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Local Businesses Give Startup CT Mixed Marks

Local business owners find new White House initiative moderately useful, but largely not for them.

Local businesses trying out the newly launched Startup Connecticut website, part of the national Startup America Partnership, gave it mixed reviews, not seeing it directly applicable to their new small business.

The website, which was created to “help to reinvent Connecticut by assisting high-growth entrepreneurship,” according to a press release issued from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office, offers resources for small businesses and startups and promises of assistance for groundbreaking ideas.

“Startup Connecticut will form the basis of a new public/private partnership that will bring sweeping changes to how we approach and support our state’s startups and small business entrepreneurs,” Malloy said, adding that the program “will give us a series of coordinated efforts to improve our track record.”

Connecticut was the third state to launch a site as part of Startup America, an initiative of President Barack Obama’s to stimulate high-growth entrepreneurship.

“I will absolutely use the website, both for networking and as a general business reference,” said Kaysa Cruse, owner of in Brookfield, which opened nine months ago. 

“As a business owner, it’s nice to have other people accessible,” she said. “You tend to be by yourself as an entrepreneur.”

Cruse, who worked in the gym for five years when it was called Positive Energy before purchasing it in February, said she’s happy to see new opportunities for entrepreneurs, as they “have been neglected in recent years,” and “many of the new technologies and services that we depend on daily began with one individual’s idea.”

“I’m not sure it would help directly,” she added. “However, I think it will help me as a resource and guide in growing my business,” particularly through connections with successful entrepreneurs.

Chris and Billie Jo Bernhardt, who opened on Federal Road in April, surveyed the website and found it to be a less user friendly, less valuable version of SCORE, an existing statewide resource for small businesses with offices in Danbury.

While the Bernhardts said they liked SCORE for the “ability to reach out to possible resources,” for both expertise and capital, Startup Connecticut has the “potential to be useful, but there was no actual direction,” Chris said.

Searching through the website, in their area of interest, “The majority had names of potential companies but no further information,” he said. “No contact, no explanation of how they would help you.”

The other potential use for the site, obtaining funding and loan assistance, is hardly a sure thing, Billie Jo said. Following through to apply, business owners are told that funding is expected, however they’re given no other information on when or how to go about getting it.

What new businesses are really looking for is to get the word out, she said, suggesting the state offer “free advertising for businesses that opened in the last six months.”

“It was a useless website,” Chris said. “I would never go back unless they revamped it.”

“All they have to offer is resources and they’re already out there,” Billie Jo agreed, referring to SCORE. “I feel they just want to find out what ideas there are for businesses to raise the level of employment in Connecticut.”

The site is “not something for me,” agreed , who has been in business at 777 Federal Road since February 2010 and runs what she calls a “solo practice,” with the job creating potential for “one, maybe two people,” not the sort of new business the state is interested in.

But in her assessment the website is a “good resource for people with an idea,” which is especially important in this climate, she said, as established businesses such as her husband’s in New Milford aren’t adding to their employment numbers right now either.

“When you take on employees it costs you money,” she said, pointing to the payroll tax. “He’d rather work the guys he has harder and longer,” which is generally fine with workers looking to pick up more shifts.

For the “people who are looking, if they’ve been laid off, it [Startup Connecticut] could be a good way to partner up and do something on their own,” she said. “Especially as the kids get older and the moms need to work, this is a good place to start, to see who’s hiring, what’s out there.”

“And I’m all about that loan forgiveness program,” she added.

Daniel Briere October 12, 2011 at 12:28 PM
I am involved with this initiative, and I agree that the full breadth of the Startup Connecticut program has not been announced, but realize it is far far more than just a website. Startup Connecticut will bring new physical and virtual facilities to the state, new funding for startups, a strong statewide mentor network, greased paths to market for startups in specific industries, and other things, resulting in a faster time to market and higher probability of success. I think it is imminently fair to rate the website -- I think it's got a lot of potential too and is not there yet. But that's just one piece of a really big pie here in CT. Expect to see more announced before the end of 2011 that is very meaty and very statewide. Stay tuned!
Steven DeVaux October 12, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Where would Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and the host of entreprenurial Americans be without government assistance? Indeed, where would our founding fathers have grown from if not for more government assistance.

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