delaware Small Business Development Center, Delaware SCORE, Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Procurement Technical Assistance Center of Delaware, Women’s Business Center at First State Community Loan Fund, and other state offices such as the Delaware Economic Development Office and the Office of Supplier Diversity were on hand to show their support for the new site as well.

Office Space Available for Start-ups and Early Stage Businesses at the Emerging Enterprise Center!!

The Emerging Enterprise Center has open office space for new start-ups and early stage businesses looking for a jump start on their way to a successful business!  The Emerging Enterprise Center, located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce is a business incubator that provides Support, Access to resources and Advice help develop and nurture entrepreneurs.

Qualified participants receive affordable office space and business services, access to to all of the training and networking resources of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, plus on-site professional advice, mentoring and a network of professional advisors. The EEC has a variety of office sizes in both individual offices ranging from 80 square feet to 342 square feet, and 2 to 5 room office suites that range from 224 square feet to 807 square feet. As part of the incubator program, leases are for 6 month increments for flexibility, and include secure access 24/7, receptionist, and the EEC Services Room which includes copier, postage meter, individual secure mailboxes, coffee service, microwave, and refrigerator. The program also includes free access to conference rooms, business educational and networking events along with mentoring from experienced business people.

Founded in 2008, the EEC provides a comprehensive program that is designed to nurture entrepreneurs as the focus on Growing their business, Developing business skills and Refining their business model so they can Graduate with a business model that is scalable and sustainable!

In recent years, small businesses were the largest job generator in the U.S., as they have been historically. They will become even more important as large business continues with automation and efficiency improvement efforts. Small business provides financial opportunity and a chance to develop wealth. Creative, motivated individuals can use their talents and expertise to the fullest providing satisfying careers, job opportunities, and the backbone of the market economy.

What Types of Businesses are candidates for the Emerging Enterprise Center?

There are several qualifications that the EEC Admission Committee looks at in determining who to admit to the program. Recognizing the role small businesses play in the economy, the highest consideration is given to businesses with the potential to produce jobs and significant revenues in four to six years, and have the intent to remain in New Castle County upon graduation! The other primary qualifications include:

  • Be a new or an early stage business (less than 3 years), with a business license
  • Have a written business plan
  • Be privately held
  • Have adequate working capital to enter into a six-month lease
  • Be a current member, or become a member to the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

How does the Emerging Enterprise Center actually help a new business?

The Emerging Enterprise Center at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce offers assistance to early stage, start-up businesses in New Castle County and the greater Wilmington region. The goal of the EEC is to offer a comprehensive program of assistance so that early stage firms can develop the skills necessary to graduate and grow into thriving businesses. Our EEC companies are exposed to a Balanced Scorecard, designed to help them focus on activities in four key areas: Customers, Education/Personal Growth, Financials and Internal  Processes. The incubator program helps nurture the entrepreneurial spirit while promoting economic development in New Castle County by providing affordable office space and business support services, training, mentoring and a network of professional advisors.

For more information on the EEC, please contact us at 302-737-4343 or

Investing in the Future: How an Incubator Helps Start-up Businesses?

Over the holidays, my mom asked me the same question that you may have gotten, “What exactly is it that you do?” I often get the question from some in the business community, “What is a business incubator?” And while I can glibly reply that the Emerging Enterprise Center provides Support, Access to Resources and Advice, so that start-up businesses can focus on Growing their business, Developing business skills, and Graduating with a sustainable and scalable business model, I’m not sure that I’ve really enlightened anyone about what an incubator is and what we do.

First of all, why would a start-up business need an incubator program? Starting up your own business can be exciting, frustrating, overwhelming and all-consuming, all at once. Not every entrepreneur is the same. All have different levels of experience. What they share is their passion for their grand idea. Most also share initially the fear about when they are going to get the next sale! This is part of the validation of their business. Does it solve a problem, and is someone willing to pay you for it? Each time you make a sale, you worry about the next one. As a result, many entrepreneurs find themselves in a vicious cycle. They are so busy marketing, networking, making sales calls….. then going back to “create or produce” the product or service that they are selling…. then handling the invoicing, paperwork, accounting etc. Being by yourself, in a home office or garage, or even in a rented space in some office building, it is easy to dive deeper into a hole, feeling alone, overworked and beginning to get burned out. At the Emerging Enterprise Center, you are not only surrounded by other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges or have survived those challenges, but you have our support in helping you navigate through these issues.

One of the things we talk about first is the sales process…… understanding the target customer, the pipeline and the time line from contact to contract. We talk about documenting the process so it can be replicated, consistently. This is hugely important when you begin hiring others to sell and represent your business. Your Brand is dependent on the consistency of the message and the experience. Once you have confidence that there is value in what you are selling and that there is a demand, you can shift from “where will the next sale come from” to “when!” That confidence moves you into a more operational mode of planning “how” you are going to achieve your goals!

In some shape or form, that is what we are doing throughout the entire two to three years of the incubation program. We help the entrepreneur develop a thought process that goes something like this…. What do I want to be when I grow up? (Long-term Vision and Goals) and What will it take to achieve that? (Operational, Tactical, Practical steps). With that context in mind, our quarterly meetings follow the same format: Which of your commitments did you accomplish or not? What did you learn from that? What are you committing to accomplish in the next quarter? What resources do you need to be successful? How can we help?

This isn’t a cookie-cutter approach because each business’ needs and issues are different. There are some businesses that are fortunate to have customers knocking down their door from day 1, but struggle with the capacity to deliver on the promise. Others underestimate the time it makes to close a sale, and the impact that has on cash flow. And others struggle with understanding when to hire someone to free themselves up to do something that is more important to the business. Sales is only one part of running a business. Add to that, pricing human resources, production, financial and funding issues, and much more. You can only ignore them for so long, but sooner or later you need to address all of them. It takes time, and you can see that skill levels grow day by day. But Ican tell you , when you see the light bulb go on, and it all comes together, you  can almost see the entrepreneur’s confidence in themselves and in their business bursting through.

So what is an incubator? It is a program that combines a nurturing environment, with a supporting entrepreneurial eco-system, and assistance in developing the requisite skills that helps start-up businesses enhance their chance of success. Come check out the Emerging Enterprise Center at

Entrepreneurs! A Mentor can help you fast track your learning curve

Starting a business can be a daunting task! Ask any successful entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that they may have had a great idea, great enthusiasm and some great customers, but soon the reality hits…. There is more to running a business. It helps to have a support network, to help keep you focused on the things that will make your business successful.

The Emerging Enterprise Center at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce offers assistance to early stage, start-up businesses in New Castle County and the greater Wilmington region. The incubator program helps nurture the entrepreneurial spirit while promoting economic development in New Castle County by providing affordable office space and business support services, as well as, training, mentoring and a network of professional advisors.

A key component of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit is through the Mentor Program at the EEC. It is designed to provide participating companies in the EEC Small Business Incubator Program with job-specific guidance to fast track their learning curve.  The Mentors help the EEC Company Teams by keeping them focused on the important priorities, clearly articulating their business vision, challenging their benchmarks/milestones, developing and executing on action plans, and assisting them, where appropriate, with developing a network of contacts. Mentors are drawn from diverse business fields, and are experienced, well-qualified professionals, who can relate to the challenges facing early-stage companies. The Mentors have networks in the region and have volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise with Company Teams at the EEC.

Contact us today at 302-737-4343 or to find out more about how we can help you and your business.


EEC Welcomes Uniscrap PBC

In January, the Emerging Enterprise Center(EEC) welcomed UNISCRAP PBC to the International Soft Landings Program. UNISCRAP, founded in August 2014, is a Public Benefit Corporation, headquartered in Delaware.  They currently operate in both the US and Europe. The core activities of UNISCRAP PBC focus on the Resource Management Industry and the sourcing of recyclable resources, to develop investment that creates Social, Environmental, Financial and Industrial Impact.

Panagiotis Kollas, CEO and Founder of Uniscrap, is responsible for the company strategy, leading the Business Strategy Office and the Finance Strategy Board. He establishes partnerships with other recycling corporations as well as suppliers and clients spearheading efforts for business development. Panagiotis also formulates the international partnerships roadmap for the Social and Environmental Impact that UNISCRAP PBC. is committed to.

Panagiotis, has strong experience on international business and trade by working in Greek and international organizations and by setting up startup companies in UK, US and Greece. He has a degree in Economics from University of Piraeus, Greece as well as a masters’ degree in International Business from University of Wollongong in Dubai, UAE. Panagiotis gained further insights on environmental topics when attending the Extension School of Harvard University.

Public Benefit Corporations (PBC) are relatively new. In July 2013, Governor Markell signed into law a new type of public benefit corporation. As defined in General Corporation Law (Title 8, Chapter 1 of the Delaware Code), a PBC is a for-profit corporation intended to produce a public benefit and operate in a responsible and sustainable manner. The PBC is to be managed in a manner that balances stockholders’ pecuniary interests, the best interests of those materially affected by the corporation’s conduct and the public benefit for which the PBC is formed.


According to Kollas, “In UNISCRAP we believe that the generation for public benefit is a MUST for affecting positively the sustainability of our work. We give emphasis on the Global Goals of United Nations.”  Uniscrap divides the public benefit in four (4) categories:

  • Social Impact level: UNISCRAP has developed the roadmap for working with organizations, and foundations in Delaware, in order to generate measurable impact on the sectors of education, entrepreneurism, and tapping into the cultural approach to environmental sustainability.
  • Environmental Impact level: Through their activities Uniscrap aims to affect the carbon dioxide emissions to satisfy international agreements, such as the recent Paris agreement for Climate.
  • Financial Impact level: Plans are to generate financial income from activities to guarantee the financial sustainability of the company, and to impact the community through taxes and wages for our employees. Last but not least, the profits will give emphasis to the Industrial Impact through innovation and technology generation.
  •  Industrial Impact level: Partnerships will be the emphasis for the industrial impact, through the quality of the materials being used, as well the satisfaction of the production needs of the partners. Uniscrap will work to develop the best solutions for business challenges of resource management and recycling, addressing challenges such as production infrastructures, logistics needs, quality control etc. On this front also, they will give strong emphasis on the smart innovation and technology development to multiply the effect and the sustainability of the community

Frank DeSantis, Program Director for the EEC said, “I am so pleased that we were introduced to Panagiotis Kollas and Uniscrap by Andrea Tinianow’s team at the Delaware Department of State, as part of their Global Delaware initiative. Our International Soft Landings Program is designed to help foreign companies that are looking to establish a presence in US markets. We provide support and services that allow them to open an office, learn the business culture, and make the contacts they need, while they determine where in Delaware they want to permanently locate.”

The Emerging Enterprise Center has worked with two other companies in The International Soft Landings program. One of them, originally known as Idea Italia, now operating as Delaware is Good for Business (DIGFB), brought the “Treasures and Tales of the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s Art Recovery Team”, an interesting and interactive art exhibit, to the Grand Opera House in Wilmington in the Fall of 2014.

Uniscrap has an ambitious, global vision, that is rooted in a very practical approach, utilizing current industry resources and technology to develop relationships that will create funding and revenues that will finance future innovations and revenue streams.  Currently, Panagiotis and his team are actively pursuing a variety of partnerships and sourcing agreements. In Europe, Uniscrap has established a partnership with FCC Environment on the Sourcing of Recyclable Resources (Alternative Fuels & Materials), and  are working with the following materials: Tire scrap, Biomass (wood chip), Plastics, Metals and solid Recovery Fuel as well as Paper. At the moment they are working to supply Alternative Fuels to the Greek Cement Plants Industry.

Here in United States, UNISCRAP PBC is seeking to work with the government of Delaware, and participating on the Organics Task Force Committee, for designing and developing a solution for recovery the Organics Waste materials from the Poultry Industry and producing bi-products such as biogas, power and organic fertilizer. UNISCRAP has also established a partnership with North East Recycling Council organization.

In addition to the International Soft Landings Program, The Emerging Enterprise Center has a other incubation programs designed to assist start-up companies, including both a resident program for members who need office space, and a virtual program for members who want all of the benefits of support, access to resources and advice, without the need for space. Check it out at For more information, contact Frank DeSantis @

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Comcast Business: Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs 2016 Contest!

How would you invest $30,000 in Technology?

Comcast Business: B4B is once again presenting Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs 2016 Contest!

In 2014 entreDonovan was one of the 6 National Winners!

This year it could be you!

This competition is open to Business owners that are within the Comcast Business service area and have less than 50 employees. Franchises are not eligible.

Submit your entry STARTING February 2, 2016 at CBCOMMUNITY.COMCAST.COM/I4E

Deadline: March 12, 2016

See the flyer below for more details!

Read More about the Comcast Business Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs Contest

11 Private Grants for Women & Small-Business Entrepreneurs

Private grants for women and Small-Business Entrepreneurs

Grants for women entrepreneurs and Small-Business Entrepreneurs:

  1. The Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program: Five grants are awarded annually. The businesses must be 100 percent women-owned and have founding principles of social consciousness, sustainability and innovation, plus be ready to move to the next phase of development. In 2014, the program awarded $125,000 in grants.
  2. Huggies Brand — Mom Inspired Grants: The grant awards up to $15,000 to advance the development of innovative products inspired by the joys of motherhood. The awardees also receive resources to further develop their products and startup businesses.
  3. FedEx Think Bigger — Small Business Grant Program: Applicants are encouraged to share their visions to receive a portion of the $75,000 awarded in grants. Part of the judging involves the general public voting for the finalists, so participants may promote their businesses while garnering votes.
  4. Idea Café Small Business Grant: The Idea Café is a free gateway that hosts different grants on its site. Its current grant is the 16th Small Business Cash Grant, which awards one $1,000 grand prize to a business with the most innovative idea.
  5. InnovateHER: 2015 Innovating for Women Business Challenge: This business challenge is sponsored by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership. The challenge awards three winners $30,000 in prize money for businesses that have an impact on the lives of women. However, be aware of the recent fraud news around the SBA.
  6. Chase Google — Mission Main Street Project: Chase and Google have partnered to award $3 million in grants. In 2014, recipients were awarded $150,000 to help take their businesses to the next level. Recipients also received a trip to Google headquarters, a Google Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon toward a market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.
  7. Small Business Innovation Research(SBIR): Eleven different federal agencies participate in this awards-based program, which incentivizes and enables small businesses to explore their technological potential.
  8. Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR): The STTR program reserves a specific percentage of federal research and development funding to provide funding opportunities in research and development.
  9. Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corp (WVEC) Small Business Competition: This competition, organized by Capitol One and Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, allows participants to present two-minute pitches for a chance to participate in a nine-month business accelerator program.
  10. Wal-Mart Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative (WEE): As part of a huge Wal-Mart initiative, sourcing opportunities for U.S. and international companies will increase to $40 billion over five years.
  11. Zions Bank — Smart Women Smart Money: This Utah-based bank’s grant annually awards $3,000 across six different categories, including business.

Costco Wholesale to be official breakfast sponsor for all business education events for 2016

Emerging Enterprise Center Announces Costco Wholesale as official breakfast sponsor for all business education events for 2016 at the EEC

15 business education events have been scheduled so far for 2016. More to Come.

New Castle, DE, January 2016:  The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) has officially announced that Costco Wholesale will be the sole breakfast sponsor for all business education workshops in 2016. One of the key missions of the EEC is to help businesses develop business skills to tackle not only the nuts and bolts aspects of running a business but also marketing, networking, and sales skills so that they can grow. Frank DeSantis, Program Director of the EEC, says “We are excited to have Costco as a sponsor for the breakfasts at our business education events. They have a longstanding commitment to the communities in which they serve, and have been a great resource for alot of the products that small businesses need on a daily basis.”

Costco Wholesale has been a member of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (affiliated with the EEC) since 2004 and sponsored many events but never has taken on series this large with the Chamber. “We are absolutely excited to be a part of the EEC business education programs. It is not only a great marketing benefit for Costco but we are also providing a service to our local businesses and the EEC, by helping keep their minds and bodies fueled,” says Cheryl Strootman from Costco Wholesale.

With this new sponsorship, the EEC can provide one more benefit to its businesses for attending the business education workshops.

The Emerging Enterprise Center wants you to join us for Educational Workshops and Networking! Find a workshop for you and your business at Register today at Contact Frank DeSantis at or 302-737-4343 for more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center and its many programs that assist businesses in the community.


Costco Wholesale:

The number one warehouse club offering a wide array of the highest-quality products available from around the world.  We offer our members an unconditional guarantee of satisfaction on every item we sell.   Costco Wholesale’s mission is to Obey the law, Take care of our members, Take care of our employees, Respect our suppliers. If we do these four things throughout our organization, then we will achieve our ultimate goal, which is to Reward our shareholders.


Emerging Enterprise Center:

To serve businesses by offering a comprehensive program of assistance to early stage firms that develop into thriving businesses, by providing Support, Access & Advice. The incubator program helps nurture the entrepreneurial spirit while promoting economic development in New Castle County by providing affordable office space and business services, access to all of the training and networking resources of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, plus on-site professional advice, mentoring and a network of professional advisors.

What is SCORE and How Can it Help Me?

A group of longtime business gurus is building on something they may not even realize — the old idiom that “the best things in life are free.”

At least, that’s the feedback on the free business advice, expertise and know-how the 50 or so members of SCORE’s Delaware Chapter are dispensing to business operators seeking to survive and thrive in a realm where most simply don’t.

Once called the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the local cadre now is composed of the retired, semiretired and those not even close to thinking about retirement.

SCORE took root in 1952 with a handful of DuPont retirees looking for a way to give back to the community, said Frank DeSantis, a volunteer for SCORE, former executive vice president and program manager for the Emerging Enterprise Center at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

And so they did, sharing their hard-earned lessons to those looking for a bit of guidance.

Today, SCORE is offered in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, having helped start 126 businesses and assisted 254 clients grow revenue to the tune of $44.6 million in 2012.

Think of it as an unofficial board of directors — innovative thinkers — for startups looking to get a venture out of the chute or existing businesses in need of a strategy audit.

Still, what may come as a surprise is that the early advice to some is simply: Don’t do it.

“The majority of people we talk to, in effect, we talk out of going into business because they’re just not suited to start a business,” DeSantis said.

Small businesses traditionally fail at a rate of 56 percent in the first four years, making free business coaches all the more appealing and, in many cases, a lifeline.

“We help them make that decision fast before they waste time and money in something they are just not cut out to do,” DeSantis said. “Do you want someone to waste five or six years of their life and all of their life savings to find out they would be better off working for someone else?”

The nonprofit has grown nationally into an outfit with 11,000 volunteers in 334 chapters in 50 states logging more than 1,158,220 hours in 2012. Nationally, SCORE has helped start 37,954 businesses, created 82,206 jobs and aided 50,791 clients.

And all of this comes free to SCORE beneficiaries, be they an entrepreneur with a dream worth embracing or abandoning or a business owner in need of objective advice or a new direction.

“We’re probably the best-kept secret in Delaware,” said Bob O’Brien, SCORE president, on a recent stop to Mercantile Press, a 129-year-old fourth-generation printing operation in Wilmington.

Even a company with that heritage turned to SCORE in 2009. It was the height of the recession, and Coleman “Corky” Bye III knew he had to refocus company priorities as the print industry continued to struggle.

“We decided to move into a different type of printing labels, multifold labels, much like in herbicides, expanded content labels,” Bye said of the company that has manufactured such labels for numerous pharmaceutical companies. “It was all in my head, but to get it down on paper, that’s another thing. Bob (O’Brien) helped in getting my thoughts down and concise so we could communicate it to others.”

It isn’t unusual for a small business owner to develop a myopic view, a love affair with the business itself, making it challenging to step back and look beyond the day, the week, the month of operation and into the future.

That’s where O’Brien stepped in with an objective view, setting forth a strategy with Bye with growth spelled out clearly on the agenda.

“He’s not here to commiserate,” Bye said. “When you have someone who comes in and takes a genuine interest in your business and says ‘I’m here to help,’ you now have to be accountable. It behooves me to go through the exercises like homework. I have someone to hold me accountable.”

Under O’Brien’s deft hand, Bye has taken a brick-and-mortar shop on Bellevue Avenue, established by his two great uncles in 1884 and later run by his father, now 83, to new heights.

For his work at Mercantile Press, the oldest printing company in Delaware, Bye has been named Small Business Administration‘s Small Business Person of the Year. The honor brought a special visit last month by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., offering congratulations.

“Coleman wanted to have growth with the business, but since all the financial resources had virtually been shut off, he was having trouble (for the first time) getting financing to grow the business and he needed some new equipment,” O’Brien recalled. “So I helped him look at ways in which he could free up his time so he could focus on strategy for growth.”

Giving existing employees a little more authority went a long way.

“That freed up his time and that’s one of the things that SCORE mentors typically do, working with small business owners to help them figure out how they can work on their business rather than in their business,” O’Brien said. “With Coleman, I worked with him on the strategic plan, started to get it implemented and then he went off on his own. Now that he’s getting some growth underway we will be working together again to figure out how to market this growth.”

The so-called informal board of directors approach has also been of great benefit to Sue Bowlby and her son, Don, of Corexcel, a Wilmington company that provides training materials, employee assessments and online courses in business skills and health care.

Bowlby bought the business in 1997 when it brought in about $100,000 in revenue, offering in-person training classes. Since then, the company has redirected its focus to online offerings, adapting to changes in digital demand and landscape. In 2012, the company reached $1.2 million in revenue.

For much of that, a noticeably choked up Bowlby thanks her SCORE mentors, including DeSantis and Steve DeVeber.

“We were maybe a year old when we first started meeting with them,” Bowlby recalled. “I always laughed because they always asked me questions I didn’t want to have to answer.”

The coaches assessed Corexcel’s marketing, pricing and business plan, Bowlby said, and developed strategies to improve it all.

“They understand our trends, our products, our history,” she said. “They’ve seen us almost broke and kind of propped me up when things were not going well. They really have been a very big part (of Corexcel’s success).”

SCORE is actively seeking volunteer mentors. To learn more, visit