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60 percent of state EDGE grants go to women-owned businesses

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The first-ever class of EDGE grant award winners

Ten Delaware small businesses ““ six of them women-owned businesses ““ received EDGE grants totaling $748,000 from the Delaware Division of Small Business that will allow them to accelerate growth plans, rent additional space, and improve or expand marketing plans.

The state moved quickly to select the winners after announcing the program in May, even with application volume that was triple the number Division Director Damian DeStefano thought they’d receive in the first round.

EDGE (Encouraging Development, Growth & Expansion) Grants provide a 3-to-1 match for each dollar an eligible business invests on qualified expenses that improve the company’s long-term chances of success.

“Our original goal was to get 50 applications and have a six-week review period,” DeStefano said. “We received 140 ““ each one with 20-30 pages of information ““ and my team still got them all reviewed in that time period.”

The state broke the applicants into two groups ““ a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Match) class and an Entrepreneur class that helped expand the applicant pool. Eight finalists were selected for the two categories, and five winners were selected for each class after public presentations before a panel of judges chaired by long-time civic leader Fred Sears in mid-August at DelTech in Dover.

DeStefano and Gov. John Carney recognized the winners at a Wednesday morning press conference:

STEM Class

  • Avkin (New Castle): This woman-owned business develops medical simulation equipment to train healthcare professionals. It will use the grant to accelerate its efforts to market its products to hospital systems across the United States.
  • EZY Venture (Harrington): This woman-owned business processes industrial hemp and extracts CBD oil. It will use its grant to purchase the equipment it needs to extract and process the oil at scale, helping it to meet the growing demand for this product.
  • Napigen (Wilmington): The company is developing a hybrid, non-GMO variety of wheat that may help ease the world’s shortage of the grain. It will use the grant for achieving two milestones critical for launching seed production.
  • Neurothera (Newark): The company uses light (photobiomodulation) to treat diseases and injuries affecting the brain. It will use the grant to complete a preliminary study to investigate the technology as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
  • W7 Energy (Wilmington): This spin-out company from the University of Delaware is using a new class of hydroxide exchange memberanes to power zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicles. It will use the grant to rent larger laboratory space and market to potential new customers.

Entrepreneur Class

  • BBD MidAtlantic (Greenville): This woman-owned business operates a successful blow-out bar in Greenville called Blo Blow Dry Bar. It will use the grant to move to a larger space that will enable it to expand its staff and serve more customers.
  • entreDonovan Wholesale (Wilmington): This woman-owned company uses 3D technology and digital pattern-making to produce custom-made women’s apparel for the workplace. It will use the grant to pursue its national growth strategy.
  • Grey Fox Capital (Wilmington): This veteran-owned firm manages a fund that raises money to invest in real estate projects in Delaware Opportunity Zones. It will use the grant for market analysis, marketing, and legal fees.
  • Impact Graphix and Signs (Seaford): This woman-owned business installs commercial signs and awnings in southern Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It will use the grant to purchase a second bucket truck to better meet demand for the company’s services.
  • Tomeka’s Homestyle Eatery (Dover). This minority- and woman-owned business plans to open a homestyle, soul food restaurant in downtown Dover. The owner already sells her food at the city’s weekly farmers market, and she will use the grant to help build a commercial kitchen in a bricks-and-mortar restaurant she plans to open early next year in downtown Dover.

Members of the STEM class can receive grants up to $100,000, while the Entrepreneur class can receive grants for up to $50,000.

Carney said the Small Business sector is now a major driver of job growth and business development in Delaware, noting that larger businesses historically filled that role but it’s no longer the case. He said the creation of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to attract and retain Delaware businesses and the creation of the Division of Small Business both have made a big difference.

“I kept finding myself being asked, “˜What are you doing for small business,’ and my answer is creating an environment where business can be successful, a friendly business climate, and creating incentives like this program to support entrepreneurship” Carney said, comparing the EDGE grant program to the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program.

DeStefano said he was surprised by the diversity of applicants and business ideas.

“Frankly, “I’d never heard of some of them,” he said. “They’ve had their heads down building companies with great ideas. Businesses need money to turn ideas into reality. These are the companies we were thinking about when we established the goal of making sure nobody is unable to start a business due to lack of capital.”

The Division of Small Business is accepting applications for the second round of EDGE Grants. The deadline to apply is Oct. 11, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.

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