Harford's Business Edge
Producing successful entrepreneurs is a business in itself. That’s just the business Harford’s Business Edge wants.
A recently launched not-for-profit organization, Harford’s Business Edge (HBE) is working with the Harford County Office of Economic Development (OED) and other local entities to capitalize on resources available for budding entrepreneurs. “We are a portal for start-up businesses,” says Jack Schammel, chairman of the Board of Directors of HBE. “We want to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Harford County with an emphasis on finding the right combination of proponent services to help start-ups succeed.”
Entrepreneurs can significantly stimulate economic activity as they use local goods and services and produce jobs, but it’s a long road from concept to company, Schammel acknowledges. “These people are taking a big risk in becoming entrepreneurs,” he says. “They are stepping out of key, full-time positions, putting their homes and savings on the line. We want to find ways to help them pursue their passion and make good decisions.”
OED Director Karen Holt notes, “Harford’s Business Edge strengthens the network of supports for local entrepreneurs. With government, non-profit and private sector focused collectively on start-up opportunities, it’s a sustainable model for growing business. We have the strong support of County Executive Barry Glassman and his administration in encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in Harford County.”
While HBE can get involved at any stage of a company’s development, it is most beneficial for the entrepreneur to contact them at the first spark of an idea. Schammel explains, “We have the free resources and cost-effective facility space, as well as leadership, mentorship and experience among our Board of Directors.” HBE Board members are seasoned executives from large and small companies, non-profits and successful entrepreneurial start-ups.
The OED facilities include The Ground Floor at 2021 Pulaski Highway, a shared workspace designed for collaboration and facilitation. More established businesses can take space at OED’s Harford Business Innovation Center (HBIC), and enjoy all the benefits of an office environment, including meeting space, closed-door offices, phone lines and more.
BUSINESS TOOLS available to entrepreneurs and small businesses through Harford’s Business Edge, the Harford County Office of Economic Development and its partners include the following upcoming events:
Turning Dreams into $$$$ Speaker Series – NMTC presents three more events for start-ups with information from business mentors and leaders:
How to Develop your Own Web Site – Presented by Adam Romanik, computer programmer, this three-part consecutive series will guide entrepreneurs in the basics of website creation.
Going Global Safely – How to Comply with U.S. Export Controls – Presented by Ira Hoffman, instructor, Export Controls at the Public Contracting Institute. April 19
Shark Tank Susquehanna – Hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to “The Sharks.” Grand prize: $5,000 value package from HBE. April 21
Harford Awards – Honoring the growth and success of Harford County businesses; Nominations due April 29; Awards September 22.
Additional information on all events can be found at
Together with the existing resources in the County, HBE can provide support services for new businesses, says John Sullivan, business navigator between the Office of Economic Development and HBE. Sullivan is often a valuable first point of contact for entrepreneurs. He guides them to partners who can help with various stages of business: the Northeastern Maryland Technology Council (NMTC), Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC), the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Harford Community College (HCC) and the Harford County Public Library (HCPL). Working with these entities, Sullivan and his team create educational programs designed to give would-be entrepreneurs easy access to the services they need to take the next steps. One is a five-week speaker’s series for inventors called, “Turning Dreams into $$$$,” featuring various business topics presented by area experts.
Sullivan points out that while there are many technology patents held by local inventors, entrepreneurism is not only about developing a product or service – it’s about the whole process. Experienced business owners provide valuable insight into everything from funding to marketing. HBE recently hosted a startup seminar for people interested in the brewery/winery/distillery market, featuring Kevin Atticks, the founder of Grow & Fortify and the executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, Maryland Wineries Association and the Maryland Distillers Guild. “This event was one of the many things we do to provide education for entrepreneurs, through business owners who are already successful,” Sullivan says.
He emphasizes the value of mentors for HBE members. “We want to identify successful entrepreneurs who can be mentors. People who have been through the process can relate to the challenges of a start-up company and provide valuable insight,” he explains.
Schammel knows that HBE will be in demand both because of the innate enthusiasm of entrepreneurs and the strong business resources available. “Entrepreneurs are passionate about their ideas, but in many cases they don’t know where to turn,” Schammel says. “HBE is a place where they can get advice from a new network of people and have access to as many tools as possible.” The Board’s five-year plan is to have several graduates from the program who are well on their way to becoming full-time executives.
Vice chairman of the HBE Board, Chris Stone, says another goal is for HBIC to be sought out as one of the premiere incubators in the region. “We look at best practices of incubators in New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and although these are all in urban areas, we know we have the resources to do it here in Harford County,” Stone says. “Our location is key, because we have easy access to all the urban areas.” Stone is one of the founders of E-Moxie, a web and mobile application development company that utilized the GroundFloor workspace and many of the partnerships available through HBE and OED.
Jared Marmen, the first HBE member in the HBIC space, is destined to be its first graduate. Marmen left a high-powered job as an electrical engineer in government contracting to pursue his passion: pets. Marmen’s company, Barttron, Inc., is working on its patented idea, the Chord Collar, a wearable training system for dogs and cats that uses mobile and sensor technology as well as vibration and haptic feedback. Marmen’s desk is crowded with prototype collars and tiny circuit boards. He has a staff of nine people from all over the globe helping him with development, engineering technology, accounting and computer IT needs. As his company forges forward with testing and development, plans for local tooling, manufacturing and warehousing are on the horizon.
“HBE has been great for ideas and support and they’ve offered so much advice,” Marmen says. “The ability to have professionals around to rely on and the opportunity they’ve presented for partnerships has really helped us grow.”
Schammel says the biggest challenge for HBE is attracting the entrepreneurs. One of the solutions: a Shark Tank Susquehanna competition for Harford and Cecil County entrepreneurs. The April 21 event invites entrepreneurs to present their business plans to “the sharks” and receive valuable feedback from business experts. The grand prize for the best plan is a $5,000 package from HBE.
“We are a business and our product is successful entrepreneurs who will produce jobs and economic activity,” Schammel notes. “We work with all types of companies at all stages of the development process. We want them to know we’re here. We’re open. We’re ready to help your business.”
To learn more about HBE, contact John Sullivan at 410-638-2525. I95