Support network keeps entrepreneurs moving forward
Posted: 06/17/2012 at 1:15 am
Editor's note: This is the third in a series of six columns about the Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth, a private-sector initiative to drive regional growth.
Entrepreneurship is a buzzword nationally, but in our region, it is the path to long-term growth and sustainability. Regional leaders commissioned a Regional Entrepreneurial Action Plan to provide new support services and capital to entrepreneurs through Elevate Ventures, a venture development organization. The Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth a supporter of the plan, recently sat down to discuss our region and the new program with entrepreneurs of two Life Science companies: Steven Ruggerio and Carol Tanner, founders of LightSprite, South Bend; and Marlene Mulero-Betances, president and CEO of Enpak, Warsaw.
CPEG: Give us a quick snapshot of your company.
Ruggerio/Tanner: “LightSprite LLC, with offices inside Innovation Park at Notre Dame, was founded by the inventors of a new nanoparticle analysis platform. Based on Laser Transmission Spectroscopy (patent pending), the LightSprite instrument has been proven to identify and quantify species-specific DNA in the environment, and has the potential to identify a broad range of human pathogens including viruses and bacteria. There is also the potential to identify unique optical properties of medically important cells, like cancer cells.”
Mulero-Betances: “EnPak LLC provides critical repackaging, labeling and secondary product market logistics to the orthopedic industry. It was formed in January 2011 to meet a need that is not available locally and create jobs.”
CPEG: What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Ruggerio/Tanner: “Finding the right people to join the team — people who we feel will move the company forward in a profitable direction, and have creative ideas about bringing a product to the marketplace.”
Mulero-Betances: “There is a lot of transition in the orthopedics industry right now. Getting companies in our target market to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves is critical.”
CPEG: The region is piloting new services through Elevate Ventures. How has Elevate assisted you?
Ruggerio/Tanner: “Elevate has discussed options for matching resources from other investors. Elevate has also put us in contact with local entrepreneurs who can provide advice.”
Mulero-Betances: “Elevate Ventures has provided us with guidance and an adviser that is a wonderful sounding board, coach and teacher. The organization has also helped with growing our network and visibility.”
CPEG: Have you had any funding success?
Ruggerio/Tanner: “We are in the final stages of loan negotiations with the city of South Bend's Industrial Revolving Fund. This will provide the company with operating funds for several months to get it up and running.”
Mulero-Betances: “We participated in a pitch presentation hosted by Elevate Ventures at Innovation Park at Notre Dame. It gave us good exposure to potential investors and possible leads for funding that will require our follow-up.”
CPEG: What does the immediate future look like for you?
Ruggerio/Tanner: “We will be constructing a company-owned prototype and plan to start a nanoparticle testing service. This will allow us to better define the markets, customers and product specifications for our instrument. Continued work in the environmental sector with environmental DNA analysis is moving forward.”
Mulero-Betances: “Enpak is at a critical phase in its development. We need to secure additional customers in the next few months to gain greater market adoption and to take us to the next level.”
CPEG: Why did you choose this region for your start-up?
Ruggerio/Tanner: “Its proximity to the University of Notre Dame, where we are full-time professors of physics.”
Mulero-Betances: “Warsaw is the orthopedics capital of the world. Our team's expertise is in orthopedics and the industry is Enpak's target market. It makes complete sense for us to be in this region.”
To learn more about these innovative companies, visit www.lightsprite.com and www.enpakllc.com
Next week CPEG will discuss the role of Angel investors in entrepreneurship.
Shawn Peterson is president and CEO of the Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth.
CPEG encourages the community to step up in support of our region's inspiring innovators. While current contributions are being utilized, to maintain Elevate Venture's services the region must raise an additional $1 million, which will be matched by $5 million from national and state sources. To learn more visit www.cpeg.org.