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Five Questions with Michael Tentnowski, Enterprise Center at Plymouth

 

At first glance, it might appear that the southern cities of New Hampshire are the primary hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity in the Granite State. But you’ll find the blood of the start-up culture running through the veins of every county – and it’s catching the attention of entrepreneurs across state lines, too.

To learn more about some of the unique opportunities for start-ups north of Concord, we interviewed Michael Tentnowski, executive director of the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, a business incubator/accelerator connected with Plymouth State University. The ECP supports entrepreneurs, small business owners, and overall economic development in central New Hampshire by providing services including leased space, state-of-the art conferencing facilities, mentoring, professional services, educational resources and networking opportunities.

Prior to joining ECP, Michael consulted with business and industry primarily in the high tech arena.  He has been involved with business development for start-up companies for over twenty years, and has expertise in commercializing defense technologies, promoting renewable energy initiatives, and in entrepreneurial ventures. Michael is also a professor in the College of Business Administration at PSU.

What was the landscape like for entrepreneurs and start-up companies in your area, prior to the opening of the ECP? 

I think that the framework of entrepreneurial activity was present prior to the ECP opening its doors, but now like-minded individuals have a gathering place and a one-stop shop for all types of business assistance.  By offering seminars, workshops, access to professorial expertise, student internships and partner organization like the SBDC and SCORE networks, the ECP filled a void in the knowledge transfer arena.

How is the ECP making an impact in Plymouth and the surrounding communities? 

     We not only impact Plymouth proper, but the entire main service area of Belknap, Carol, Coos and Grafton Counties (and beyond).  We do this by offering business educational opportunities throughout the region, by assisting entrepreneurs from surrounding states (primarily Vermont and Massachusetts) and by promoting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Hampshire.

We have partnered with the other incubator programs in the New Hampshire Business Incubation Network, which provides networking and access to assets at other locations throughout the state.  The direct impact to the Plymouth community is 37 jobs created, $5,625,000 in revenue generated by ECP companies (2014) and 26 internships for students, five of which turned into full time employment for those students.  This helps to keep young people in the State by providing high quality, well-paying jobs.

What kinds of businesses are best served by incubators like the ECP? 

New Hampshire business incubators serve different sectors, whereas some are considered “mixed use.”  The ECP is a mixed-use facility that primarily houses software developers and other Internet services, a material science manufacturer (office space only), iPhone repair service (student-owned) and an array of consultants in high-tech fields.

Rather than what is the best company for an incubator program, I say who is best served by one.  This means: are they coachable, do they need the services offered, and do they have a plan to employ people in the area with business growth potential, following structured business acumen.

What are the goals of the ECP for 2015 and beyond? 

To empower entrepreneurs to succeed during the difficult stages of a start-up, and to assist existing companies in accelerating their growth by mentoring, match-making, and receiving advice from experts in various disciplines.  Ultimately, the ECP’s success is defined by the success of the ventures being spun out of the incubator program.

What events/programs do you have coming up in the near future? 

April 14 – How to Apply for a Business Loan (Littleton)

April 21 – Small Business Legal Series (Plymouth)

May 5 – Planning for Growth; What’s Next (Plymouth)

May 7 – Start and Grow Your Business (Plymouth)

May 12 – Start and Grow Your Business (Littleton)

May 14 – How to Apply for a Business Loan (Laconia)

May 19 – Small Business Legal Series (Plymouth)

 

For more information and to register for these programs, click here.

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