The Entrpreneurs Center: A Celebration of How Far We've Come in Eight Years
Author: Barbara Hayde
Editor’s Note: This is the text of a speech that Barbara Hayde gave at The Entrepreneurs Center's 8th Anniversary Celebration
To all tenants and graduates of The Entrepreneurs Center … to our consultants, mentors and advisers … to our university students … and to all our colleagues and friends with a passion for entrepreneurs and economic development: Welcome to this celebration of eight years of success for The Entrepreneurs Center in Dayton, Ohio.
Back in 2000, I couldn’t have imagined hosting such an event. After all, The Entrepreneurs Center had rather ominous beginnings. Some of you may remember that it took four years to get this building constructed. On groundbreaking day – April 20, 1999 – very few people showed up to celebrate, since everyone was reeling from the news of the Columbine High School massacre. And early on, we had our share of naysayers, who warned that our new building surely would sit empty for the first two years.
I must admit that even I was concerned about the longevity of my career if I became president of this center. After many conversations, it was my husband, Ron, who convinced me that TEC would be successful, and that I should go for it.
Well, “go for it” we did, and here we are!
That’s significant because tonight, we’re introducing our new identity, and our new brand: You can get there from here. What do we mean by this?
We mean that TEC is a starting point – the HERE.
And we contend that no matter where your THERE is – you can get THERE from HERE.
For one person, maybe THERE is being able to look around and say, “This is all mine.” For another, maybe THERE is writing the dress code for your own office. And for someone else, maybe THERE is working 80 hours a week for yourself, instead of 40 hours a week for someone else.
In some cases, GETTING THERE doesn’t mean you will necessarily be a tenant at The Entrepreneurs Center. But it does mean that if you START HERE, we will put you on the most appropriate path that will get you wherever your THERE is.
Since 2000, we’ve had 51 companies that started here, at The Entrepreneurs Center. Of those 51 companies, 38 are still in business.
What an accomplishment!
It happened because these entrepreneurs were astute with their genius and their innovation. They listened to their consultants, mentors and advisers. And they had a no-fail approach to growing and building their businesses. Since 2000, these 51 companies have created or retained 406 jobs in the Dayton region. They got THERE by starting HERE.
Today, The Entrepreneurs Center has even more to celebrate besides new, successful companies and hundreds of jobs. We have a new Web site for entrepreneurs. Check us out at tecdayton.com. We have new services such as satellite incubation, where we bring incubation to your community. And we have affiliate and virtual incubation: Now, you don’t even have to move in to get our professional business development services.
The Entrepreneurs Center, funded by the Ohio Department of Development, helps to make it affordable for entrepreneurs to start and grow their small businesses.
As many of you know, The Entrepreneurs Center is part of a much bigger effort in the Dayton community to support entrepreneurs. In fact, we’re one of 30-some organizations in the Entrepreneurial Development Network – or EDN – that collaborate on business development initiatives to grow the Dayton region.
Together, we create jobs. And in the current economic climate, our collective support of entrepreneurs and economic development is more important than ever. That’s because in our community, it is the small business person – not the large corporation – who is creating jobs.
We have a responsibility to care for these people who are taking risks – borrowing against their children’s college educations or from a 401(k) – to start a business that makes our community a better place to live and grow.
We have a responsibility to care for these people because it is anything but easy to start a business.
We have a responsibility to care for entrepreneurs because they are heroes. Our tenants are heroes. Our graduates are heroes. And you are heroes for supporting them on their journey to get THERE from HERE.
I want to personally say thank you to all of our consultants, mentors, advisers and EDN partners for your support.
Whether you’re an attorney, accountant, banker or business leader – or a second-or third-tier entrepreneur who is giving back because someone gave you a leg up at one time – we couldn’t have done it without you.
You have supported us.
And most importantly, you have been a partner to make our tenants successful. Because for an entrepreneur, the hard part is the beginning. There are so many questions: Is this a good idea? Who has investment dollars? How do I get started? Do I need a business plan? Who can help? Does anyone understand what I’m going through?
Our answer to entrepreneurs is simple: You can get there from here. And it all starts with a conversation.
Just ask Michael Bridges of Peerless Technologies Corporation, our very first tenant, who originally had free space somewhere else for his IT, financial management and research business. But in May of 2000, after Michael heard a presentation I had made, the light bulb went on. Michael decided what he really needed was the nurturing programs that TEC offers. So he moved in here – just himself and his college-age daughter, Andrea, who was working part time. Today, Andrea Kunk is now the CFO for Peerless Technologies, working alongside 40 other employees in a building her father built on National Road in Fairborn.
It all started with a conversation.
Then there’s Frank Beafore of UltraCell, who was referred to us by the Dayton Development Coalition. Frank talked to me about needing an Ohio operation for his California-based company, which produced fuel cell systems for mobile devices. In July of 2007, Frank graduated from here and opened the UltraCell manufacturing plant at the Dayton International Airport – the first volume-production, micro fuel cell facility in North America.
It all started with a conversation.
And how about Eric Graham, who started Gracar Corporation, a defense contractor? In 2003,around the time of his company’s second annual business evaluation through TEC, Eric wasn’t so sure he wanted to continue. But his TEC mentors promptly rolled up their sleeves and cameup with a plan to move his company forward. One year later, in 2004, Inc. magazine named Gracar one of the nation’s 500 fastest growing private companies. And two years later, in 2006
– when Gracar had 75 employees and more than $11 million in annual revenue – Eric sold his company to MacAulay-Brown.
It all started with a conversation.
Once a tenant is here, the conversations continue.
We talk about a company’s annual financial review and business evaluation. We celebrate a company’s first appointment at the Pentagon. And together, we mourn the loss of a piece of business, that just yesterday, seemed like a such sure thing.
Some here have called me “the mother hen,” since sometimes, the conversations sound a bit like nagging from your mother to do the right thing. Often, it’s tantamount to, “Did you do your homework?” But that’s what it takes.
Billionaire Warren Buffett, who’s considered one of the world’s greatest investors, said this: “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” At The Entrepreneurs Center, that’s what we do: We hold up the rearview mirror, and our tenants have the benefit of seeing what’s there. We do everything in our power to make sure new entrepreneurs don’t make the same mistakes others have made. And we tap our consultants, mentors and advisers – many of whom are here with us today – for help in this process.
So today as we celebrate eight years of success, we invite you to become an advocate for The Entrepreneurs Center.
We invite you to start the conversation and support entrepreneurs on their difficult – but potentially rewarding – journey. Every one of you here today is a key influencer. You have the power to lift up an entrepreneur! We are relying on each of you to make sure that the entrepreneurs out there know that we are here, and that we can help with good advice, good options and good resources.
Please do not leave here today without your lovely parting gift: a travel wallet to help get you get THERE – wherever THERE may be. Inside this wallet, you will find more information about TEC as well as referral sheets (tomorrow, make it a point to give one or two of these referral sheets to people you know).
Consider The Entrepreneurs Center another arrow in your quiver. If you make a referral, we can make you look good. We can strengthen your position as a consultant or adviser. And most importantly, we can help you make someone’s business vision a reality.
I said a few minutes ago that originally, I didn’t want this job at TEC, but today, I love what I do every day, and I stick around because I just can’t help myself!
Every day, we make an impact on someone’s life – and on the life of the Dayton community. Sometimes our lows can be really low, but our highs here are really high. When someone gets that first big contract, let me tell you, we are dancing a jig here! And to be around the bright people – the real geniuses! who are here in this building – is a real privilege, and a real thrill, for me.
That’s because it so very satisfying to make the introductions and the personal connections … to give the guidance and the know-how and the technical assistance … and to create the synergy and the professional networking to help our tenants – one step at a time – grow and thrive in the Dayton region … and get THERE from HERE.