Valuable Services Help Entrepreneurs Thrive
Consider this: The only direction to go from the ground floor is up. Speed and trajectory are the variables. So it is with a start-up venture. Every entrepreneur starts on the ground floor. With the right support, resources and hard work, that business may either catapult to success or inch its way to the top, but it has every chance of flourishing.
Welcome to The GroundFloor. It’s Harford County’s launch pad for entrepreneurs and business start-ups, and it’s full of expertise, information, mentors and success stories. Jack Schammel, chairman of the board for The GroundFloor, says the organization will lead the efforts for Harford County’s business incubator. The GroundFloor is a compilation of all levels of support for fledgling businesses, including Harford’s Business Edge (HBE) and Harford Business Innovation Center (HBIC), with all its resources under one roof – literally and figuratively.
While Schammel says The GroundFloor still occupies the original physical space at 2021 Pulaski Highway in Havre de Grace, The GroundFloor has become more than just a workspace. It has become the premise of the entire support program. “The GroundFloor name conveys energy and has helped the incubator program get a fresh start,” says Schammel. “We have a new team of entrepreneurs serving on our board, and we are matching our support programs to the developmental stage of each start-up.”
Schammel says these are people who have successfully launched their own businesses and who are active participants in the entrepreneur community. “We’re here to achieve the right balance for the start-up ecosystem,” Schammel notes.
The board members include vice chairman Chris Stone of E-Moxie, a web and mobile application development firm; Rob Ward, owner of Pendant Automation, (Schammel says Rob realizes the value of a support structure, because he built his company without one); PJ Chambers of Web IXI, a website development company; Jose Rosado of The Angry Millennial Podcast, a digital marketing company; Alex Kutsishin of Agency Human, a digital communication and marketing firm; and Mike Geppi, founder of cybersecurity company Integrata.
“These people have driven the plans behind The GroundFloor,” Schammel says. “They are seasoned entrepreneurs who are also valuable mentors.”
In addition to the interaction with those successful entrepreneurs, Schammel says The GroundFloor will give potential business owners access to organizations that are important components of the support infrastructure. These include Northeastern Maryland Technology Council (NMTC), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Harford Community College (HCC), the Harford County Public Library (HCPL) and the Harford County Chamber of Commerce.
Eighty percent of the Chamber of Commerce members are firms with less than 25 employees. The county estimates that 90 percent of the businesses in the county staff less than 75 people. More small businesses are waiting to happen. The GroundFloor offers the gateway to resources for start-up businesses regardless of their development stage. Ideally, entrepreneurs will seek out The GroundFloor at the idea stage, but even if they are further into development, Schammel says they will find valuable services.
The organization has also established a scholarship fund for the Young Entrepreneur Academy, to be given to deserving students each year. The GroundFloor is sponsoring two local events: Shark Tank Susquehanna, a competition for area entrepreneurs, where contestants vie for a cash and services prize package by presenting their business plans to local business experts, and Start-Up Maryland, an opportunity to present plans to angel investors.
Schammel says The GroundFloor aspires to become one of the sought-after premiere incubators in the area. “We have the infrastructure and the location to do it, and now we have the foundation for an amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem.” I95