Looking Local: Inside the TechFire™ Incubation Program

Posted by: Economic Development Team on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As part of this month’s “Looking Local” series, we spoke to TechFire’s Southern Maryland Incubation Program Manager Kim Mozingo to gain insight about the program and its resources for entrepreneurs in Southern Maryland, as well as advice for those looking to start a business.

Established in 2013 by The Energetic Technology Center (ETC), TechFire supports the ETC’s mission to promote the development of science and engineering in Southern Maryland. The TechFire incubation program aims to help grow and diversify the local economy by supporting the development of technology-focused businesses.

Charles County Department of Economic Development (Department): What resources does TechFire offer local entrepreneurs?
Kim Mozingo (KM):
One of the important things we offer through our TechFire incubation program is one-on-one support from an expert entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur called Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiRs). EiRs are entrepreneurs who have started and run many successful businesses so they have been where a new entrepreneur has been, they have made the mistakes that our clients face, they have been through the pain of learning the hard way and have benefited from the support of  their own mentors. In other words, they understand the secret sauce to not just starting a successful technology-focused business, but to building a sustainable business.

That’s one important component of our TechFire program. Another is our experience working in the defense space; we understand Technology Transfer, Commercialization, SBIRs, defense contracting, and more because we’ve done it…and we know exactly who entrepreneurs need to connect with and when. I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight another benefit that our TechFire members tell me is so important to them: the TechFire network, which connects them to the greater entrepreneurial ecosystem and the right resources at the right time.

Department: What are the benefits of an incubation program?
Did you know that 87 percent of businesses that are nurtured through an incubation program are still in business five years later? Compare that statistic to others that show the rate of sustained success (five years) to be around 44 percent and you can see incubation just makes good business sense. AND, 84 percent of those companies stay in the region in which they were incubated. It’s also important to know that for every tech job that’s created, about five supporting jobs are created on average – because people need to grocery shop, they want to go to restaurants, they need to get their haircut. Those are some important statistics for people to understand. The bottom line is that a proven incubation program, like TechFire, benefits the community in more ways than one.

Department: What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business?
KM: First, do your homework: find out about all the resources, like TechFire, that exist simply to see your business succeed. Second, do market research; just because you and your closest friends and family think your business is a good idea doesn’t mean anyone will pay you for your product or service. This is where it is so important to work with experts – it can be hard to take an objective look at our brilliant ideas and change them. So third is getting the support of an un-biased third-party expert who can walk you through the process of building a business that has potential and will last is critical.

Department: What would you tell someone considering relocating their business to Charles County? KM: Come quickly! Our Economic Development department is bending over backwards to help businesses re-locate here. Our chamber is incredibly warm and welcoming. The rich resources we have to support businesses are unmatched and work so harmoniously together that there is no doubt that a business moving here will find the right support at the right time. We have a very well-educated workforce, too. And the area is naturally beautiful, so it’s a great place to live and work.

Department: What is your favorite part of living and working in Charles County?
I moved here after living in Europe for six years with a brief stop of a few years in Northern Virginia. The first time I drove to Charles County, I knew it was where I wanted to raise my family. It reminded me of where I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh … plenty of land, friendly neighbors, rural but full of culture and history. Simply put, it’s just beautiful!

To learn more about starting and growing a business in Charles County contact Business Development Manager Marcia Keeth.

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