Entrepreneur Academy showcases new business ventures

Entrepreneur Academy showcases new business ventures

Paul Lutkowski, of Norwich, downtown, to Ingrid Crump, left, of the Shoreline Film Collection in Waterford, talks about his business idea for EuroDetailing, a car detailing company, while his girlfriend Nicole McDermott, of Norwich, looks on during “show day” Hosted by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. People developing ideas for a business participated in the free 10-week Entrepreneur Academy held by the Chamber during the summer. (Dana Jensen/Today) Buy photo prints

Gary St. Phil, of Norwich, Downtown, talks to Wendy Vincent, left, of the Women’s Business Development Council, and her son Harrison, Friday, September 9, 2022, about his idea for Bon Vivant, a fine dining experience, during her “Show Day” event hosted by Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Share Vil Desk table with Angela Angulo, not shown, from New London, presenting her idea for Socially Acceptid, a social media strategist/content creator. People developing their ideas for a business participated in the free 10-week Entrepreneur Academy held by the Chamber during the summer. (Dana Jensen/Today) Buy photo prints

NEW LONDON – Gary St. Phil is an engineer who entered the Academy of Entrepreneurs with the idea of ​​starting a group home but finished a plan for a chef’s table in which one chef and one waiter would serve 16 people at one seat per night.

It’s called Bon Vivant Fine Cuisine.

While this “sounds like a hub,” the Lydiard resident said, it’s really about following another passion, and realizing through guidance that an idea he didn’t think was viable could be.

“They really flocked to me more than I could ever imagine,” St. Phil said of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and its Entrepreneur Academy partners. He said the course was like “drinking from a fire hose,” but he goes back and reviews the information from each class.

Earlier this summer, the Chamber launched the 8-week Entrepreneur Academy, a no-cost weekly meeting program for participants, who range from aspiring business owners like St. Phil to people with established businesses, like Lashes by Lee and Progression Training.

On Friday night, the Chamber held a busy, trade fair-style “demo day” at the Thames Club, where about 15 participants presented their business and plans to other entrepreneurs, potential investors and community members.

Attendees can vote for their favorite project, and the top three receive cash prizes.

Kristen Colos said she and her husband, Tim, started out “everywhere” but ended up with T&C Recycling & Cleanouts, a waste and debris removal company, and the Norwich couple plan to register the company soon. Kristen is a social worker with Safe Futures while Tim is a self-employed handyman and “jack of all trades” who actually recycles scrap metal on the side.

On the other end of the spectrum is Tai Au, who actually owns three companies: Pink Basil and Samurai Noodle Bar in Mystic, and Spice Club in Niantic. But it plans to launch a new venture next year, one that provides 100% vegetarian meal kits.

Au said she joined the Entrepreneur Academy because she loves to improve her knowledge and learning, and she wanted more information about who to contact if she needed more investment.

At the height of the epidemic, Demetria Young of Groton launched Potakop, selling herbal teas and natural products, and began making elderberry gums to boost her daughter’s immune system.

The demo day has drawn in other business owners, such as Felicia Stevens, who earlier this year closed the nearby art studio The Drunken Palette after 12 years in business — the pandemic has dealt one blow after another — but opened Green Ribbon Counselling last month.

“We should always support local businesses and entrepreneurs,” Stevens said. She offered tips to budding entrepreneurs from her experience, and noted that public speaking is one of the things people can work on.

Other attendees included Paul Lavoie, the state’s chief manufacturing officer, and Paul Whitescarver, CEO of Southeastern Connecticut for Enterprise.

Lavoie noted that new business start-ups have increased by 400% since the pandemic, as people are focusing more on what they are passionate about, and that his team is working with CTNext to help entrepreneurs transition from “handkerchief to marketing.” Whitescarver said SeCTer is participating in the Connecticut Small Business Boost Low-Interest Loan Fund and will soon launch a grant program for entrepreneurs.

Mayor Michael Passero also welcomed the participants. Chamber President Tony Sheridan said Friday that the beta program has about 42 original sign-ups and about 17 people that have stuck with it for eight weeks.

Sheridan said earlier this summer that the goal of the program is to prevent companies from failing, and the idea going forward is for the Entrepreneur Academy to continue working at the Thames Innovation Center, the room’s futuristic home in New London.

The Entrepreneur Academy coordinator was Rosemary Ostfield, professor at Wesleyan University and founder of the startup Healthy PlanEat.

The group met weekly at the New London Public Library, where each session included a presentation on topics such as defining a target market, accessing capital, pitching an idea – and a discussion with a local business owner.

Teachers included people from the SCORE regional chapter, Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council, and CTNext, while people from Ivy’s Simply Homemade, Flock Theater and Waterford Hotel Group were among those who shared their experiences.


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