Jump-Start Your Start-up. Strapped for cash? Consider these approaches.

written by Rich Sloan of StartupNation.com and highlighted in Costco Connection Magazine June 2018

For all the talk of tech-savvy, independent-minded millennials embracing entrepreneurship, statistics show that many of them aren’t. The US Small Business Administration (sba.gov) reported that in 2014 fewer than 2 percent of millennials were self-employed, compared with 7.6 percent of Generation X and 8.3 percent for the baby boomer generation.

High student loan debt and other economic issues may be contributing factors, making it challenging for many 20 and 30-somethings to start companies.

If you are among the cash-strapped millennials who could use use some street smarts and jolt of inspiration, here are a few options to get you going.

Bootstrap your idea

If your’re low on cash, consider pursuing a business idea that doesn’t require a large amount of upfront capital.

Plenty of successful startups get off the ground without big infusions of cash. For example, Hannah Lavon, the 33-year-old co-founder of Hooray Hoopla, which sells and manufacturers quirky mismatched socks, called Pals Socks (palssocks.com), started up at the end of 2015 with just $600 for prototypes. Now, Hooray Hoopla‘s Pals Socks product line is sold in over 300 stores nationally. That’s a full-fledged business started with less than $1,000.

Start a side hustle

Working on your startup while still employed is a great way to advance your business idea, giving you firm footing while you confirm some key assumptions and generally de-risk the opportunity.

Let’s say you’re planning to create an ACT counseling business. You could start as a part-time tutor for kids in their early teens. This ideally would not only generate incremental income, but would help you build your brand in our community, give you experience and insights, and, most importantly, develop a prospective client list, all of which you could parlay into momentum for your startup.

Consider crowdfunding

If you have an idea for a product and a knack for getting people excited about it, crowdfunding through a site like Indiegogo or Kickstarter could be another viable way to solve your capital needs. Crowdfunding can come in the form of actual investment and ownership in your company or – amazingly – in the form of prepayment by customers who want first dibs on your cool product. Yes, people will park their money with you even though you’re not even in production yet.

Article notes:

Crowdfunding:

To be a successful crowdfunding campaigner, you’ll have to demonstrate your marketing savvy and know-how.

Online marketing plays to millennials’ strengths as, relatively speaking, they tend to be well connected on social media, which is ground zero for crowdfunding campaigns.

The challenge in the crowd-funding landscape is to break through the noise by telling a compelling story and demonstrating the irresistible nature of your product-to-be.

You need great images and video, as well as editorial content that showcases the product and your know-how, so people will naturally want to pass them along to their own networks.

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.”

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.”

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.

5 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner Needs to be at the 2nd Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner in the tri-state area, you should attend the 2nd Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit presented by the Emerging Enterprise Center and Small Business Development Center on April 10.

This full day event is packed with quality content, information and resources for those looking to build, connect, and grow as entrepreneurs and business owners.

Whether you are thinking of starting a business, a start-up, or an established small business that is looking to grow, the Entrepreneurial Summit has got you covered. But if that’s not enough, here are 5 more reasons why you should be there:

1. Workshops and Panel Discussions – Whether you’re looking to sell your product, win over customers, or partner with new businesses, the Entrepreneurial Summit has you covered with workshops in two tracks. The technical/science track is geared specifically for those start-ups or small businesses that are in high tech fields while the alternative track is geared towards the more traditional entrepreneur. 

2. Networking – Network with over 100 entrepreneurs, small business owners, venture capitalists, resources and professionals in the tri-state area about developing your business.

3. Awards Luncheon – The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and the Emerging Enterprise Center are always looking to recognize those achievers and at this event we look forward to announcing the Entrepreneur of the Year and the Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year.

4. Keynote Speaker – Come and hear from­­­­ our keynote speaker and learn about his/her route to entrepreneurial success.

5. Delaware and tri-state area Resources Tabletop Expo – Meet and have one-on-one conversations with resources that are available to entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.

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:

Congratulations To Our EEC Client, Drone Workforce Solutions, For Winning Their Third Grant

The Emerging Enterprise Center is excited to announce that Drone Workforce Solutions has received its third grant from the Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Training and Delaware Workforce Development Board. This is the third such drone grant awarded by the state of Delaware in its history. DWS is honored to be the recipient of this and all grants for drone training.

In January 2017, DWS Drones was awarded a planning grant to create a Strategic Workforce Training Plan for drone technology that met Delaware employer’s workforce needs, advance the skills of Delaware workers, grow the state’s economy and increase sustainable employment for working families.

In September 2017 DWS Drones was awarded a training grant to teach 10 Delaware citizens how  to  become a highly skilled and paid commercial drone operator. Students graduated in December 2017.

With this award under the “Adult Occupational Skills Training Programs” unemployed students in selected zip codes will participate in a 10-week, 70-hour course which includes topics such as: the anatomy of drones (building their own), aerodynamics and principles of flight, weather, reading sectional charts, flight planning & air space, aerial photography, videography/editing, drone entrepreneurship and many hours of flying drones. They also receive skills training. Additionally, each student will be given the most advanced drone manufactured by DJI, the leader in drone technology, (Phantom 4 Pro v.2).

Drone Workforce Solutions has started a pipeline of talented commercial FAA certified drone operators through its employment company to expand the state’s technology sector and increase sustainable employment for men and women from diverse backgrounds of today’s working families.

DWS graduates will receive a “Certificate of Completion” from Drone Workforce Solutions; the only drone training and employment company that is approved by the Delaware Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Said President Theo Nix, Jr., Esq., “The expansion of commercial drones could add $82 billion in economic value over the next ten years and by 2025 employ an additional 100,000 Americans. Delawareans in particular and Americans in general can be at the forefront globally in this technology”.

DWS also offers employment opportunities for FAA certified drone pilots through its drone staffing and employment part of the company. Pilots are encouraged to contact DWS through its website.

Drone Workforce Solutions was formed by visionary and company President, Theophilus R. Nix, Jr., Esq. and his wife Suzanne Nix, COO. Their goal is to be recognized as “THE” premier global staffing and placement company for DWS validated drone operators, with the “Best in Class” standards for providing service and solutions  to organizations interested in incorporating drones into their operations.

New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Announces David J. Freschman Entrepreneur of the Year and Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year

As the 1st Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit approaches, the Chamber of Commerce last week announced the winners of the David J. Freschman Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year Award.

The large number of applications received for both awards were narrowed down to the two winners that most demonstrated the characteristics sought by the selection committee.

David J. Freschman Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Alisa Morkides, Owner and Founder, Brew Ha Ha!

A fateful trip to Florence in the Spring of 1993 was the catalyst to the creation of one of Wilmington’s most beloved coffee hangouts. Educated as a chemist, and working in corporate management, Alisa never let go of her dream to start her own business. But it was while sipping another perfect cappuccino in a setting worthy of a Shakespearean drama that gave her the impetus to open Brew Ha Ha!, Wilmington’s first bona fide espresso café in a 750 square foot store front in Greenville, Delaware. Today, Brew Ha Ha! has grown to 10 coffee houses with sales of over $7 million, multiple awards, including Best Coffee in Delaware for over 22 years in a row. In 2015 Alisa started a second business, Brandywine Coffee Roasters, which sells coffee world wide.

Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year Award

Mark Olazagasti, Managing Partner, Info Solutions, LLC

As managing partner and founding member of Info Solutions LLC, Mark Olazagasti has helped create and build one of the area’s preeminent IT infrastructure consulting and managed services firm. As a first generation entrepreneur, Mark has taken the lessons he has learned from his more than 25 years of operations, personnel, and project management experience to help mentor local entrepreneurs and students. Mark serves on numerous boards and committees, and as a moderator at various business-related events. In addition, Mark has conducted over 25 Q&A sessions for hundreds of students at local educational institutions including Goldey-Beacom College, Wilmington University, Delaware Technical Community College, and the University of Delaware.

In 2015, Mark founded YourMoney101, a non-profit organization focused on providing financial wellness and mentoring services to individuals and to companies with less than 250 employees.

10 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner Needs to be at the 1st Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit

Written by Erica Crell, Program Support Coordinator, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner in the tri-state area, you should attend the 1st Annual Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit presented by the Emerging Enterprise Center and Small Business Development Center on July 12.

This full day event is packed with quality content, information and resources for those looking to build, connect, and grow as entrepreneurs and business owners.

Whether you are thinking of starting a business, a start-up, or an established small business that is looking to grow, the Entrepreneurial Summit has got you covered. But if that’s not enough, here are 10 more reasons why you should be there:

  1. Workshops and Panel Discussions – Whether you’re looking to articulate your value proposition, understand cash flow, or get funding, the Summit has you covered with workshops in two tracks. The technical/science track is geared specifically for those start-ups or small businesses that are in high tech fields while the alternative track is geared towards the more traditional entrepreneur.
  2. Networking – Network with over 100 entrepreneurs, small business owners, resources and professionals in the tri-state area about developing your business.
  3. Mentorship – What better place to find a business mentor to help grow your business than at the Entrepreneurial Summit. The Summit is being presented by the Emerging Enterprise Center and the Small Business Development Center and a number of additional business mentoring and advisory organizations will be available for you to talk to, including SCORE Delaware, the SBA and many more….
  4. Sources of Funding Panel Discussion – If you want to learn the ins and outs of raising capital, you’ll want to hear it from our panel of experts.
  5. Awards Luncheon – The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and the Emerging Enterprise Center are always looking to recognize those achievers and at this event we look forward to announcing the Entrepreneur of the Year, the Entrepreneurial Advocate of the Year and the winner of the NCC Innovates Entrepreneurial Sponsorship Award.
  6. Keynote Speaker – Come and hear from Chuck Nunan, owner of Harvest Ridge Winery, and learn about his route to entrepreneurial success.
  7. Entrepreneurial Showcase – Check out over 15 up-and-coming entrepreneurs and innovators that that the Emerging Enterprise Center and the Small Business Development Center have identified as up and coming entrepreneurs in Delaware. Find out about what they’re doing to get their businesses off the ground and be inspired!
  8. Delaware Resources Tabletop Expo – Meet and have one-on-one conversations with Delaware resources that are available to entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.
  9. Happy Hour – Join your fellow entrepreneurs for a happy hour to engage in personal conversations and build future relationships.
  10. You can’t beat the price! All of the above for under $100.

Register today.