Caffeinated Ideas percolate at Braintree

March 5, 2014
by Candace Harrell

“The more we can encourage people to think outside the box, start companies and do things, the more likely it is we can also then engage those entrepreneurs that we can best affect, as well,” said Bob Leach, Braintree Director of Operations. Braintree Business Development Center hosted their monthly “Caffeinated Ideas” forum Thursday morning in Mansfield.

“Caffeinated Ideas” is an opportunity for local entrepreneurs and inventors to present their business and product ideas to a gathering of professionals from various industries in an informal setting. Participants can receive input on financing, marketing and production, as well as product viability, saving them time and money in the startup of their new business.

“Caffeinated Ideas” is the innovation of Leach, in conjunction with Braintree Microfinance Administrator Barrett Thomas. Launched in 2011, the forum has been a success.

“I read about something similar that was occurring in Colorado. Different versions of this happen all over the country. We’re not new or unique,” noted Leach.

According to Leach, the name “Caffeinated Ideas” came about because the meetings were originally held in local coffee shops, first at PB & Jellybeans, then What’s 4 Dessert. Coffee shops had a disadvantage in that sometimes not enough seating was available, and confidentiality couldn’t be ensured with other patrons present.

The forum eventually relocated to Braintree center’s own conference room, where freshly brewed coffee, breakfast pastries, and ample seating as well as confidentiality were a certainty.

Bob Cohen, CEO of Braintree, said many people come with ideas, and Braintree is there to help. “Maybe we can help you with one of the Appleseed loans, a Tech Sprout grant, maybe we can provide space for you to start, hook you up with suppliers and things like that."

“This is the natural outcome of [Caffeinated Ideas],” said Cohen, as he introduced Braintree tenant, Bryan Benedict, President of RapidForms, Inc.

Benedict is business partners with his son, Aaron Benedict, an Air Force veteran and official owner of RapidForms, Inc.

RapidForms holds a patent on a foundation drainage system, and has several other products ready to patent and market. These products are not identified here due to patent issues.

Bryan Benedict originally presented product ideas to Braintree, and through feedback forums like “Caffeinated Ideas”, he was able to narrow down his market entry product and find the tools needed to bring the plans to fruition.

“About a year and a half ago, we received a grant from Braintree to help with tooling costs,” said Bryan Benedict, “As far as a production run, Braintree helped us out with a Tech Sprout microloan to cover manufacturing costs.”

Bryan Benedict noted that Braintree has been a great networking opportunity, in addition to the business assistance. A used piece of equipment was passed on to him by an associate, and a Braintree member helped restore it.

“You’ve got some very knowledgeable gentlemen in Braintree that are willing to help,” added Bryan Benedict, “They’re here to help you.”

Cohen noted, “Braintree serves a number of functions and it all starts with people presenting their ideas and seeing what resources are available. Obviously a lot of those resources are going to be affiliated with Braintree, and some will be outside resources like the community college and things like that.”

Braintree is officially known as the Mansfield-Richland Incubator, Inc, a part of the Ohio Edison Incubator Network. Braintree is located at 201 E. Fifth Street, Mansfield. More information can be found at their website.

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