McNees Accelerator at YCP nurtures startups through uncertain economic times
The free, eight-week program hosted by the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College will again team up with McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC to nudge start-ups in the right direction.
Before launching their produce delivery and catering company, Tim and Kristie Wolfe knew they had a lot to learn about running a business.
Sponsored by the law firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, the inaugural McNees Accelerator at YCP helped the Wolfes and other entrepreneurs develop their business plans through mentorship pairings with York College faculty members and community experts. The eight-week program concluded with a $5,000 pitch competition.
The workshops taught the Wolfes about profit margins and business equations, Kristie Wolfe says, and also helped them identify their target market. “It got us on the right track,” she states. “We came away feeling like, even though we didn't win cash at the end, it was certainly worth our time.”
The McNees Accelerator at YCP will run again this year. The deadline for applications is February 11, and sessions will be held Wednesdays starting February 23 and ending with pitches on April 13. Interested entrepreneurs can learn more and apply here.
Nurturing new businesses
Anne E. Zerbe, an attorney in the Labor & Employment and Public Finance & Government Services groups at McNees Wallace & Nurick, was a program mentor, and says the firm assisted with mentees’ legal issues.
“This is a natural progression from our long-standing commitment to the community, both individually and as a firm collectively,” Zerbe says. “It really was a win-win in that we could support York College and its students and at the same time support start-up businesses and the community. Once you support a business, that creates jobs and contributes to the economy.”
York College also has seen that benefit and finds the event a natural tie-in to a range of initiatives. Being the conduit for community initiatives and campus-based resources even provided an opportunity for a student to gain employment with a previous Accelerator participant.
Jay Azriel, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at York College, and one of the Accelerator’s business mentors, sees the event as an opportunity for businesses ideas to hatch.
“York College provides important resources, such as knowledgeable faculty and smart students, who help companies with the problems they are facing,” he says. “Our goal has always been to make the College a valuable community resource.”
Round 1 Success
Glenn J. Smith, founder of Brewery Tours—which operates the York County Ale Trail and Hanover Brewery Tours—and a McNees Accelerator business pitch winner, says the program helped him find footing with a fledgling business plan.
“One of the things that was unique to the program was the opportunity to vet your model and vet your business with experts in a variety of fields,” he says. “At the same time, you learn how to do what you're doing better.”
Unlike other participants, Smith's business opened more than a year before he enrolled in the incubator. “It still had an impact,” he says. “One of the things that was a significant impact was how to properly forecast, from a financing standpoint, what we needed to do in order to meet our definition of success. That was something I had really struggled with. Our model also involves both fixed and variable costs, so it wasn't as simple as saying I needed to sell 10 widgets. There were a lot of moving parts.”
Smith says he previously had participated in numerous other seminars, listened to various speakers, and had read his fair share of books, but this program “dramatically impacted the way we operate as a business.”
While he ended up splitting the $5,000 pot at the end of the program, Smith says money wasn't the real prize. “The money helped, but the game-changer was the knowledge that came out of this,” he says. “I greatly appreciated the grant money...but just by virtue of what I learned and the experience I gained from that program, I consider that to be a win.”
Ready for Round 2
As another year for the program approaches, Zerbe says the program is celebrating the year-one success stories. “We are looking forward to see what develops in the second year,” she says. Zerbe’s advice for the next crop of candidates is simple.
“Take that idea and dedicate yourself to pursuing it,” she says. “Reach out to mentors. Talk to other participants, talk to other people who have gone through the program. Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Take full advantage of the opportunity to grow your own business. Whatever you do, don't give up.”