Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is the only business incubator in the Lehigh Valley dedicated primarily to manufacturing startups ranging from advanced plastic polymer formulation to sophisticated design engineering and rapid prototyping techniques. Its goal is to provide the resources to help startups move from the launch process to self-sustaining profitability, then to graduate them into the City of Allentown or into a suitable site within the greater Lehigh Valley.
Startups at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Continue Steady Growth in 2017
The results of the annual Incubator Client Impact Survey showed that in 2017 the 10 Bridgeworks client companies earned over $4.63 million in revenue, which is a 4.6 percent increase over 2016. Collectively the companies employ 28 full-time employees and another 46 people as either part-time or contracted employees. Total salaries, wages and contractor fees paid to these employees increased by 2.6 percent to $1.31 million.
The incubator clients are employing nearly three times the number of people and paying out more than 41-times the salaries and wages that they did in 2012, by comparison. Revenues earned by the client companies are also up by 2.5-times. Today the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is 85 percent occupied.
The annual impact survey of the client companies participating in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator program gathers important data on job creation, company revenues, and obtained loans, grants, and equity investments. That data is aggregated into a report that demonstrates the economic impact that the incubator has on the Allentown and Lehigh Valley communities.
Bridgeworks receives IMPACT Award from InBIA
AEDC and its Bridgeworks Enterprise Center were recognized by the International Business Innovation Association when they received the IMPACT Award for February 2018. The monthly award distinguishes entrepreneurship centers that are creating economic impact in their communities through a robust variety of programs, spaces, and services that serve the entrepreneurs and early-growth companies that are the engines of job creation.
Bridgeworks received the award along with five other incubator programs around the world. It was recognized in the Specialty category which is for programs that have a unique focus, in this case, manufacturing. Other categories are technology, mixed-use, university, rural, and biotech/cleantech.
Spotlight: Polymer Contours
Polymer Contours Owner Tyson Daniels made his company automated one year ago this month by purchasing two robots that allow two of his three machines to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week producing parts for his customers. His operation is now 60 percent automated, and as a result, he says he’s on track to reach his goal of $1 million in sales by the end of 2018, his fourth year in business. The two robots have allowed the business to not only meet demand but to double its capacity by producing in six days what used to take a month to run.
Daniels also brought in an engineering consultant to teach him and his team about cycle time and how to reduce production time by increasing consistency and utilizing machine effectiveness through scientific testing. As a result, they were able to reduce production time by 33 percent for one of their largest jobs, which meant reducing times from 18 seconds per shot to 12 seconds. That can save the company over $50,000 a year and reduce the time it takes to fill an order by an entire day.
Looking ahead, Daniels would like to get into rapid prototyping using quick-change systems to deliver molded parts quicker and within the same timeframe of a 3D printed part since they are a more accurate representation of a finished product and can be cost-effective using custom mold frames with interchangeable inserts.
The company takes high-value actives, uses their materials expertise to encase them to form micron-sized balloons, so that the balloons retain the active in the supply chain, then release the active over a duration of time. TRuCapSol is focused on utilizing natural materials, which allows them to produce environmentally friendly, world-class capsules. By utilizing their patented technology and production processes, TRuCapSol decreases waste and improves the effectiveness of the formulations delivered to its customers. The company’s initial product line will focus on the consumer goods space, specifically laundry products such as detergents, fabric softeners, etc.
TRuCapSol comes to Bridgeworks by way of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The company launched their research and development efforts at the TechVentures incubator in Bethlehem before relocating to Bridgeworks to scale up their operations. It has six scientists working out of the Bridgeworks location.
The importance of face-to-face time with your potential customers when starting a business
Guest column by Anthony Durante, Program Manager, Bridgeworks Enterprise Center
If you have a quality product that solves a painful problem for a lot of people, then you can probably build a company around making that product. Ironically, this seems to be one of the primary stumbling blocks for many of the prospective entrepreneurs that I come across.
As an entrepreneur, you need to validate your assumptions as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This means getting out in front of your customers, asking simple basic questions, and listening carefully to the answers. Obviously, some of the key discoveries you can make through this process are:
- The customer really doesn’t have the problem.
- The problem isn’t as big as was originally expected.
- The proposed solution misses the mark in a major way.
Although these discoveries may sound catastrophic, it’s extremely important to learn them very early on in the process. Otherwise, considerable amounts of time and money may be wasted on creating something no one will buy. At the same time, by getting this information you can redirect your efforts to build the ideal product that solves a big problem in the market.
Learn what types of questions you should be asking and what else can be discovered during this process by reading the full blog post HERE.
Lessons Learned from Bridgeworks Graduates
We asked three Bridgeworks alumni – Meet Michael Grather, President of LightLab International Allentown LLC, Stephen Maund, President of Demco Automation, and Terry Rufer, President of ColdEdge Technologies– for their perspectives on the following three questions:
- What is one thing you did that really helped the company take big steps forward in growth?
- What is the one thing that you thought was a good idea at the time but didn’t work out as well as you expected it would?
- If there was something you could do over again with your company, what would it be and why?
Go HERE to read their responses and share their insights.