By Roger Morris
Special to Delaware Business Times
A prominent Delaware business incubator has just experienced its own growth spurt by moving into new quarters and hiring a new manager to run it.
The Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC), which is a part of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, is marking its first decade of operation with expanded business space at the Chamber’s new headquarters at 290 Justison St. in Wilmington’s Riverfront district with Dora Cheatham as its new program manager.
“The chamber is very excited about our new location on the Riverfront,” said Mark Kleinschmidt, chamber president. “It also gives us an opportunity to expand the Emerging Enterprise Center. We now have fully furnished offices with phone, internet and access to office equipment and other valuable support services.”
“We’re now more centralized, more visible and easier to get to,” Cheatham added after her first day on the job, June 26.
Previously, the EEC had been located on Penns Way near New Castle, and Cheatham had previously been associated with the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA).
When the EEC was established in 2008, it became the only small business incubator in Delaware and had a goal to create jobs in New Castle County and Delaware by nurturing a strong entrepreneurial community.
Almost 10 years later, Cheatham reports that 31 new companies have “graduated” as businesses in residence from the EEC. They have created 153 full-time jobs and about $43 million in revenue. Currently, eight small businesses are working within the EEC incubator.
Delaware now has several entrepreneurial organizations and programs, and Cheatham said that the EEC has carved out its own niche within all these activities — working with small companies with products or services to sell that have recently launched but which need help in keeping aloft.
“After being in business for a year or two, they realize that there’s more to running a company than just having a product,” Cheatham said. “This is where EEC steps in, offering both office space and a business education.”
Part of the need for EEC is that many small businesses open their doors with only a partial business plan, concentrating primarily on what the owners know best or like to do most like product development, sales or customer relations.
“What I bring to the EEC is a background in marketing and business development,” said Cheatham, who has degrees from the University of London and spent almost 20 years with Celeste Industries in various capacities. “I ask, how can I help them grow? How can I help market their businesses?”
Typically, businesses which need such help come to the EEC after their first year or two. They go through an application process and a review of their business plans, then EEC determines if there is a “fit” between the two. Some don’t need office space, just business education. “We have virtual programs with them and a floating office available,” Cheatham notes.
Recent start-ups that joined EEC include Innovo Distribution, Delivery Circle, Extreme Scale Solutions and Paul Davis Emergency Services. One firm, Ross Capital Partners, graduated last November and now has an office in Pike Creek.
One of EEC’s primary education programs is the annual “Swim with the Sharks” video pitch competition, which has been expanded to include workshops on using video to market their businesses and how to effectively pitch their businesses.
EEC is supported by several sponsorships from mature businesses, which lend support with various programs, and Cheatham said she wants to continue to expand.