Ten Delaware small businesses — six of them women-owned businesses — received EDGE grants totaling $748,000 from the Delaware Division of Small Business that will allow them to accelerate growth plans, rent additional space, and improve or expand marketing plans.
The state moved quickly to select the winners after announcing the program in May, even with application volume that was triple the number Division Director Damian DeStefano thought they’d receive in the first round.
“Our original goal was to get 50 applications and have a six-week review period,” DeStefano said. “We received 140 — each one with 20-30 pages of information — and my team still got them all reviewed in that time period.”
The state broke the applicants into two groups — a STEM (Sciencescience, Technologytechnology, Engineeringengineering, and Matchmath) class and an Entrepreneur class that helped expand the applicant pool. Eight finalists were selected for the two categories, and five winners were selected for each class after public presentations before a panel of judges chaired by long-time civic leader Fred Sears in mid-August at DelTech in Dover.
The applicants were judged on a 100-point scale, with five 5 points available for businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, and disabled people and an additional five 5 points for business owners who planned to open in targeted development zones.
“Forty percent of the decisions that companies considering a move to Delaware is based on the quality and availability of our workforce, and young people want a place with cool stuff to do.,” DeStefano said.
Members of the STEM class can receive grants up to $100,000, while the Entrepreneur class can receive grants for up to $50,000. EDGE (Encouraging encouraging Developmentdevelopment, Growth growth and e& Expansion) Grants provide a 3-to-1 match for each dollar an eligible business invests on qualified expenses that improve the company’s long-term chances of success.
Bill Provine of the Delaware Innovation Space was at the presentation to celebrate with two of his tenants
who received grants.
“The goal here is to help them graduate, grow, and help them open elsewhere,” Provine said. “These EDGE grants will help them do that.”
Gov. John Carney said the Small Business sector is now a major driver of job growth and business development in Delaware, noting that larger businesses historically filled that role but it’s no longer the case. He said the creation of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to attract and retain Delaware businesses and the creation of the Division of Small Business both have made a big difference.
“I kept being asked, ‘What are you doing for small business?’ and my answer is creating an environment where business can be successful, a friendly business climate, and creating incentives like this program to support entrepreneurship” Carney said, comparing the EDGE grant program to the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program.
DeStefano said he was surprised by the diversity of applicants and business ideas.
“Frankly, “I’d never heard of some of them,” he said, noting that much of his job involves traveling the state and talking to small businesses. “They’ve had their heads down building companies with great ideas. Businesses need money to turn ideas into reality.”
DDSB began accepting applications for the second round of EDGE Grants on Sept. 18 and DeStefano expects more applications this time from applicants who did not receive grants during the first round, from more downstate businesses, and from people who see that businesses like theirs got funding.
The organization took feedback from the first round and while it’s keeping the application simple, it has made it feel less like a form and added a bit more structure to the scoring rubric that was provided to would-be applicants.
“We’ve added a tip sheet because applicants wanted some direction so they would know if they were writing too much or too little and if they were addressing what we were looking for, DeStefano said, adding that his team’s business resource managers act as coaches during the process and after to help them strengthen their applications.
The deadline to apply for Round 2 is Oct. 11, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.