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Making Business Dreams a Reality

December 2013

Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge

“I’ve got this idea for a business. It’s nothing really … well, maybe it is.”

If your inner dialogue sounds as indecisive as the speaker quoted here, it sounds like you need to enroll in Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge, an entry point for anyone who thinks they may want to start a business.

Go to the Harford County Public Library website (www.hcplonline.org) and click on the Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge icon. Yes, now. We’re waiting … there. You’ve taken a first step to making your business dream a reality.

The GroundFloor is one of the resources entrepreneurs can tap into at Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge.

The GroundFloor is one of the resources entrepreneurs can tap into at Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge.

Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge is a cooperative program that pools resources offered by HCPL, the Office of Economic Development, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Harford Community College, the Small Business Technology Development Center, the Harford Business Innovation Center and The GroundFloor into a one-stop-shop.

By enrolling in Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge, you tap into a plethora of resources designed to inspire, develop and empower aspiring entrepreneurs. Members receive emails about cutting edge training offered by program partners, as well as information about breakout groups available for potential business owners ready to take action.

“Every entrepreneur is different; they need something different,” says Jim Richardson, director of the Harford County’s OED. “In Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge, we bring together people to help potential entrepreneurs find their way through the process and give them the support entrepreneurs need. At first it’s moral support. Then it becomes writing business plans, finding financing, getting office space and securing contracts.”

Organizing partners hope Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge will foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem similar to those found in California’s Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

While on executive mission trips organized by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Richardson experienced what he feels is missing on the East Coast: an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“I saw detailed processes to get start-up companies into business,” he says. “Once they are on the radar, there is a pipeline. The energy we saw by people already in business and people looking to be in business … it’s unique.”

The next step aspiring entrepreneurs should take is to visit The GroundFloor, a community-driven workspace and collaboration center for technology entrepreneurs, freelance developers and startup businesses. Eva Hanley, The GroundFloor greeter and administrative assistant extraordinaire for the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, describes the space as having “a Seattle techie hipster feel.”

The GroundFloor is in a storefront at 2021 Pulaski Hwy., Havre de Grace. For as little at $40 per month, aspiring technology entrepreneurs have access to professional work and meeting space where the entrepreneurs of tomorrow mingle with each other as well as with the carefully-selected permanent residents of The GroundFloor: web design company E-Moxie, the OED’s CSSC staff and System Source, a Hunt Valley based company known for tech training.

Richardson points to RTR Technologies, LLC, as a success story the partners hope to emulate. In a few years, Randy Rippin, Reed Rippin and Earl Thies have grown the company from three friends with a dream into a well-respected, 25-employee company.

Randy Rippin tackles the misconception that The GroundFloor is a second business incubator, a sister site of the HBIC sponsored and managed by the OED.

“The more time you spend with people of like mind, the more you help each other. Location is important: it’s well lit for late access, there’s a coffee shop and a 24-hour gym,” Randy Rippin says. “The incubator is a 9-5 office.”

He adds, “We moved from our homes to the OED’s original incubator at the HEAT Center, and it was a big leap. The GroundFloor is a baby incubator. It gets you out of your basement. When you have an employee or two and need more of a presence, then you’d move to the HBIC.”

HBIC, OED’s Belcamp-based incubator, provides office and conference facilities for 12-15 companies as well as flexible support services that include training and mentoring in business planning, networking, strategic teaming, marketing, technical development, product development, legal issues and federal contract accounting. These services are available to residents and non-residents, including members of Harford’s Entrepreneurs Edge. I95

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