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State winnows EDGE applications to 10 new winners

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MILFORD — Stephenie and Dean Tatman have seen two national coffee shops open near their Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop in Kent County. They’re responding to their competitors’ strengths of convenience and marketing budget by expanding services ““ catering, selling wholesale, and wedding desserts ““ and by planning to open a second location by year-end along the Del. 1 corridor down the street from Delaware Turf.

Stephanie & Dean Tatman

The Tatmans applied last summer for $50,000 for the first set of EDGE Grants from the state Division of Small Business, but weren’t one of the 10 initial winners. Like all 10 winners of the second round of grants that were announced Jan. 16, they tried again after coaching from the division and the Small Business Development Center.

The Tatmans’ revised application asked for only $30,000, focusing on marketing support and reliable equipment for their current location. They took out the request for funding of equipment for the new location, deciding instead to consolidate production in one place. And they’ve been rewarded with that grant amount, which provides a 3-to-1 match for each dollar an eligible business spends on qualified expenses that improve the company’s long-term chances of success, from market analysis to website design to acquiring essential equipment.

“This grant is huge for us,” Stephenie Tatman said, adding that it will allow Dolce Bakery to grow from eight full-time equivalents today to 11.5 by the end of this year.

The state winnowed applications to the 10 new winners. Five STEM Class companies are receiving a total of $495,000 and five Entrepreneur Class businesses, $216,000.

“Several companies that applied in the first round but were not successful took advantage of the opportunity to work with the Division’s business resource managers to strengthen their applications for this time around,” Division Director Damian DeStefano said. “That is what this program is about. The funding is incredibly important to those who win, but EDGE also provides a way for all applicants learn how to improve their businesses.”

EDGE Round Two Recipients:

STEM Class Winners

· 2M LLC (Wilmington). The company makes an extremely fast-charging and safe battery, which can deliver a less-than-10-minute charge for E-mobility applications, such as enabling an electric vehicle to go 200 miles on a 10-minute charge. 2M will use the grant to scale up production to meet customer demand.

· 4th Phase Water Technologies (Wilmington). The company is focused on commercializing binder-free carbon nanotube sheets made using its proprietary processes. The company will use its grant to acquire additional lab equipment and for marketing.

· Lignolix (Wilmington). The company is developing sustainable products from biomass, such as that which is produced in beer manufacturing. It will use the grant to scale up its chemical process, increase production capacity, and attract larger commercial customers.

· MCET Technologies (Wilmington). The company developed a way of integrating sensors into textiles that can be used to monitor a patient during physical rehabilitation. It will scale up manufacturing to increase production and expand applications.

· Veramorph Materials (Wilmington). The company developed a hydrogel-based system that allows the body to absorb pharmaceuticals more efficiently. It will use its grant for critical equipment for R&D services for pharmaceutical companies and to conduct toxicology studies.

Entrepreneur Class

· Best Music Coach (Dover). The company offers online music lessons for voice and various instruments including guitar and piano. It will use its grant to upgrade its online platform and add online learning materials.

· Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop (Milford). See above.

· Fur Baby Tracker (Wilmington). The woman-owned company will use its grant to roll out a mobile app that lets pet parents track the progress of their cat or dog’s treatment during a stay at a veterinary hospital.

· Volunteer Brewing Co. (Middletown). The family-owned craft brewing company will use its grant to purchase new brewing and fermentation equipment to expand production.

· WilmInvest (Wilmington). The company purchases and renovates single-family homes in Wilmington, which it leases to nonprofits and governmental entities to house families in need of housing and supportive services. It will use the grant to purchase and renovate additional homes.

“We’ve tried to make the process transparent and helped them find out what they could do better next time,” DeStefano said, acknowledging that while the division did receive more than 100 applications for this round, he’d like to see more quality applications from the southern part of the state. “It’s incumbent on us to spread the word through targeted marketing and raising awareness. Some of the people we’ve talked to are worried they don’t have something that’s fancy enough. We’ve given grants in both rounds to restaurants. That’s helping people understand when we say these are open to anyone and everyone.”

DeStefano said the biggest challenge for many applicants ““ particularly for those who aren’t in business yet or are very new ““ is proving their concept and supporting their forecasts.

“It’s incredibly rewarding working with entrepreneurs,” DeStefano said. “They’re the ones driving our economy, consistent with Gov. Carney’s vision. “We don’t want a good idea to fail because it never got a chance to be tested.”

The Division of Small Business is accepting applications for the Spring 2020 round of EDGE Grants through Feb. 28. Visit www.delbiz.com to download the application.

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