Center brings entrepreneurs, experts together

By on June 22, 2012

Guests networking during the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center event at Waterstreet Studios Art Gallery in Batavia. At the FVEC event in Batavia, (below, left to right) Dr. Christina Krause from IHAP, Harriet Parker from Small Business Development Center and FVEC Organizing Committe and Maria Kuhn from IHAP.

Courtesy Photos

Harriet Parker
Illinois Small Business
Development Center
Waubonsee Community College
18 S. River St., Room 268
Aurora, IL 60506
(630) 906-4143

Ernie Mahaffey
Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center

by Susan O’Neill
FOX VALLEY—Steve Gaspardo, a manufacturing engineer with 15 years of experience in the field, founded Gaspardo & Associates in 1996.

The company is a full-service 3-D metrology laboratory in Batavia.

Gaspardo, who has a number of degrees, including one in computer-assisted manufacturing, is one of about 25 Fox Valley entrepreneurs who have worked with experts with the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center (FVEC) to take their businesses to the next level.

Gaspardo patented an automated robotic scanner, ComScan, in 2011, but he needed the capital to move it forward. The FVEC team assisted Gaspardo in preparing financial statements and projections that helped him obtain the financing necessary to take ComScan to market and exhibit at the Quality Show in Chicago.

“Financial statements read like a novel,” Wessex 504 Corporation President Karen Lennon said. “It took three seconds to retell the story.”

Lennon went on to introduce Gaspardo to her favorite bankers, and he was on his way.

Gaspardo is proud of the fact that his equipment is 100 percent built-in-America, and most of it done within the Fox Valley area.

The Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center was founded about a year ago, in partnership with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College. The Small Business Development Center, under the leadership of Harriet Parker, an entrepreneur in her own right, has provided assistance to small businesses in the area for a number of years.

An average of 400 clients per year—mainly life-style businesses, such as hair salons, coffee shops, landscapers and retail stores—take advantage of the center’s services. Parker links them up with resources with the expertise they need to get their businesses off the ground.

“I consider myself a matchmaker,” Parker said.

Although Parker said she has been able to help many local small businesses, she found that there were entrepreneurs in the area who needed more than she could provide.

Last year, the SBDC received a $100,000 grant from the Small Business Association through the Small Business Jobs Act. The guidelines for the grant required that the funding be used for consulting services to entrepreneurs and it emphasized collaboration.

At the same time, a group of retired and semi-retired business people from Geneva, Batavia, and other Fox Valley communities approached Parker with the desire to provide mentoring to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

According to Parker, there are two things that are critical to the success of a new business: timing and a support network.

“When the stars align like this, you know it’s going to be good,” she said.

Parker, together with a number of entrepreneurs in the Fox Valley area, used the funding to form the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center, a virtual organization set up to bring advisors and mentors together to help entrepreneurs launch new products, expand into different markets, and implement other forms of innovations.

The FVEC celebrated its partnership with the SBDC last Thursday at an event that showcased a number of entrepreneurs who have been able to benefit from the wealth of expertise available through the center.

“The goal of collaboration between the Waubonsee Small Business Development Center and the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center is to be the ultimate dot connector,” Parker said. “We are working hard to create a network of resources that supports growing entrepreneurial businesses in meaningful ways.