The Entrepreneur Academy showcases new business ventures

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Pawel Lotkowski, of Norwich, centre, with Ingrid Cramp, left, with Shoreline Film Group in Waterford, talks about his business idea for EuroDetailing, a professional car, his girlfriend Nicole McDermott of Norwich looks on. Showcase Day” event hosted by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Those developing business ideas participated in the Chamber’s 10-week Entrepreneur Academy over the summer. (Dana Jensen/The Day) Buy photo reprints

Gary St. Ville, of Norwich, center, talks with Wendy Vincent, left, of the Women’s Business Development Council, and her son Harrison, Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, about his idea for Bon Vivant, a fine dining experience. “Showcase Day” event hosted by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Saint-Ville shared a display table with Angela Angulo of New London, an unseen, New London-based, socially acceptable, social media strategist/content creator who was pitching her ideas. Those developing their business ideas participated in the Chamber’s 10-week Entrepreneur Academy over the summer. (Dana Jensen/The Day) Buy photo reprints

NEW LONDON – Gary St. Ville is an engineer who entered the Entrepreneur Academy with an idea for a group home, but ended up with a plan for a chef’s table where one chef and one sommelier could serve 16 people per night.

Bon vivant is called fine dining.

The Ledyard resident said this “seems like a pivot, but it’s really following another passion, and understanding that it might be an idea that he didn’t think would work.”

“They’ve invested much earlier than I could have imagined,” St. Ville said of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and its Entrepreneur Academy partners. He says the course is like “drinking a fire hose,” but he’s going back and reviewing information from each class.

The class earlier this summer launched an 8-week Entrepreneur Academy program that meets weekly at no cost to participants, who range from business owners like Saint-Ville to people who own established businesses such as Lashes by Lee and Progression Training.

On Friday evening, the council hosted a busy trade show-style “show day” at the Thames Club, where about 15 participants showcased their businesses and plans to other businesspeople, investors and community members.

Participants can vote on their favorite work, and the top three get cash prizes.

Christine Kulos said she and her husband Tim started “all over the place” but ended up with T&C Recycling and Clearouts, a rubbish and waste removal business, and the Norwich couple plan to register the business soon. Christine is a social worker with Safe Future, while Tim is self-employed and a “jack of all trades” doing metal recycling on the side.

At the other end of the spectrum is Tai Au, which already owns three businesses: Rose Basil and Samurai Noodle Bar in Mystic and Spice Club in Niantic. But she plans to launch a new business next year that will offer 100% plant-based meal kits.

Au said she joined the Entrepreneur Academy because she likes to improve her knowledge and learn, and she wants more information on who to contact if she needs more investment.

Demetria Young of Groton, who sells Buttacup’s herbal teas and natural products, started making elder gum to boost her high-risk daughter’s immune system during the outbreak.

Show Day has attracted other business owners, such as Felicia Stevens, who closed Drunk Palt Art Studio next door earlier this year after 12 years in business — after the pandemic hit — but opened Green Ribbon Consulting last month.

“We should always support local businesses and entrepreneurs,” Stevens said. She gives advice to budding entrepreneurs from her experience and explains that public speaking is something people can do.

Other attendees included Paul Lavoie, the state’s chief manufacturing officer, and Paul Whitescarver, executive director of the Southeast Connecticut Enterprise Region.

Since the pandemic, new businesses have increased 400 percent as people focus more on what they love, and the group is working with CTNXT to help entrepreneurs move from “napkin to commercialization,” Lavoie said. Whitescarver said Secytir is participating in the Connecticut Small Business Development Fund’s low-interest loans and will soon launch a grant program for entrepreneurs.

Mayor Michael Passero welcomed the participants. Council President Tony Sheridan said Friday that the pilot program had about 42 initial sign-ups and about 17 people had stuck with it for eight weeks.

Sheridan said earlier this summer that the program’s goal is to prevent businesses from failing, and the idea going forward is to keep the entrepreneurship academy operating at the Thames River Innovation Center, the chamber’s future home in New London.

The coordinator of the Entrepreneur Academy was Rosemary Ostfeld, Wesleyan University professor and founder of startup Healthy Plan It.

The group met weekly at the New London Public Library, with each session featuring a presentation on topics such as target market identification, access to capital, and idea generation—and a discussion with a local business owner.

The instructors included people from SCORE, the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council and CTNext State Chapter, and people from Ivy Simply Homemade, Flock Theater and the Waterford Hotel Group were among those who shared their experiences.

e.moser@theday.com



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