As Bridgeworks Program Manager Anthony Durante prepares to depart for a new position with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania as its Manager of Entrepreneurial Services, we asked some of the incubation program’s clients for their thoughts on his tenure over the past seven years, and what their relationship with him has meant to them.

THE VETERANS

Matthew Sommerfeld of MTS Ventures is a senior statesman of sorts at Bridgeworks and offered this insight: “MTS became an AEDC incubator tenant before Anthony came on board and we have seen a lot of improvements in the overall experience during his tenure. Anthony brought in regular programming and seasoned experts to facilitate knowledge exchange that leads to best practices and growth. He also brought in a diverse group of startups that make the building more vibrant and engaging. His commitment to making AEDC a true incubator program with a focus on client success has made a lasting impression on not only the Bridgeworks reputation but also on the trajectory of the client businesses success. Anthony will be missed, and we hope his legacy lives on well beyond his departure.”

Long-term Bridgeworks client Terry Rufer of ColdEdge Technologies, now an anchor tenant in the building, offered this perspective: “ColdEdge has been in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center for several years, and at the beginning of our time here it was more or less an echo chamber. Shortly after AEDC relocated their offices to this building the situation began to change. Then upon Anthony’s arrival, his efforts and hard work greatly accelerated the improvements of the building, infrastructure and the wide variety of small business support processes available across the board. Frankly, there is no comparison between the situation here now and when we first started in the 905 Harrison Street building, and that’s in no small part to his constant hard work.”

Another long-term tenant, Mike Grather of LightLab International Allentown, LLC had this to say: “I was a tenant in Bridgeworks when Anthony first started. At that time, Luminaire Testing Laboratory was in the process of moving out, which left him with a nearly-empty building. During the subsequent years, he coordinated many new programs and initiatives which helped to get the building back on its feet and thriving. Our company, LightLab International Allentown, LLC, entered the business incubation program during this transition, and we’ve been the beneficiaries of many of the programs that Anthony put in place. Most notable programs include: the advisors in residence, lunch and learn presentations, and tenant social events which help to bring businesses together in an informal environment.”

THE EXPERTS

Next, we spoke to three of Bridgeworks clients that have worked with Anthony for several years as he’s helped guide them and their businesses’ growth through their first several years.

First up is Greg Heller-Labelle of The Colony Meadery who had this to say: “We were his first recruited business that moved into Bridgeworks, so we had a special connection to Anthony’s tenure. We got to see the building go from largely empty to at capacity and to see new life breathed into South Allentown as we, in turn, recruited other beverage companies to join us. As the needs of the building and program have changed, we’ve been fortunate to be a part of several of Anthony’s programming ideas, from the CEO roundtable to the microloan program, and to witness the tireless effort he has put into the incubator. Whether it’s running down the hall to unload a pallet for us or finding a way to rent us a corner of a loading dock to ameliorate space constraints, Anthony has consistently been there to try and remove roadblocks to our business thriving. Ben Franklin is lucky to have him.”

Andrew Schevets of Amorphic Tech Ltd. had this to share: “Anthony’s support has been an essential piece of the puzzle to help us grow and flourish. When I first arrived at his doorstep at Bridgeworks at the end of 2014, my business had zero assets; it was nothing but an idea, naivety, and a bit of enthusiasm. Anthony had confidence in us and consequently, AEDC opened the doors of their smallest space to us on a month-to-month lease. Through the growing pains of a small business Anthony always took very seriously his job of helping us and giving us a nice place to live. Now in our fifth year of business the seed Anthony helped water has booked our largest job to-date and been selected for a grant award. We are grateful for people like Anthony who truly care and help make starting a business from scratch possible.

Anthony Brichta of County Seat Spirits expressed this parting thought: “Anthony’s leadership and guidance have been instrumental for our business since we joined the incubation program in 2014. Anthony was with us for our entire journey so far from assisting with formulating our initial business plan, coming in early on a Saturday morning to help unload and install our stills from Europe and, more recently, providing guidance and strategy as we opened our second location in the Lehigh Valley this year. While Anthony’s departure will be a huge loss for the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, we are happy that the entire Lehigh Valley and northeastern Pennsylvania will be able to benefit from his expertise and passion for entrepreneurship and innovation with his new position at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures.”

Tyson Daniels of Polymer Contours Inc. shared this humorous remembrance: “It’s sort of comical that my journey here at the Bridgeworks began over a cold beer with Anthony. It was a random statement I made half-jokingly, mid-sip that set it all in motion; “I am looking to buy a local business, do you know any for sale?” So, I suppose one could say that it is Anthony’s fault that I am here! It has been fun working with him as my company has progressed over the years. He is a good source of knowledge and always went to work when I needed his help with something. It has been a great few years and we wish him luck in the future.”

THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

While they may be newer to Bridgeworks and have worked with Anthony for the shortest amount of time, it’s clear that he left an impression on all of these clients as well.

Joining the business incubation program in 2018, Jiten Dihora of TRuCapSol is in the unique position of being able to continue his working relationship with Durante since his company also has a location at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem. He offered this insight:

“Anthony has been highly responsive and flexible to meet our needs. He has helped us transport equipment and materials using the forklift, he has given access to the basement areas to implement the right resources that we need in our pilot plant lab, and he has offered us business resources that can help TRuCapSol succeed. Anthony has a hands-on approach to his work: he is willing to help when and where needed, and we have appreciated his partnership.”

Graphic designer Evan Johnson of Stay Calm Industries said: “Anthony has been an important resource for me as both a Bridgeworks tenant as well as AEDC’s marketing agency. Whether working closely with him to develop new branding standards and the organization’s new website or just to figure out how my access code worked, his door was always open, he was available and helpful.

And finally, Laura Valasakos of High Point Kombucha shared her personal experience:

“Anthony has been a crucial part of my business being able to get off the ground. After finding out about the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, I contacted Anthony. I’m not sure if he knew right away what I was trying to do, but he showed me around the building, discussed my business plans and needs, and was very flexible in trying to make something work for me there. Bridgeworks ended up not working out for me at that time, but almost right away he put a plan into action to make the space work for me and a few of the other new clients. Since I’ve moved in he has been there for me to help me talk through all the troubles and anxiety that come with building your business and has always offered logical advice. Starting your own business by yourself and learning as you go can be very scary at times, and I’m very thankful that I had Anthony in my corner for the past year. Without being at Bridgeworks I’m not sure if I would have ever found an appropriate space within the city of Allentown. My needs were unique: somewhere between an artist’s studio and a commercial kitchen, and Bridgeworks has been the perfect fit. And without Anthony, I may not have found my home there. I thank him for seeing the potential in my business and for all of the encouragement, brainstorming, advice, criticism, and patience he has offered me.  I’ll miss working with him, but I only wish him the best in his new role.”