CEDET Business Incubator Helps Local Entrepreneurs Grow Businesses

photo of Ken Jensen

Tucked quietly away in a corner of Eastern Kentucky University’s Business and Technology Center are several rather non-descript small offices.

But it’s home to four area entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of a smorgasbord of services available through the Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Technology at EKU to grow their fledgling businesses.

The four entrepreneurs include an EKU student and faculty member, some recent graduates from the University, and a local resident. Their products and services run the gamut: computer software, forest-based beekeeping and honey production, an online conduit for buying and selling surplus and salvage building materials, and creative services such as graphic design and photography.

CEDET houses the Eastern Region Innovation and Commercialization Center (ICC), a Small Business Development Center and Entrepreneur Services. It also houses office space for clients of the ICC Business Accelerator, more commonly known as an incubator.

“We have a distinct advantage in that we can leverage all our programs, services and individual expertise to help our clients grow their businesses and reach their goals,” said CEDET Director Ian Mooers. “Also, because we’re located at a university, already we’re seeing our clients work with faculty and students on class projects.”

Gary Marshall, who serves as executive director of the Eastern Region ICC and director of the Business and Technology Accelerator, said his role is to “support, mentor, and provide access to programs, partners, service providers and funding resources. Because of the accessibility to EKU faculty together with the expertise and services offered (by others within CEDET), we believe these clients will have the advantage of the best one-stop location to facilitate successful business start-up and growth to beat the odds of the typical start-up and contribute to local economic development.”

As director of the SBDC, Michael Rodriguez assists incubator clients with business plans, marketing plans, marketing research and industry analysis. “The SBDC is also available to provide lender loan packaging assistance if the incubator tenants have a need for funding and is able to assist with the refinement of their business plans as well as development of financial projections and completion of financial statements and other documentation needed by a commercial lender.”

Kristel Smith, director of entrepreneur services, works with each of the clients to “help them develop their business growth strategy, innovative direction, or technological capacity through coaching, mentoring, training or other support or assistance.”

CEDET staff members meet with the incubator clients at least once a month.

Current clients are:

·         Software Masters, Ken Jensen, Richmond, owner. Jensen began writing computer software programs many years ago, mostly database-related applications. More recently, his focus has shifted to providing database-driven functionality behind the scenes of graphically appealing websites that others had created. “However, as a subcontractor in a struggling economy, I am dependent on the availability of work that others generate, not a good business model.” To achieve more self-sufficiency, Jensen created several websites to generate a more solid income, including PostAnEvent.com, TheLatestInformation.com, MasterWeddingPlanner.com, and MathforPrizes.com. “My biggest shortcoming is my lack of marketing experience, to be able to take these websites from a finished product to a successful revenue source. And I was at that stage when I heard about the incubator program. What they do is bring knowledge, experience and resources to the table (and) provide a very effective sounding board for my ideas, and offer suggestions for further thought and consideration. They are sort of like the GPS in your car. They don’t drive the car but, as you travel through the territory, they provide valuable guidance in getting you to your destination. Hopefully, I’ll be able to reduce the ‘recalculating.’” To learn more about Software Masters, visit SoftwareMasters.com.

·         Contractor Yard Sale, Andrew Pennington, EKU student from Corbin.  The business is an online classifieds service for the buying and selling of surplus and salvage building materials. “Right now the web page (www.contractoryardsale.com) just offers a basic classifieds service for contractors or building materials suppliers to list their items for sale, and consumers can pick them up for a huge discount. I have big dreams for Contractor Yard Sale,” said the 21-year-old Pennington, “not only as a webpage, but as an actual company. Being housed in the CEDET business incubator has really put me next door to a lot of folks who have a priceless set of skills when it comes to entrepreneurship. I can look to them for real, practical advice. Where else, as a business person, can I walk across the hall and talk to a business plan expert, shoot next door and talk with someone about funding, and then meet weekly with all the other staff?”

·         CCB Designz, Mackenzie Crump, Jonathan Croley and Dedra Brandenburg, Richmond, owners. Three EKU graduates came together to provide several services: web development, logo design and other graphic work; photography (personal or event) such as weddings, portraits or business; and videography that includes filming, editing and converting photographs into movies. “Being able to talk with and pick the brains of people who have already gone through the start-up process helped us to avoid making some of the beginner mistakes. They also helped us with our LLC papers and to find liability insurance. All three of us would like to see CCB (ccbdesignz.com) turn into a full-time job that pays the bills and then some. We want to grow enough to have employees but also keep up our work with other new and starting businesses.” Croley and Brandenburg are nearing completion of a MBA degree at Eastern.

·         Coal Country Beeworks, Dr. Tammy Horn, EKU faculty member. “A diverse economy depends upon a diverse landscape,” Horn noted, “and Coal Country Beeworks (www.eri.eku.edu/honey.php) works with surface mine companies to reclaim sites with pollinator habitat and offers beekeeping workshops to local citizens to teach, to beautify, and to diversify the Appalachian environment. Foret-based beekeeping can be a tiger with five different economic ‘tails’: honey production, wax production, queen production, pollination and extension. My hopes are to be able to work with surface mine companies to create honey corridors that will support a bee industry using Kentucky agricultural networks.” Horn said CEDET “has provided me a quiet place to write and edit my second book, provided the computer technology to finish it, and provided the mentoring to finish procrastinated business proposals and other necessary paperwork associated with starting a commercial business.”

For more information about CEDET services, call 859-622-2334 or visit www.cedet.eku.edu.



Published on April 06, 2011

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