Sometimes it just takes a spark to ignite a conflagration. That’s the intention of IGNITE Charles County Business Resource Fair: to start a conflagration of business growth.
The Charles County Economic Development Department has teamed up with the College of Southern Maryland to put on a one-day business expo to connect business owners, entrepreneurs and “dreamers” with government and quasi-government resources geared to help businesses get off the ground and help them grow — and inspire them with short stories from successful entrepreneurs and business owners.
“This is a new thing. We started with the idea of bringing in all the resources that are out there to help businesses to create a resource event,” said Marcia Keeth, the department’s deputy director. “Then in deciding what else to have as a part of this event we decided to add in an ‘ignite’ session, and so we, in making plans, said let’s just call it IGNITE Charles County, because it just fits. Every bit of it has to do with igniting business growth in the county.”
Keeth said that local, state and federal agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center, the Maryland Department of Commerce and Maryland’s TEDCO, as well as many others, have committed to participate in the event.
The ignite part is a series of six presentations limited to five minutes each from entrepreneurs telling their stories of success.
“Twice during the day we’re going to have an ‘ignite’ session,” Keeth said. “Ignite sessions … are done a lot surrounding entrepreneurial activities where presenters are given a time limit — and in some cases a [PowerPoint] slide limit, but we’re not going to get into that. Each presenter will have five minutes to share his or her story about what ignited their desire to become an entrepreneur and what ignited their success — meaning how they were able to make that transition from starting a business to being profitable.”
The six presenters are from categories that make up the IGNITE word:
• Industry — Angela Meltan-Fray and Richard Fray of Dat Jerk Caribbean Chargrill in Waldorf;
• Government — Guy Black of Blackout Investigations and Security Services in Waldorf;
• Networking — Mike Thielke of hotDesks on the Eastern Shore;
• Innovation — Scott Decker of Cardinal Scientific in Waldorf;
• Tenacity — Kim Briscoe-Tonic of Briscoe-Tonic Funeral Home in Waldorf; and
• Entrepreneur — Somnath Sengupta of Powerhouse Consulting Group.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good crew assembled,” said Tommy Luginbill, director of CSM’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute, who has been working on the project with the economic development department and is playing host.
He said he’s excited about the format and thought the short, energetic presentations would be attractive to young innovators and future business owners.
“Rather than people just sitting and listening to speeches all day, we wanted people to learn something while walking around and talking to people,” Luginbill said. “I thought of myself as an attendee and would want to go to a conference like that. That’s how I thought about it.”
“We’ll do it twice, at 10 a.m. and again at 1 [p.m.], with the idea that business people can time their attendance to what fits in their schedule,” Keeth said of the presentations. All six presentations, at five minutes each, will take place at both time slots.
The rest of the event is designed like an expo with tables for up to 30 organizations. Business owners, entrepreneurs and what Keeth called “dreamers” — those that think they might like to start a business someday — will be encouraged to walk around and talk with resource professionals and find out what’s available to help them realize a dream or grow their young business.
“No matter how many times we do stuff like this, I’m always amazed and delighted that, before the day’s out, somebody’s going to come up to me and say ‘Thank you so much for doing this; we had no idea all these resources were here. This has been great.’ It happens every time that I’ve been to an event like this,” Keeth said.
While the economic development department has done smaller events with just a handful of organizations attending, Keeth said this will be the first of this size, and the first with the ‘ignite’ aspect.
The event is free for exhibitors and attendees with a light breakfast available in the morning and snacks available throughout the day. For those that want to make it a lunch trip, the college’s cafeteria will be available to everyone.
IGNITE Charles County is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, May 12, at CSM’s Business and Industry (BI) Building on the La Plata Campus. While the event is free, organizers request an RSVP at www.ignitecharles.eventbrite.com.
“If it’s successful, we’re definitely going to replicate it again,” Luginbill, an entrepreneur himself, said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Keeth said she was hoping it would turn into an annual event, and could be considered a success if it just inspired even one new business or helped one be more successful.
“If one business shows up and ends up tapping into a resource that maybe changes the course for that business, then it’s been a success,” Keeth said.