MANSFIELD —Kritika Cerreta, who moved her new startup business into Braintree a few weeks ago, loves working in her new office in Richland County’s incubator —surrounded by exposed-brick walls and natural light streaming through a high window.
Even more, she loves that she can walk down the hall and find people willing to offer her valuable help and advice as her company gets going.
KnotProfit is a business likely to be marketed mainly online, offering services to good-hearted couples about to be married who prefer their wedding guests not bring neatly wrapped gifts, but donate instead in their honor to a nonprofit cause.
KnotProfit can link couples with nonprofits in exotic areas of the globe and arrange a visit for couples to see how the money has been spent, if they wish.
Braintree has offered means for reviewing the idea she and her own fiance shared, to hone their plans for marketing and growing the business.
“We didn’t realize initially how valuable this would be. It’s super cool to have this support and not have it all on our shoulders,” she said.
Cerreta, who lives in Akron, said they considered affiliating with other incubators around the state, but settled on Richland County. Braintree’s staff was quick to offer help, long before they’d made any decision to become a tenant, she said.
Some incubators were focused on specialized sectors that had little to do with their own plan, such as Cleveland’s incubator, which has fostered many health care startups. One incubator they visited “had so many tenants they didn’t seem to care about us,” Cerreta added.
Several doors down the hall, another Braintree tenant, Tim Joyce, was at work in the office he moved into Feb. 1. The computer programmer operates two businesses: Evendrop Media, three years old, which involves writing software applications; and SimplyLaunch, much newer, in which he began selling “an easy-to-use website builder” designed to help customers start sites inexpensively.
Braintree staff, especially microfinance program manager Barrett Thomas, has provided valuable opportunities for improving his chances of success, Joyce said. “I knew how to make the product. I just didn’t know how to market the product,” he said.
“We’ve only been launched for three to four weeks, and we’ve got quite a bit of customers,” numbering 250, Joyce said.
RightTimeRehab, close by, has been a Braintree tenant company for about a year.
Co-founder Willie Davis said he’s profoundly grateful to incubator staff for helping RightTime avoid the potentially costly mistake of borrowing big bucks to bring a big idea out too soon. “If it wasn’t for Braintree, we probably would be done by now,” he said.
Davis, a former prison instructor who lives in Mansfield, and Samantha Kurtz, of Michigan, whose background is in rehabilitation, joined up to develop a system designed to measure a criminal offender’s likelihood of re-offending. “It’s like an Equifax credit score for prisoners,” he said.
Judges could use RightTime to determine whether a person remains a risk. The system also could be used to help potential employers decide whether to take a chance on someone after prison time is served.
Braintree staff helped him realize RightTimeRehab’s launch really had to be broken down into much smaller steps before it could be marketed to courts on a large scale, Davis said. That included auditioning the concept before at least a dozen people, to see whether it would fly. It included talking with local court officials about creating a pilot program and working with a university to track results, Davis said.
“Braintree is really smart in how they step you through it,” he said. “They can walk you through your concept at such a slow pace, you either develop a great idea, or you figure out it won’t work, and you haven’t wasted your family fortune.”
Davis said he’s seen the number of startups housed at Braintree spike recently, as those in charge repositioned the incubator to take advantage of changes in state funding policy. “There has been a rash of new people” up and down the halls, he said.
Ohio Third Frontier this year made small grant funding potentially more available directly to startup companies, through incubators, to help get companies to the next step needed to launch.
“The Third Frontier programs of the world have figured out that the Braintrees need small amounts of money to filter through companies at the right time,” Davis said.
He’s a fan of Richland County’s incubator. “This is a great place for an entrepreneur center. It works,” he said.