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.

4 Key Steps to Entering New Markets

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

As we move closer and closer to 2016, everyone’s checking budget numbers and beginning to think about growth for the new year. Your boss just walked into your office and told you the company wants to take your top products into a new market. Somewhere along the line, someone had the idea that your heavy duty industrial cleaners can be sold into the retail consumer market; or your jan san disinfectants should be extended to the aviation industry (planes are dirty, right?)  How hard can it be?

The truth is, preparing to enter a new market does not need to be a tough process, but it does need to be thorough, and expectations need to be set at realistic levels before even beginning to look at the 4Ps (or 5Ps depending on your approach).

Here are 4 key considerations you should take into account as you look to taking your products into a new market.

Size of the market vs market potential – in order to assess the size of the market you need to have a thorough understanding of the specific application of your product. A product that is used several times a day in one type of market, may only be used once a day in a different market, which radically changes the size of the market. In addition, if the market leader holds 20% market share in the new market, then your total potential in the early stages of commercialization is likely to be just a small portion of that 20% share. Be realistic in your expectations.

Product attributes – Attributes and benefits of a product that are valued by one market are not necessarily valued in a different market. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what your new target market values as well as their specific needs, and ensure that the products you are offering are designed – and positioned – to meet those specific needs. In many cases, relabeling or repackaging a product may not be enough. The product itself may need to be re-engineered to accommodate the needs of your new market.

Regulatory environment – Different markets have different regulatory requirements – for example, a product that can be used to clean your kitchen or bathroom cannot be used to clean surfaces in an aircraft without meeting stringent aviation material safety requirements. Make sure you are fully aware of any industry, state and federal requirements necessary to market your product in an alternative market. Use a consultant if you have to. It’s cheaper than the alternative.

Sales cycle – make sure you understand the sales cycle and method of the market or industry you intend to enter and not just the sales channels. In some cases, the sales cycle can be relatively brief and straightforward, in other cases, the sales cycle could be long and require a consultative approach. This will greatly impact your marketing plan and materials.

Once you have a clear understanding of the market size and potential you can then start thinking about potential strategies. Here are just some alternatives used by different companies:

  • Focus on targeting non-users of the product rather than trying to switch customers from using an existing competitive product.
  • Focus on offering additional attributes not offered by any competitive products
  • Focus on attacking competitive products by offering superior products OR lower pricing.
  • If marketing dollars are available, focus on outspending competition in advertising and promotion, although according to literature, this approach only makes sense if the market leader is in a seriously weaker position and you can outspend the leader at 3:1.
  • Target efforts in a specific geographic area or an area not currently served by current competitors.

Then and only then should you start putting together your Marketing Mix or 5Ps. These are the decisions that surround the Product (performance, features, design, presentations, name, etc), Pricing (direct, distributor, geographical, etc), Promotion (PR, marketing collateral, advertising), Place (distribution channels), and People (tasks, sales, support). In other words, you have gained an understanding of the new market and its customers, you now need to ensure that you have the right products, that they are correctly positioned for that market and that your communications correctly reflect that positioning.

General Eisenhower once said “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”The purpose of planning is to ensure that all the right questions are asked. Too often we “make it up as we go along” which may yield short term benefits, but more often than not can be harmful in the longer term, often resulting in unintended consequences and incurring unexpected costs. While planning does not necessarily eliminate all of these, it does provide a sense of direction and empowerment that permits effectiveness at all levels of the organization and optimizes strategy execution. In brief, planning x strategy x execution = success.

 

Emerging Enterprise Center by the Numbers

 

The EEC is a business incubator that helps startups and small businesses learn essential entrepreneurial and business skills, grow their business, and develop a long-term sustainable model. The key elements of the incubator program include: one-on-one mentoring, coupled with business growth workshops. These are used to provide guidance and context to entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has worked with 38 companies generating over $61 Million in revenue and created 179 full time jobs in the County while they were in the incubator.

The EEC has 20 workshops/seminars scheduled for 2018.

The EEC uses the Growth Wheel to help mentor its participants. It is a toolbox built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It is designed around the four challenge areas of business (Business Concept, Business Organization, Client Relations, and Business Operations).  It is a systematic approach to help entrepreneurs build their business through an action –oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work. The EEC has a certified Growth Wheel mentor on staff. Click here to see the program guide for the workshops.

Contact us at 302-737-4343 or info@EECincubator.com for more information on how you can get involved in the Emerging Enterprise Center.

Marketing for Small Businesses – 3 Steps to Success

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

We often hear of the failure rates of start-ups and new businesses, or even longer term firms going out of business for one reason or another.The US Census Bureau’s statistics certainly bear this out, with as many as 44% of businesses failing by their 3rd year and 71% failing by Year 10.

While this depends greatly on the industry, the chart below from Statistic Brain, shows just how fragile some industries can be:

While the final cause of death is usually financial collapse, the symptoms most likely started much earlier with failed strategies and operational inefficiencies. While no-one has a crystal ball into the future, you can certainly try to preempt as many obstacles as possible with careful planning and preparation; as Alan Lakein once said “failing to plan, is planning to fail”.

So if you’re thinking of starting your own business, or you’re beginning to see fissures in your business, there are definitely steps you can take ahead of time. Here are a few from a marketing perspective to ensure that your business survives and succeeds.

  1. MARKET ANALYSIS │ THE LAY OF THE LAND

Understanding the lay of the land is critical in helping you determine what actions you will need to take to grow—or in some cases—survive. An excellent tool for establishing the lay of the land is Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model. This popular model forces you to look at your industry within a specific framework that takes into consideration competition between existing firms, the threat of new entrants, the strength of buyers and suppliers and the threat of substitute products. Another simple but frequently used framework: the SWOT analysis that assesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats—use it to assess not only your own business but also that of your competition.

How do you fit in these frameworks? What are your core competences? What are your weaknesses? How can you leverage your strengths and improve on your weaknesses? It’s not enough to know and believe in your own product: you need to understand how it fits within the industry and among other like products in that industry. You also need to have a clear understanding of your customers’ (existing and/or potential) needs and wants.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a one time exercise—external forces and world events can impact the lay of the land, change the balance of power in these forces and overturn the positions in these frameworks within a matter of weeks! A catastrophic event – think 9/11 and its impact not only on the aviation industry but also the industry’s suppliers, travel, tourism and beyond – can and will result in a need to re-assess your business strategy in short order.  

  1. MARKET STRATEGY │ START WITH THE END IN SIGHT

Once you have a clear understanding of the lay of the land, the business then needs to determine its focus: What is your differential advantage or value proposition as a business? What are your growth objectives? Which products and markets offer the best opportunities to achieve your growth objectives? How will you achieve these objectives? Will it be through market penetration? Product development? Market development? Diversification? How will you position the business and your products to meet these objectives? Which core competences do you need to develop to achieve your targeted growth and create a sustainable competitive advantage? What will the investment be in time, talent and treasure to develop these core competences and what will your return on that investment be? 

  1. MARKETING MIX │ THE ROAD MAP

The Marketing Mix is generally referred to as the 4Ps (or 5Ps depending on the source!) and encompasses decisions surrounding your Products (performance, features, design, presentations, name, etc), Pricing (direct, distributor, geographical, etc), Promotion (PR, marketing collateral, advertising), Place (distribution channels), and People (tasks, sales, support). In other words, you know your market and you know your customers. You now need to ensure that you have the correct products, that they are correctly positioned and that your communications correctly reflect that positioning. Do you have the right distribution channels set up? Do you have effective and efficient processes in place?

A common fallacy to avoid is that marketing is the same as sales, particularly on a B2B level. The two are very different and – while they work hand in hand – they perform different functions. Marketing creates the value, the visibility and the lead; it can also provide the tools to make the sales process more effective, but it is an ongoing process and does not preclude the need for a sales strategy to leverage and capitalize on the value created through the marketing process (check out the posts on Creating & Selling Value and What’s In A Brand?).

 

STRATEGY X EXECUTION = SUCCESS

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s not just about the strategy but about implementation and execution of that strategy. Once the lay of the land and the road map have been laid out, specific tactical and action plans, budgets and measurement criteria can be put into place to guide that execution and implementation. One of my favorite quotes is from the entrepreneur Naveen Jain. “A great strategy alone won’t win a game or battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.”

Why Do Passionate Entrepreneurs Fail?

Written by Frank DeSantis, Certified Growth Wheel Trainer, Former Emerging Enterprise Center Program Director

The link below is to a great article in HBR on Passion vs. Preparedness, and reflects what I believe is the approach the Emerging Enterprise Center tries to take with their Incubator companies.

An entrepreneur has to have passion. It’s entirely too hard to start and run a business if you don’t absolutely love what you are doing! Apparently, according to this research, passion is a key ingredient to attracting attention of investors, especially novice investors, those typically found on crowdfunding sites.

Long term success, however, depends upon your ability to be prepared to scale the business. For that you need to have a vision (what do you want to be when you grow up), a game plan (strategy or business plan), and the processes and procedures to replicate what you do and how you sell. For more experienced investors, the passion and the concept may attract them initially, but they move quickly to determining how prepared they are for success; what is the experience of the management team; have they started a business before; is there a market; have they proved the concept?

At the Emerging Enterprise Center, they try to help you focus first on DRIVING YOUR BUSINESS (sales), while in parallel, developing the business skills and the policies/procedures to enable you to take advantage of opportunities that help you achieve your vision.

I believe you can have and, in fact, need both: PASSION AND PREPAREDNESS!

https://hbr.org/2015/07/for-founders-preparation-trumps-passion

Emerging Enterprise Center Announces Costco Wholesale has agreed to Once AGAIN be the official breakfast sponsor for business education events for 2017 at the EEC

Over 60 business education events have been scheduled so far for 2017.

New Castle, DE: The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) has officially announced that Costco Wholesale will once again be the breakfast sponsor for the business education workshops in 2017. 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. Costco Wholesale has been a member of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (affiliated with the EEC) since 2004 and sponsored over 20 business education events in 2016. The EEC is thrilled to continue this relationship with Costco and to continue providing more benefits 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 www.eecincubator.com and register today. Contact Frank DeSantis at desantisf@ncccc.com or 302-737-4343 for more information on the Emerging Enterprise Center and its many programs that assist businesses in the community.

About Costco Wholesale:
costcoThe 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. New Castle County Chamber members receive up to $20 Costco Cash Card when joining at the Executive Membership Level or $10 Costco Cash Card when joining a the Basic Membership Level.

About the Emerging Enterprise Center:
The Incubator is designed to provide business support services to entrepreneurs and associated companies in New Castle County, Delaware. The incubator is not merely about a physical building offering lower rental rates, but rather is a program intended to help new businesses succeed to the point of “graduating” from the program within a defined time period.

Boost Your Spirit!

Nonprofit organizations are all around you. Each nonprofit has a specific cause that they are working to better. Today, there is a nonprofit for almost any possible cause you can imagine. These nonprofits function on your donations. Without your donations of money or time, some of these causes will never be confronted. Although it is hard to part with our hard, earned money, there are a number of benefits of donating to a nonprofit organization. There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with that money you earned but it might feel more satisfying to reward someone else with it. It’s about that proud feeling you get knowing that you have done something that may help others and support a cause you care abouboostt it.

A recent study by Harvard Business School faculty and graduate students titled “Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior,” explores the ways in which charity donations can benefit your psychological, spiritual and emotional well-being. So do yourself a favor, boost your spirits, help a cause, give yourself a tax deduction, and donate.

Did you know that the Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) is a nonprofit? We are looking for donors like you to help us support our local entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs in New Castle County will help our local economy grow and bring more business and jobs to the area.
The EEC is designed to provide business support services to entrepreneurs and associated companies in New Castle County, Delaware. The incubator is not merely about a physical building offering lower rental rates, but rather is a profishbowlmoneygram intended to help new businesses succeed to the point of “graduating” from the program within a defined time period. The EEC provides mentoring, educational opportunities, networking events, shared office equipment, receptionist services, and other amenities that are vital to the success of a new business.

Participants have access to customized business and technical assistance geared toward the specialized needs of individual companies. The EEC provides an environment in which like-minded businesses accelerate their potential through interaction, partnerships, joint ventures, and other mutually beneficial collaborations.

Don’t you want to be a part of something that helps New Castle County and Delaware grow?
Donate to the EEC to keep the doors open, lights on, and programs going. Boost your spirit now by donating today.

BUTTON-DONATE-NOW-sm

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 www.EECincubator.com.

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 info@eecincubator.com to find out more about how we can help you and your business.

 

The Emerging Enterprise Center Introduces Growth Wheel® Program with Funding by TD Bank, Through the TD Charitable Foundation

The Emerging Enterprise Center introduces Growth Wheel, a visual toolbox for decision-making and action planning for start-up and growth companies. “We are excited to be able to make the Growth Wheel tool available to our EEC companies, as part of their counseling in the incubation program,” says Frank DeSantis, Program Manager, EEC, “and also to the entire small business community, through workshops in our Business Education Program.”

Entrepreneurs learn pretty quickly that having a great idea, a great product or service, and perhaps some great customers are only a small part of the puzzle when starting a business. To be successful, a business owner needs to develop a lot of different skills and this can be somewhat overwhelming.

The Emerging Enterprise Center provides a comprehensive incubation program, in a nurturing environment for early stage businesses. “Support, Access to Resources and Advice” has always been the commitment that the EEC makes to the start-up companies in the incubator program.  This approach has enabled the EEC to focus on the individual needs of each of its start-up companies so they could concentrate on growing their business, developing business skills and graduating from the program with a scalable business model.

Business Counseling

Growth Wheel was designed around the observation that all businesses – in all industries and life stages – have four lasting challenges in common: They must create an attractive Business Concept, build a strong Organization behind it, develop lasting Client Relations, and do so while maintaining profitable Operations. Within each of those four quadrants are 5 Focus Areas, as indicated below, that contain the business skills necessary to implement a successful strategy.

According to Frank DeSantis, “Growth Wheel is the perfect tool for us to use with our EEC start-up companies. It helps our companies focus, set an agenda, make decisions and take action!” The process starts with a self-assessment by the entrepreneur, which gives them a 360 degree perspective on their capabilities within each focus area. It will provide structure and a framework with which to develop business skills.

Business Education

Besides being a valuable tool used in the individual counseling of companies in the EEC, Growth Wheel will become an integral part of the overall 2016 Business Education Program that the Emerging Enterprise Centers presents. In addition to the longstanding series; Finding Your Next Customer and Business Fundamentals, 2016 will include a 5 session Growth Wheel Series, starting in January 2016 with an Overview and Briefing, followed by a quarterly workshop from a focus area from one of the four quadrants.

The Emerging Enterprise Center offers several types of Business Incubation Programs: Residential incubation, which includes affordable office space; Virtual incubation, for those not requiring office space; International Soft-Landings and a Pre-Incubation program for those serious, but not quite ready to commit. To find out more about the Emerging Enterprise Center, its Business Incubation or Business Education Programs, contact Frank DeSantis, Program Manager at desantisf@ncccc.com, 302-294-2056 or visit us on the web at www.EECincubator.com.