Entrepreneurship

Think Like a VC

The television show Silicon Valley is at times irreverent and occasionally hyperbolic in its depictions of startups and venture capital investors. Despite this (or perhaps because of the hilarious parody), the show has been a great way to introduce outsiders to a side of the business that can feel very foreign to those that have […]

The television show Silicon Valley is at times irreverent and occasionally hyperbolic in its depictions of startups and venture capital investors.

Despite this (or perhaps because of the hilarious parody), the show has been a great way to introduce outsiders to a side of the business that can feel very foreign to those that have spent their careers in large corporations.
Why try to understand the world of venture capital investing? Because the mindset of a venture capital investor (VC) can provide some new perspectives no matter what size or stage of your organization.  Here are just a few ways you can think like a VC:

1.    “Bet on the jockey; not the horse.”
This cliche may be overused, but the sentiment is still key to the investment philosophy of most VCs. In the context of a startup, investors care more about the strength of a team than the product or the business model. Does the team bring a diverse skill set that includes both business and technical talents?  Is the CEO a charismatic leader that will inspire early customers to take a chance on an unproven product? Is this the team that will be able to overcome the multiple hurdles faster than others to be the first to market?
Larger organizations could benefit from spending more time thinking about their teams. Are the right teams assigned to the right projects? Are teams diverse enough? Are employees asked to lead teams able to inspire others with their own passions?  Are teams incentivized to move quickly?

2.    “Be wrong more than you are right.”
VCs are comfortable with knowing that they’ll be wrong a majority of the time.  Instead of over-analyzing each opportunity to try to predict success or failure and only investing in the lowest risk propositions, VCs use a portfolio approach to balance risk.  By starting with a number of relatively small bets in a number of startups, VCs are able to watch startups progress over time and continue to invest in those that continue to hit milestones and show promise.

Instead of approving a few large projects, larger organizations would be well served by starting with a larger number of smaller investments. In addition to diversifying risk, this approach helps avoid the dreaded “zombie” project. Most companies have a few of these lurking in the corridors.  A team will continue to work on a “zombie” projects despite extremely strong signal that they will not be successful simply because the project is still being funded.  By breaking up the budget into smaller investments, all projects need to reapply for additional funding, and only those that deliver against measurable metrics survive.

3.    “More is always better.”
As mentioned above, VCs know that they’ll be wrong.  But they don’t have to like it. Most track their “anti-portfolios”: a list of startups that they considered but decided not to invest in for one reason or another.  And that list often includes startups that have gone on to be considerable successes.
As a result, most VCs suffer from fear of missing out on the next big thing.  As such, VCs typically can’t get enough deal flow: investor lingo for a continuous influx of new ideas and opportunities. VCs know that, while they can’t guarantee that they won’t pass on an opportunity that is eventually successful, they certainly can’t invest in it if they don’t see it.

Adopting this approach at a larger organization can be transformative.  For an organization to adopt a portfolio approach, an organization must first evaluate a much larger pool of concepts than are typically considered during a traditional corporate funding process.  Many organizations will host hackathons, hold calls for innovative proposals, and talk to a much broader cross-section of employees to discover new opportunities. As a result, employees feel like their ideas are heard and are more invested in the organization.

These are just a few ways that thinking like a VC can change your approach to innovation within a larger organization. One other tenet that VCs embrace? Learning from failure.  So give some of these ideas a try.  If it doesn’t work perfectly at first, consider what you’ve learned and iterate. Now you are thinking like a VC!

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Lessons in Incubating Innovation

With more than 30 years owning and managing our incubator, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) was one of the pioneers of business incubation in the United States. Business incubators provide crucial support to entrepreneurs and early-stage firms when they are most vulnerable. The support provided can sometimes mean the difference between […]

With more than 30 years owning and managing our incubator, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) was one of the pioneers of business incubation in the United States. Business incubators provide crucial support to entrepreneurs and early-stage firms when they are most vulnerable. The support provided can sometimes mean the difference between the companies’ prosperity and failure.

Our staff has significant experience and success in nurturing young firms in an incubator. We have received the Incubator of the Year Award twice from the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA). We lead the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network, which began in the early 1990s. Since then it has grown to 15 member incubators throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is among the largest business incubator networks in the nation.

I have managed BFTP/NEP’s Ben Franklin TechVentures® for more than 15 years. Before that, I managed the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, an Allentown-based business incubator and a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. Over more than two decades in the industry, I’ve learned some lessons in business incubation.

  1. There are no lessons.
    The word “lessons” implies steadfast rules that always apply. There are no such lessons in entrepreneurship. Instead, what you have are more like “gut-informing experiences” that need to be applied by founders to ever-changing situations and moments of decision-making.
  2. It’s about people, not things.
    You can set a chemical reaction into motion time and time again and get the same results. But selling and hiring and negotiating and purchasing do not occur in such a controlled environment. Entrepreneurship is all about the uncontrolled environment of people, and people do not behave like things.
  3. All great ventures begin with a problem.
    Invention happens to products and innovation happens to people. Entrepreneurs are people who first identify groups of people who have a common problem and then seek to invent products that can solve those problems, not vice-versa.
  4. Markets in your windshield are farther away than they appear.
    When the public becomes aware of a fascinating new technology, and it’s receiving lots of investment capital, it’s easy for entrepreneurs to get very excited. But actual market penetration among the people who are buying at that point may be extremely slight.
  5. All great ventures begin with one.
    There are many “Yee-Ha” moments in entrepreneurship: “The prototype is done,” “We closed on our first investor,” “The patent is issued,” etc. But the most important one by far is “We signed our first customer!”
  6. Your glass is full.
    An entrepreneur’s glass is neither half full nor half empty. It is completely and totally full, and it is full of two things: luck and risk. An entrepreneur is one who is keenly able to and systematically seeks to eliminate bad bits of risk in a venture.
  7. Your corporate DNA evolves with every person you hire.
    If you’re the founder, you hire the next person, and then you and that person probably hire the third person, and so on. But at some point, in the growth of the company, the founder might not make the final hiring decision.  The evolving culture of the founder still has an impact on hiring choices, though. Even after the founder is gone, there is a genetic culture that creates the core of the corporate culture.
  8. Don’t live in Dilbert’s World.
    In the Dilbert cartoon series, the sales people are often portrayed as “dolts.” Technically brilliant and technically trained people, who lead many early-stage tech companies, often do not like making sales calls. But entrepreneurs cannot live in Dilbert’s World. Without sales people, they might end up with an expensive hobby rather than a successful venture.
  9. Probe, probe, probe.
    Many founders stay inside their business, reluctant to talk with potential customers or competitors or suppliers for fear of revealing too much. This is an enormous mistake! Entrepreneurs should probe, communicate, and understand both partners and competitors.
  10. Commit Like a Pig.
    At the beginning of every venture, entrepreneurs have a lot of excitement and confidence. But then the going gets tough. A founder needs to be committed to and not just involved in the company. We call this “commit like a pig” because, in a bacon and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

Business incubation provides a venue, setting, and culture that have become essential components of the entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Business incubators fuel innovation, catalyze the regional technology economy and create the jobs of the future.

Full blog posts on Lessons in Incubating Innovation are at KeystoneEdge.com. Wayne Barz can be followed @TechonomicMan on Twitter.

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Inspiration in the Face of Adversity

An Interview with Stephanie Stevens,  Owner of Bell Gate Farm When faced with challenges or difficulties people are often too willing to give up. It is so much more rewarding to instead, take on the challenge as a call to action to make a significant change in your life. Stephanie Stevens, the CEO, and Owner […]

An Interview with Stephanie Stevens,  Owner of Bell Gate Farm

When faced with challenges or difficulties people are often too willing to give up. It is so much more rewarding to instead, take on the challenge as a call to action to make a significant change in your life.

Stephanie Stevens, the CEO, and Owner of Bell Gate Farm in Coopersburg, PA. has faced more than her fair share of challenges. Dealing with the loss of a parent, the birth of a child, the end of a marriage and moving, all register as the most catastrophic and psychologically emotional challenges in someone’s life. Stephanie experienced them all within a six-month period. The death of her mother, her best friend, and last remaining parent meant she was forced to serve as executrix of the family estate. Stephanie lost her father, Richard F. Stevens, a prominent Lehigh Valley Attorney, at the firm Stevens and Johnson, seven years prior.  She managed all of this as a single parent, without a support system, and a beautiful baby girl to raise.

The epiphany of turning the Bell Gate Farm into a state of the art events center came to her after delivering her Mother’s eulogy. Stephanie had stepped outside to compose herself when she overheard guests talking about the fact that there was no way she would be able to save Bell Gate Farm and its 268 acres of land. She heard people say that she would fail, she was hopeless, and it would be a tragedy to lose the land. At the perfect moment, her baby kicked so hard it brought her out of the sabotaging thoughts of others. It was then that the vision to transform a farm into something remarkable came to realization. She envisioned a massive estate renovation while remaining true to its historic Pennsylvania Barn charm, and delivering every amenity possible, with another goal to preserve the other 130 acres of farmland of which were being farmed by the Gehman family, who counted on that land to retain their livelihood.

Take an Inventory of What You Know

Stephanie was reminded of all the tools she had at her disposal.  She brought 16 years of experience working at some of the best marketing firms in the country. Her portfolio included both above the line and below the line advertising as well as traditional advertising and events. The perfect marriage and she was standing outside of a venue that had just been handed to her.

For most of her career, Stephanie was in the production field, which gave her an exciting new twist as an event producer. Her experience producing “Never before done Events” for Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Verizon Wireless, and Microsoft to name a few was extensive. And now she was standing in the most beautiful venue that she could imagine, her family’s home and barn.

Make a Plan and Know Your Goals

It was important to Stephanie to save the land, the house, and provide financial support for her family. Bell Gate Farm served as the perfect backdrop to do just that. And she did! During the renovation process, Stephanie already had 24 clients ready to make memories happen before the scaffolding had even come down. Her vision, design, and flair to make the impossible, possible, brought her dream to life. The idea was simple: create a beautiful venue to hold any type of event, from weddings to corporate retreats to movies under the stars, and do it all at a price point that would fall below the industry’s standard for such occasions. That was the key. Her knowledge of the market and the competitive landscape allowed her to create ideal pricing that would allow clients to have the most amazing times of their life, but without breaking the bank, and that’s unusual in the events industry. She was meticulous and organized but most importantly honest and open with any person who was in a position to help. Her goal is more philanthropic than a profit center, but the catch-22 is that she has to have both.

Be Vocal and Use Your Resources

Stephanie worked in NYC, but when she wasn’t traveling for work, she returned to the Valley and spent time with her parents. She grew up here, and her affinity for this area never waned. Like her parents, Stephanie has always used any resource at her disposal to help others, and she always retained the connections she had in the area. These relationships helped her forge partnerships to get the project off the ground. She was very vocal about her new business and what her mission was.

Be Open Minded

Even the best-laid plans will have their kinks. Stephanie is equipped with every contingency, but the most important takeaway is that no matter what happens in life, you have to keep going and have faith in yourself. Put one foot in front of the other and just move. Everything else will follow.

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Creating Your Own Reality

Entrepreneurship Today Starting your own business is an exciting idea wrought with a multitude of unknowns.  Is it right for me?  What should I consider?  Will everyone understand what I do?  Where do I begin? HAVE A VISION: Back in high school, a friend always told me that he wanted “to be an Entrepreneur,” but […]

Entrepreneurship Today

Starting your own business is an exciting idea wrought with a multitude of unknowns.  Is it right for me?  What should I consider?  Will everyone understand what I do?  Where do I begin?

HAVE A VISION: Back in high school, a friend always told me that he wanted “to be an Entrepreneur,” but never knew what he would do. Maybe he was putting the cart before the horse, but at least he had goals. Before pursuing the dream of being an entrepreneur, take the time to think through your vision. Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, even ten years? Maybe it’s working from home, a single person operation with a small, exclusive clientele list. Perhaps you’re at the helm, with a team carrying out your ingenious strategy. Your vision helps create the framework for a business plan, propels you forward, and keeps you on track to achieve your goal.

BUILD A TEAM: Whether a successful solo-preneur or an owner with employees, any business requires a team. Consider your strengths and more importantly, your weaknesses and build a team that covers your blind spots. Doing everything on your own is impossible. Getting bogged down by bookkeeping or marketing or web design is not the best use of your time if it’s not in your skillset. What takes you a day may take an expert an hour – money well spent!  Additionally, set expectations for your team. Are you a 24/7, text at 11 PM, immediate response kind of person?  Own it!  But decide whether your hires must fit that mold or if you understand boundaries. Empower your team, whether employees or consultants, to be a part of your vision and treat them as partners.

WORK HARD: Remember what I said about 24/7?  Be prepared for long hours, consumed by your efforts and working incredibly hard to reach your goals. Communicate to loved-ones that aspects of your life may, temporarily, suffer but that you will soon settle in a new normal. As a business owner, there are always unforeseen situations at all hours; inevitably, during bath time or when your daughter prom’s date arrives. But ‘luck is the residue of hard work, ‘ and many rewards will outnumber the few heartaches.

TAKE RISKS: Are you wearing a parachute? If you are, you’re not really ready to jump out of the plane. Being in business for yourself, potentially by yourself, is dangerous waters. Ensure that you and your loved ones will be comfortable in the new reality. Explore safeguards that can make risks more “calculated.” Consider various scenarios and be equipped for decisions requiring quick action.  A possible order for 1000 widgets when current output capacity is 300 can be a tricky success.  A well thought out business plan will prepare you for positive and negative situations.

NETWORK: As important as creating your vision, building you team, and working hard are, what good is it if no one knows your product? As an entrepreneur, YOU are your brand.Your widget is outstanding and indispensable, but until the rest of the world figures that out, they need to trust and believe in you. Find groups and councils that will support your growth as an individual, team leader, and community member. Attend seminars, go to lunch and learns, and develop relationships within your region and business communities.  If you are among the most fortunate, you will find a mentor – someone in your corner to challenge and inspire you, help guide decisions and provide emotional support at every stage. The value of a good mentor cannot be overstated.

GIVE BACK: Why are successful businesses usually pillars in the community; because their logo looks good on the nonprofit’s website? Not exactly. An individual who gives time and treasure to charitable causes builds respect in her community, makes the community a better place to live, develops valuable connections, learns new skills, and gains respect as a leader with both current employees and business contacts. Involve your team, and you’ve upped your game, my friend. And that’s as good as money in the bank.

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New Pathways to Doing Good

Collaboration & Social Entrepreneurship in the Lehigh Valley Much has changed in the Lehigh Valley and many other parts of the world as we have moved from the industrial age to the information age.  We can see the physical transformation of the Bethlehem Steel brownfield into a vibrant arts center and casino. As well as […]

Collaboration & Social Entrepreneurship in the Lehigh Valley

Much has changed in the Lehigh Valley and many other parts of the world as we have moved from the industrial age to the information age.  We can see the physical transformation of the Bethlehem Steel brownfield into a vibrant arts center and casino. As well as a struggling downtown Allentown blossoming into a vital business & social center.
Along with these changes in our physical landscape, there have also been some significant shifts in the way we work in our increasingly networked world.  The lines between the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors used to be fairly distinct with some rare exceptions.  In today’s world, we are discovering that it is necessary to work across sectors and other boundaries to share ideas and resources to address some of the more complex social and environmental issues we are facing both locally & globally.

In recent years there have been many groups in the Lehigh Valley exploring how we might be able to collaborate more efficiently across the boundaries that separate us.  The Chamber of Commerce has established a Non-Profit & Business Partners Council.  The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the Rider-Pool Foundation, and others are exploring ways to implement an ecosystem for Collective Impact. It is an innovative, structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy & non-profit sectors.  In many respects, non-profits are becoming more like businesses to sustain themselves and businesses are becoming more like non-profits, addressing social & environmental concerns while still seeking a profit.

Businesses that also want to have a social purpose are now called ‘social enterprises.’  Laws are beginning to change to recognize this type of hybrid organization, and there is now a business structure in about half of the states called the B-Corporation (Benefit Corporation).  Pennsylvania just started recognizing the B-Corp as a legitimate business structure in 2013.  Examples of existing B-Corps include Patagonia, Cabot Creamery, and Seventh Generation.  While it is an aspiration to become a B-Corporation, many small start-up enterprises are also integrating the social & environmental principles of the B-Corp into their business models without actually becoming a B-Corp.
To further support collaboration, more and more ‘co-working’ spaces are being established.  These are areas that provide a flexible workspace, Wi-Fi, and a strong sense of community and collaboration (and usually a beautiful kitchen space with really good coffee).  These spaces offer a great opportunity for networking and are a good alternative to working at home or from a coffee shop.  Companies such as WeWork (over 70 locations globally and capitalized at nearly $20 Billion – v2.wework.com) and the global Impact Hub network (86 locations – impacthub.net) have been leading the way to create beautiful spaces where people want to come to work and build community.

In the past year, the authors of this article and a group of dedicated collaborators established the Lehigh Valley Social Impact Center (LVSIC), a co-working/event/incubator space for social entrepreneurs.  The group is also exploring the possibility of becoming a member of the global Impact Hub network.  The stated mission of the LVSIC is to:

  • Educate, support and provide resources to individuals and organizations seeking entrepreneurial strategies to address social, environmental, and civic issues in the Lehigh Valley.
  • Promote effective collaboration across the nonprofit, for-profit and governmental sectors by offering opportunities for community engagement and training within a co-working environment.
  • Provide an inspirational co-working space for individual & collective work.

LVSIC is located in the Pi (Partnership for Innovation) incubator space at 520 Evans Street in South Bethlehem, just above Cantelmi’s Hardware Store (and just below the Bethlehem Yoga Loft).  The beautiful loft space is open for co-working every weekday from 9am-5pm and offers periodic networking events and workshops to engage and educate social entrepreneurs.  Space is open and free for the public to use for the remainder of 2016.  Check for current events and details at socialimpactlv.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/LVSIC.

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Incubators, Accelerators, and Coworking

Understanding the Key Components of the Lehigh Valley Entrepreneurial Ecosystem It’s hard not to run across the terms incubator, accelerator, or coworking in the popular media channels related to entrepreneurship and innovation, including those right here in the Lehigh Valley. However, all too often people don’t fully understand the differences between the terms or what […]

Understanding the Key Components of the Lehigh Valley Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

It’s hard not to run across the terms incubator, accelerator, or coworking in the popular media channels related to entrepreneurship and innovation, including those right here in the Lehigh Valley. However, all too often people don’t fully understand the differences between the terms or what these types of programs offer startup and early-stage companies.

All of these kinds of programs and spaces have their proper place in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They all play vital roles in bringing people together, fostering business relationships, and advancing the growth and success of small businesses in the community. In fact, the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) recently rebranded itself because it has been serving a wider variety of programs. The organization serves over 2,100 members in more than 60 nations who include the leaders of business incubators, accelerators, university commercialization and entrepreneurship centers, and regional economic development stakeholders focused on building entrepreneurial ecosystems in their communities.

So what are these programs all about?

A business incubator is a program designed to create an environment for the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. Its mission is to produce successful firms that will leave the program financially viable and freestanding. In many cases, there is a physical space where these companies are residing that goes along with the programmatic elements like mentoring, business training, and assistance with funding the growth of the venture. Business incubation programs tend to span several years to allow client companies to reach a point of profitability and self-sustainability before graduating.

In the Lehigh Valley, there are two long-standing business incubation programs: the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in Allentown and Ben Franklin TechVentures located on the Mountaintop Campus of Lehigh University. To an outsider, these may seem like competing programs, but in fact, it is quite the opposite. They are very much partners because they serve two unique audiences – Bridgeworks focusing on manufacturing, and TechVentures focusing on life science and technology companies. Together, these programs have helped launch dozens of companies that have created hundreds of jobs.

Similar in nature but on a much more intensive timeline are business accelerators. These programs typically take place over a three to six month period and come in one of two formats. First, there are accelerator programs that focus on getting companies from idea to marketable product. The goal is to get the team to build the product that’s in their heads while incorporating feedback from potential early customers. Other accelerators focus on getting the company to rapidly grow its customer base and revenues, while again making iterations on the early-stage product based on the feedback from actual customers. In both cases, the accelerator program typically culminates in a “demo day” where a select group of investors and venture capitalists are invited to see the pitches from the companies that will hopefully lead to an investment.

Although there are no accelerator programs located in the Lehigh Valley, just down the road in Philadelphia is DreamIt, one of the top-10 accelerator programs in the nation as ranked by Forbes. DreamIt runs cohorts focused on general technology, health, and education. Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation runs a student idea accelerator each summer called LaunchBayC. It focuses less on starting a business and more on getting students from all disciplines to develop creative problem-solving skills, which are critical to being an entrepreneur or to being a productive team member in a corporation.

Lastly, there are coworking spaces. Born out of dense urban areas like San Francisco and New York City, these are spaces where people can rent a desk on a short-term basis as an alternative to working from home. Coworking spaces come in various shapes and sizes, from strictly desk space like Easton Coworks to spaces with both open desk areas and dedicated offices like SoBeCoWorks in Bethlehem, the Flex Launch & Coworking space located inside the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, and Velocity I>A in Allentown.

There are other spaces around the Lehigh Valley that serve the entrepreneurial community including post-incubator locations like Pi: Partnership for Innovation in Bethlehem. These spaces allow early-stage companies to stay in the region when they no longer require the resources that a true incubator program provides.

All of these entrepreneurial support programs exist to serve the Lehigh Valley startup community. Whether you’re looking for a desk away from your home office or a full-fledged program that provides guidance, mentorship, and potential investment, there is a space and program close by to fit your needs.

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Trials and Tribulations of a Restauranteur

Plenty of people nurture the dream of owning a restaurant. They might envision themselves donning chef whites and presiding over a bustling professional kitchen or serving as the gracious host who welcomes guests and keeps the front of the house running smoothly. As chef de cuisine, I wear both of these hats and many more. […]

Plenty of people nurture the dream of owning a restaurant. They might envision themselves donning chef whites and presiding over a bustling professional kitchen or serving as the gracious host who welcomes guests and keeps the front of the house running smoothly. As chef de cuisine, I wear both of these hats and many more. If you want a successful restaurant – or to be successful in any business – you have to be involved 100%. You need to be one with your business.

Some new restaurateurs approach the business more like a hobby, which is risky behavior in an industry with an alarmingly high failure rate. I met a successful man who started a long-desired restaurant late in life. I asked how it was going and he said to me, ‘Well, I learned how to make a small fortune in this business: You’ve got to start with a big one.’ That is an all too common scenario.

Watching your pocketbook can determine success or failure of a restaurant, whether its food, labor or overall operating costs. From a simple napkin to the finest dried meats or finest aged wine, to a simple candle burning on the table, or a straw on a glass – everything needs to have accountability and a profit margin.

Opening and running a restaurant isn’t just hiring people to work for you. Being a restaurateur means knowing absolutely every aspect of the business. To name just a few – you need to understand how your kitchen operates, how your bar operates, how your wait staff caters to your customers and how a sommelier defines your wine.

A restaurateur’s goal should be to make his guests feel comfortable. Hospitality is very important – coming to your restaurant should be the same as coming to your house. We have to take care of our guests in every way. It’s important to create a relationship with your customers. Always be looking at customer satisfaction.

Naturally, delivering a pleasurable gustatory experience is a primary focus. High-quality ingredients should be the foundation of the menu, which is driven by freshness and seasonality. For example, choose meats that are dry-aged in-house which ensures a superior product while holding the line on costs. Presentation, too, is critical. For example, Saranda’s signature smoked tuna tartare provides a near-magical moment when a glass dome is lifted off the plate and fragrant smoke wafts through the air. Inventive drinks also get a theatrical edge as mixologists ignite flaming cocktails. Smoked whiskey and unusual house-infused liquor enhance the more traditional list of fine wines and craft beers served at the bar.

Opening a fine dining restaurant is not just a fantasy; it’s a way of life. You’ve got to live, breathe and eat restaurant. This might not be right for everyone but providing guests with a premium dining experience – one that keeps them hungry for more – is a fulfilling mission for any successful restaurateur.

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Why You Should Start A Company In Your Own Backyard

Many aspiring entrepreneurs pack their bags and with a dream in hand, move to Silicon Valley. Wooed by media coverage of success stories like Facebook, these entrepreneurs seem to firmly believe that the phrase “Location! Location! Location!” applies to a 5-mile radius around Palo Alto. Increasingly, however, entrepreneurs are finding success in starting companies closer to […]

Many aspiring entrepreneurs pack their bags and with a dream in hand, move to Silicon Valley. Wooed by media coverage of success stories like Facebook, these entrepreneurs seem to firmly believe that the phrase “Location! Location! Location!” applies to a 5-mile radius around Palo Alto.

Increasingly, however, entrepreneurs are finding success in starting companies closer to home.   As more cities invest in their entrepreneurial ecosystems, the number of reasons to start a company in your own backyard continues to grow.

Here are just a few arguments for why your home town is a great place to start a business:

Real Estate Some entrepreneurs argue they need to be located in Silicon Valley to be close to potential investors but a “have pitch deck, will travel attitude” creates opportunities to seek funding in less crowded waters while still being just a flight away from west coast investors.  A plane ticket may see pricey but not in comparison to the price of office space in Silicon Valley, which is often more than two times the national average.

From the Lehigh Valley, you can reach the major hubs of Philadelphia and New York in less than two hours and be close to vast customer networks in Northeast.  Many affordable options exist for commercial real estate and co-working spaces like Velocity, Hive 4A and SoBeCo Works all reduce the barrier to move your business out of your garage.

Talent Silicon Valley has a large pool of talented workers but demand far outpaces supply.

Additionally, competition for top talent between fledgling startups and larger players such as Google and Facebook has driven up salaries, especially for technical talent.

Fortunately, as more schools are encouraging students to consider careers in entrepreneurship, recent graduates across the country are now more likely to seek opportunities to build a business.   The Lehigh Valley has a particular rich talent pool from institutions like Cedar Crest, DeSales, Lafayette, Lehigh, Moravian, Muhlenberg and Penn State Lehigh Valley.  In addition to great talent, programs like Penn State’s Lehigh Valley Launch Box are providing grants and other resources to the broader community.

Relationships Relationships are, arguably, one of the most important resources for any entrepreneur.  Starting your business closer to home allows you to make use of the connections you already have rather than starting over in a new environment.

Locating in a smaller market also helps you grow deeper relationships with customers, investors and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in your community.  Surprisingly, many entrepreneurs find it also helps them build stronger relationships with those outside of their community.  Because they may only get a little bit of face time with a west coast entrepreneur, they use that time thoughtfully to continue to advance the relationship and hopefully get the check needed to continue to grow.

Before you pack your bags for the west coast, why not think about a different valley to be home to your new business.   Not only will you save money on real estate and salaries, but you can leverage a vast network of resources that the Lehigh Valley has to offer entrepreneurs.

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