Greg Fylak will find you an expert on blood, signatures, weather, anatomy or falling concrete. Chip Grimes will brush the dirt from your office carpets. Mark Olazagasi can get your business computer back on track after a disaster.
One common thread links their businesses. They all started in an incubator that also hatched an accounting firm, marketing companies, an Uber for package delivery and a company that responds when a corporate plane crashes.
The Emerging Enterprise Center was the brainchild of Mark Kleinschmidt, president of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. Its one mission: Grow jobs.
For $19 a square foot, fledgling businesses get an office plus utilities, mailboxes and access to a receptionist, a copier, a postage meter, even a coffee maker. And, if the previous tenant leaves the furniture, it’s yours.
Baby businesses now dot two floors of that wing and small shiny square int eh basement that serves as a before-and-after for Facility Services Group, one of the incubator tenants.
Frank DeSantis, the center’s program manager, let Chip Grimes, who owns the carpet-and-hard-surfaces cleaning company, turn a few square feet of the grimy old tile in the building’s heater room sparkling clean so prospective clients could be wowed.
“They all have a dream – a belief in themselves, a desire to build something and be their own bosses,” DeSantis said. “We give them support, advice, access to resources, and they graduate with a business model they can grow.”
“We’re looking for somebody who wants to create jobs,” he said.
One early tenant has created 14 jobs and almost $6 million in sales. Info Solutions, an IT firm born in a home office in 2008, moved to the incubator in 2009. Now, its clients include Bayhealth Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, The Food Bank of Delaware and Delaware Technical and Community College. Mark Olazagasi, manager partner, said they’ve stayed to mentor new businesses.
Chip Grimes, who owns the carpet cleaning company, says having mentors and other entrepreneurs down the hall is the best part of the incubator – even better than the 40 percent he figures he’s saving on rent and utilities and services.
“We have completely unrelated businesses, but we can all get together and chat. Just ask, ‘Anybody run into a problem like this.’ When you’re in your own office building , that’s not as likely. You just don’t have that access,” said Grimes, who, predictably, has the cleanest carpets in the building.
Greg Fylak, an incubator grad who owns UCE Expert Witnesses in Newark, said he relied on the other entrepreneurs and the center leaders: “You can just walk down the hall and knock on their door and say, ‘I need this with this.’ They’re definitely a nice cushion to fall upon.
Fylak submitted his application to join the incubator after working from home on a business idea based on his 12 years in insurance claims management. He matches experts with the attorneys and insurance carriers who need them.
Now he represents almost 40 experts, including a pathologist, mechanical engineers, even an air-conditioning expert who proved a client’s business computers failed because of a faulty HVAC system.
There are signature experts, blood experts, weather experts, and a photogrammetry expert who makes measurements from photographs. “There’s an expert for everything out there, believe it or not,” he said.
To grow his own expert business, Fylak said he needed the experts he found at the incubator. “They helped get me off the ground,” he said.
It was program manager Frank DeSantis’ elevator-pitch advice that led Fylak to his succinct company slogan. DeSantis’ advice: You should be able to describe what you do in the time it takes for a short elevator ride.
Fylak’s slogan: “Exceptional Service. Exceptional Experts.”
The incubator has received funding from the county, the state and the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as from local business sponsors to provide training seminars and business events that fill in the blanks for new businesspeople.
“As an entrepreneur you maybe have an idea, but how do you start going down the road, connecting the dots, doing taxes, running payroll, finding an accountant and an attorney? Can you find a mentor? The incubator certainly assists you with all that,” Fylak said.
“I’m sure most, if not all, entrepreneurs can attest to it being a lonely world out there for us,” he said. “Having someone who can guide you and mentor you is tremendous. That’s where the EEC came in. It helped fill that void.’’
“If all the people sitting at their dining room tables banging out business plans could find out about this program, it’d be a win-win for everybody,” Grimes said.