Delaware’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: It Takes a Village

written by Dora Cheatham, Director, Economic Development Council, New Castle County Chamber of Commerce & Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

Last week’s Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit – co-hosted by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center and the Delaware Small Business Development Center and held at the DuPont Country Club – with the aim of gathering together entrepreneurs, mentors and small business resources – was proof positive yet again that Delaware’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is unlike any other.  Keynote speakers gave a big picture view of entrepreneurship and innovation, while entrepreneurs and innovators who had been there, done that and had the scars to prove it shared their knowledge, expertise and experiences both in the traditional and scientific startup arenas.  Small business resources were on hand for assistance and there was networking – lots of networking.

Guest Speaker Michelle Christian – SBA Regional Director – articulated what we in Delaware know all too well but so often fail to shout from the rooftops:  that as a state, our entrepreneurial resources work in tandem – rather than compete – to help budding entrepreneurs and startups.  This doesn’t mean that every entrepreneur or startup is a star in the making.   What it does mean, is that good ideas, the ones that pass the “sniff test”, have an entire support system behind them ready, willing and able to help them succeed.

Take D150 Fueling for example.  The brainchild of three friends from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey who met on the University of Delaware rowing team, the idea for a fueling innovation system that sends fueling professionals to refuel business vehicles at a customer’s lot was incubated at the University of Delaware’s Horn Program.  An invitation to apply for an NCC Innovates Sponsorship Award from New Castle County’s Department of Economic Development won them a year’s membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Resident Program, which was announced at last year’s Entrepreneurial Summit.  On winning the award D150 stated that one of the reasons they wanted to keep their ties to Delaware is “the great community and how much people are willing to help us out.”  Since winning the award, D150 have generated over $3.5 million in revenue, created 5 full time and 2 part time jobs, invested in additional vehicles are on track for continued for continued growth throughout 2019.

On a wholly different entrepreneurial SAS Nanotechnologies illustrates an even broader ecosystem that Delaware enjoys.  Founded by Dr. Sumedh Surwade, it all started with his PhD and Post-doc research in Polymer Science and the fundamental and application aspects of nanomaterials.

After completing his research, Dr. Surwade landed at Delaware Technology Park (DTP) where he continued to refine his technology and develop environmentally friendly, self-healing anti-corrosive coatings.  He also began to formulate his business idea.  While at DTP, he learned about the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) and the DESCA TechConnect Workshop.  Dr. Surwade says:

“DESCA events were my main source of networking and these helped me tremendously in connecting with experienced professionals. Going through the TechConnect Workshop and getting direct and honest feedback on my technology from experienced industry professionals was very useful. Their feedback helped me to broaden my thinking, evaluate different applications of my technology and focus on commercialization.”  

DESCA also helped Dr. Surwade form his Advisory Board, connected him with strategic partners, and brought him into contact with Lou DiNetta of the Delaware SBDC who worked closely with Dr. Surwade to help him win an SBIR Phase I Grant in the amount of $225,000 and apply for a Phase II award in February of 2019.

Realizing the important of connecting and networking, Dr. Surwade also joined the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce where he learned about, and was encouraged, to pitch for the Emerging Enterprise Center’s annual Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, sponsored by New Castle County’s NCC Innovates Initiative.  This led to another win:  $10,000 in cash, a 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center incubator, 6 months of accounting services and IT consulting services.   At the Emerging Enterprise Center, Dr. Surwade has a place to hold conferences, meet with customers and seek additional advice and resource assistance – most recently, connecting him with the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP) to help him source a toll manufacturer and connect him with additional strategic partners. 

Just a few months after his Swim with the Sharks win, Dr. Surwade was invited to pitch again at DESCA’s Venture Forum where he was approached by a VC firm seeking to invest in SAS Nanotechnologies.

Since emerging from the research world, SAS Nanotechnologies have navigated what is commonly known as the “valley of death” in science innovation with the help of organizations that are dedicated to helping them commercialize their technology successfully. 

These are just two of many stories that illustrate how “it takes a village” working in unison to drive economic development, and a myriad quotes that can similarly illustrate the concept – but let’s go with one from Henry Ford:  “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

An Incubator that Works For You and With You: The Emerging Enterprise Center

What is the Emerging Enterprise Center? It is a small business incubator that is co-located in the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCC Chamber of Commerce).

The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) began as an initiative that came out of the NCC Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council (EDC). In 2008, the EDC saw a need for a place to help startup businesses from failing in the first 5 years and a vision that would nurture a strong and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as build jobs and revenue for New Castle County and Delaware.

At the time, the EEC was the first and only incubator in the state and while it is a separate entity from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, the two entities work hand and hand with each other to partner with resources, events, and making connections for its members. The EEC continues to expand its programs by leveraging the NCC Chamber of Commerce resources, facilities, and initiatives.

The EEC is not just about cost-effective space for young businesses; it is more about one-on-one mentoring and the connections that we can facilitate for growing businesses. The EEC attracts everything from the traditional main street businesses to fintech startups, with programs that range from pure co-working space with business amenities to more comprehensive programs, with one-on-one mentoring. Each business moves at its own pace with guidance that helps them focus on the needs and skills that will help them take their business to the next level.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about two-thirds of businesses survive at least 2 years and about half of that survive at least 5 years**.  In addition, most entrepreneurs will attest that starting a business can be very lonely.  The EEC works to help decrease those numbers by offering specialized services and mentoring. Does it work? Historically, International Business Innovation Association member incubators have reported that 87%* of all graduate firms are still in business.

The EEC is unlike most incubators in the country right now. It is quite normal for a chamber to offer support to business incubators, but it is very unusual for a chamber to embed its own home-grown program inside the existing chamber of commerce.  Research shows that there are fewer than 10 programs like this among the International Business Innovation Association*. The EEC has found that by being co-located with the NCC Chamber of Commerce, its clients work in close proximity to practical business people doing business everyday and have the capability to network with them to help understand that building relationships is so important. This affiliation is one of the many reasons that makes the EEC unique from other incubators in the area.

The EEC has one full-time certified mentor that works directly with each business to help develop business skills and hold each business accountable to the tasks they need to do to keep their business growing.

Young businesses can enter the coworking plus, business accelerator or resident program. Businesses that are older but still need some help can take advantage of the coworking or coworking plus programs.

Since its inception, the EEC has worked with 42 companies, while they were in the incubator, these 42 companies have generated $62 million in revenue and created over 200 jobs in the county.

For more information about the EEC programs, please call the NCC Chamber of Commerce at 302-737-4343.

Sources:

*https://impactindex.inbia.org/ecdata/

** https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/Business-Survival.pdf

Did you know that our Growth Training Workshops/Seminars are open to the public?

Did you know that the Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) hosts a series of business growth workshops that are open to the public and discounted to NCC Chamber of Commerce members?

The EEC began as an initiative that came out of the NCC Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council (EDC). In 2008, the EDC saw a need for a place to help baby businesses from failing in the first 5 years. The EEC’s vision and mission is to develop business skills for early staged businesses so that they can grow and generate jobs with a sustainable and scalable business model. The EEC is a 501(c)3, separate entity from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. However, the two entities work hand and hand with each other to partner with resources, events, and making connections for its members. The EEC continues to expand its programs by leveraging the NCC Chamber of Commerce resources, facilities, and initiatives. One of the initiatives the EEC does is to create business growth workshops and seminars that are designed to focus on critical skills needed to develop value propositions, product and business marketing, and sales. Each workshop has a networking portion and hands on experiences so that each type of business can walk away with skills that they can apply to their business right away.

The beauty of these workshops, like in running your business, is that there is no set beginning, and no end. Based on the situation or opportunity, you jump right in and work towards a solution. And, nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything you do, every decision you make is connected to something else in the business. It’s all about consistency: consistency in your brand, in your message, in your execution. The key is the process you take. Each topic offers a strategic and hands-on context that allows business owners and their appropriate employees a chance to learn from business professionals, on how to work smarter, not harder, to grow the business.

There are two types of Business Growth Workshops/Seminars. Our interactive Growth Wheel Workshops use a variety of worksheets and tools that focus on making decisions and taking action. The Growth Wheel® is a toolbox built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and is available to Growth Wheel Certified Business Advisors and Educators. It was designed around the observation that all businesses, regardless of industry, size or life stage, have four common and consistent challenges: they must create and maintain an attractive Business Concept, build a strong Organization behind it, develop lasting Client Relations, and do so while maintaining profitable Operations. The Growth Wheel’s systematic approach helps entrepreneurs build their businesses through an action-oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work.

Each Growth Wheel workshop is complemented by our “Learn with the Experts” Seminars led by industry and subject matter experts. Our Learn with the Experts Seminars are designed to bring together Growth Wheel® learning with real world practice. The EEC hosts experts that illustrate how lessons, strategies, decisions, and tactics discussed during Growth Wheel workshops are or can be applied in the entrepreneurial, business and corporate world. These experts range in backgrounds and expertise, including business, academic and professional.

Both workshop types are not accredited business education workshops. These workshops are business growth training workshops for business owners, managers, and all employees of small and mid-size businesses. Anyone can attend these workshops, however EEC and Chamber members receive discounted rates.

You can find information on these workshops on the NCC Chamber of Commerce calendar or on the EEC website under Business Growth Workshops.

Come Join Our Entrepreneurial Village

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) was born because of the belief by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (NCCCC) that the same philosophy applies to the success of new businesses. Creating a nurturing environment in which early stage businesses could grow, develop and succeed was part of the vision in establishing the EEC. But the NCCCC also recognized the need to nurture the entrepreneurial eco-system by engaging and leveraging the great work done by a variety of organizations in place to support small businesses.

The EEC has grown from a NCCCC Venture, a key initiative of the Economic Development Council (EDC), to one that has continued to produce solid results. The EDC is a partnership between the New Castle County Government, Private Businesses and the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. In a little over 10 years, the EEC has worked with 34 companies, generated $61.4 Million in Revenues and employed 201 people. These results don’t happen alone. Both the Chamber and the EEC has actively reached out to the entrepreneurial community to partner on efforts to create awareness among small businesses and budding entrepreneurs and let them know that they are not alone; there are resources available to help them.

One of those resources is the New Castle County’s Open for Business. This is a monthly Open House event, where start-ups, small, and mid-size businesses can come and get their questions answered. Organizations, including the Small Business Administration, New Castle County Purchasing, Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and other small business organizations come together to be available to businesses and to share information amongst themselves. Entrepreneurs, innovators, and interested community members from New Castle County and the surrounding region meet with over 16 resources to learn who can help them.

Join us on the fourth Thursday of each month from 9:00 am – 11:00 am for our Open for Business sessions held at 920 Justison Street and meet with representatives from our partner organizations. Collectively, these organizations provide a range of services that help start-ups advance their business model, reach potential customers, land government contracts, secure loans, meet state regulatory requirements and generally mentor entrepreneurs striking out on their own for the first time. Come join our entrepreneurial village, the fourth Thursday of every month to network and to learn from resources in Delaware that are here to help you.

Hear a testimonial:

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart…but help is at hand!

Sometimes the idea is the easy part.  And for scientists and technologists it’s just the beginning of a very long road.

For 2018 Swim with the Sharks winner Sumedh Surwade of SAS Nanotechnologies it began with PhD research which led to a proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the cause of surface scratches or damage.  Next came an NSF SBIR grant for further development, and conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing. Today, Dr. Surwade is evaluating additional applications and routes to market, including manufacturing in Delaware.  That’s the short version.

Sharron Cirillo of SC Associates presents Sumedh Surwade with an SC Associates Business Starter Backpack as they discuss his short- and long-term accounting needs.

You would think it ends once the technology is developed, proven and accepted.  Not quite.  Then comes the day to day blocking and tackling of running a business which requires just as critical a foundation.  Fortunately, the EEC and its partners are here to help.  Having won the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, Dr. Surwade will be receiving a New Castle County Government NCC Innovates $10,000 award that he will be using to purchase vital testing equipment.  This equipment will speed up product commercialization by reducing the time (and associated cost) of testing from 10 days to 3 hours.  And last week, Dr. Surwade met with Rich Roux of Info Solutions, LLC and Sharron Cirillo of SC Associates, SWTS sponsors, and both of whom donated services to the winning company.  Info Solutions, LLC have discussed what Dr. Surwade’s IT needs will look like as he seeks to scale SAS Nanotechnologies, and SC Associates will be working with him to ensure that the financial processes he has in place can adapt and grow as his business grows.   As for the Emerging Enterprise Center…. Dr. Surwade is all set to hold his first Advisory Board meeting at his new Riverfront Conference Room!

Richard Roux of Info Solutions talks to Dr. Surwade about IT considerations as his business grows.

SAS Nanotechnologies Wins This Year’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

Beating out eleven other startup companies, and despite tough competition, SAS Nanotechnologies cruised into the no. 1 position to win the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition—now in its 6th year and with a Grand Prize totaling over $16,000 in cash and services.

Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies responds to questions from the judges following his pitch. Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

SAS Nanotechnologies won this year’s award with their proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch or damage. Founded by Sumedh Surwade, and growing out of his PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF  SBIR  grant to further develop the technology. Dr. Surwade is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing and is considering additional routes to market, including manufacturing in Delaware.  Dr. Surwade plans on using his winnings to purchase testing equipment that will speed up product commercialization by reducing the time and cost of testing from 10 days to 3 hours.

For the second time this year, the Emerging Enterprise Center, Delaware’s first small business incubator located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, partnered with New Castle County Government, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer the prize package which included:

  • Cash prize of $10,000 from the New Castle County NCC Innovates Program
  • $2,000 business startup and bookkeeping package from SC Associates
  • $1,400 in IT services from Info Solutions
  • 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Virtual Incubation Program (valued at $1,800)
  • New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Package (valued at $1,400)
  • One year membership in World Trade Center Delaware (valued at $395)
  • One year membership in New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (valued at $350)

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.  Three finalists were then selected to pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Emerging Enterprise Center Luncheon which was held at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.  The three finalists included SAS Nanotechnologies, D150 Fueling and Smart Kidz Club.

The Grand Prize winner was selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (85%/15%).  The judges included former Swim with the Sharks winner Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey Beacom College), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Business Counsel) and Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).

Above: Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies accepts his award from New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer
Back left to right: Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey-Beacom College), Bob Chadwick (New Castle County Chamber of Commerce), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Counsel), Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).
Front left to right: Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dora Cheatham (Emerging Enterprise Center), Matt Meyer (New Castle County Executive), Dr. Sumedh Surwade (SAS Nanotechnologies), Tamarra Morris (New Castle County Government).
Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition Finalists Announced

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

A total of 12 companies pitched before the final three were chosen.  These three companies will compete for more than $16,000 in cash and services in front of a live audience on 28th September, to be held at the Grand Opera House on Market Street 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 SC Associates, Info Solutions and World Trade Center Delaware. The finalists include:

D150 Fueling, LLC is an on-site fueling and fuel marketing company for commercial fleets that offers Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel, Biodiesel and Off-Road Diesel.  Coupled with FuelCloud software, D150 Fueling offers a fueling program tailored to an individual fleet’s need that saves time, money and emissions.  With contracts in hand, D150 Fueling is in full launch mode and ready to expand its market.

SAS Nanotechnologies, LLC has developed a proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch/damage. Growing out of PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF SBIR grant to further develop the technology and is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing.

SmartKidzClub, Inc. is an innovative, affordable EdTech platform that creates original, currently relevant and unique educational content that is designed to interact and engage with the large and growing majority of the new generation of children ages 1-11 that is using, and has access to mobile devices.

All 12 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 3 finalists will pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Swim with the Sharks Luncheon to be at the  Grand Opera House (Studio 1) in Market Street, Wilmington.  The winner will be selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (85%/15%).

All of the applicants – who have been invited to showcase their business at the event with a small table – included:

  • 360VR Technology
  • Body Wisdom Wellness
  • Craft Beverage Services
  • Culture Crush
  • Elev8 My Life
  • Mail Express Services
  • Mamaste Doula & Birth Services
  • My MedChoices
  • Vegan Healthy

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 42 businesses.  These businesses have generated over $62 million in revenue and employed 200 people while in the program.

Dora Cheatham Named Director of the New Castle County Economic Development Council

Bob Chadwick, President of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, today announced that he has appointed Dora Cheatham as Director of the of the New Castle County Economic Development Council. She succeeds Chadwick who served in the position for 11 years prior to becoming Chamber President last month.
Ms. Cheatham currently manages the Emerging Enterprise Center – a business incubator and flagship initiative of the Council – and will retain those duties as well as serving as the Council’s Director. Chadwick said, “Dora has done a phenomenal job running the Emerging Enterprise Center. She has boundless energy, tremendous knowledge, and a passion for driving business growth. I have enormous confidence in her abilities and I know she will do great work for the Council.”
The New Castle County Economic Development Council is a public/private partnership between the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and New Castle County government that brings together industry and government leaders to foster responsible economic development and sustainable business growth in New Castle County, while supporting and promoting initiatives to improve quality of life. Current Council members include representatives from a number of industries including healthcare, science, manufacturing, banking, construction, and more.
Ms. Cheatham brings with her a background in international business development, innovation, and marketing, and hopes to be able leverage this experience in her new role.

Why Continuous Learning Matters

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”  Confucius

When I first entered the world of business more years ago than I care to remember, it was a very different place.  Word processors were just making an appearance and sending a fax was the ultimate in high speed communication, the internet barely existed, and Amazon wasn’t even a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye.

Fast forward to 2018 and while the basic principles of business remain the same, the way we DO business is infinitely different. Technology has changed how we make decisions and embark on a strategic direction, how we execute on strategy, how we transact business, how we communicate. Equally, we have access to more informational and educational resources than ever before. For the small business owner today – more than ever – to ignore the need for continuous learning is to remain stagnant at best, fail at worst.

The Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops hone in on business processes that every small business and entrepreneur needs while tying into the ever-evolving business environment.  Among these:

Marketing & Communication:  30 years ago, sales and marketing were almost synonymous and advertising represented the main thrust of the marketing and sales effort.  Today the world of sales and marketing couldn’t be more different, yet too often small business owners still believe that, as long as they market their product or business “customers will come”.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, so it is critical that new entrepreneurs as well as small business owners are clear in their own minds of the differences between strategic marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and sales so that they can develop and implement a sustainable business growth plan.

Selling Value:  Probably the toughest thing for first time – and sometimes serial – entrepreneurs to grasp, is the difference between selling a PRODUCT or SERVICE and selling VALUE.  Entrepreneurs and innovators, rightly, are passionate about their product and their passion is reflected when they speak about it.  What it can do, how it can do it, how it was developed, the features, the benefits.  The more clearly those features and benefits can be articulated into end user value, the less important price becomes as a part of the sales equation.  This translates into a more valuable business model that generates greater revenue.  To quote Warren Buffet:  “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”    Are you clear about the value that you are providing to your customers?

Innovation: “Innovate or die” has become a 21st century mantra and rightly so.  Failure to innovate led to the slow demise of companies like Eastman Kodak, Blockbuster, Sears and, more recently, Toys ‘R’ Us.  In today’s world of rapid technological development, changing tastes and increasing competition, product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter.  Businesses that fail to update are gradually squeezed out of the market.  Innovation doesn’t have to be disruptive – it can be gradual and incremental.  The key is to remain relevant!

Globalization:  Globalization can be a hotly contested topic but has nevertheless had a profound impact on business with increased competition, expanded markets, increased resources, technology transfer.  The increased ease with which business can be transacted internationally means that even the smallest of businesses can access customers and markets which in the past may have seemed unreachable, either directly or through strategic business alliances.

In the end, while ignorance – at times – can be bliss, when running a business, it can be fatal.  As a business owner, I’m all too aware of the fact that the first step to growing a business is the ability to acknowledge that “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  So I make sure I continue to learn.

For more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Business Growth Workshops, contact Erica Crell at (302) 294-2063 or via email.