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MCE

MCE Executive Director Quintin Baker.

Last fall the City of Maricopa decided to not renew the annual contract with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship (NACET). The contract between the City of Maricopa and NACET has expired. The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) will close over the next few days.

Current clients working with MCE will be able to receive services from the Small Business Development Center located at Central Arizona College’s Maricopa Campus. The SBDC has business analysts dedicated to assisting local businesses in the City of Maricopa.

The City has funded MCE for the past four years. Over 100 clients have received services through the center’s programming assisting entrepreneurs in everything from transitioning from an employee to employer and mapping out weekly actions to developing a sales acumen and being mentored by local business leaders.

In advance of the expiration of the contract with NACET the City issued a request for qualifications to find an organization to offer support to local entrepreneurs.

“Building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs is not done in a vacuum; often times it includes partners like educational institutions, corporate partners, municipal governments, financial capital partners,” said Mayor Christian Price. “We are excited to continue to be a part of building this ecosystem as we evaluate creative solutions targeted for our City to produce excellent results while partnering with other public and private organizations.”

“The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship has grown from a virtual location to a brick and mortar site which offered services to many growing entrepreneurs and served as a centralized location for the community to gather. I am excited to see what becomes of the entrepreneurial hub in the future,” said Quintin Baker, Executive Director for MCE.

“The Central Arizona College SBDC is pleased to provide ongoing support to Maricopa’s business community. The center provides confidential, no-cost counseling to businesses that are dedicated to creating jobs and economic impact to the local communities they serve,” said Kevin Fort, director of the CAC SBDC.

“The City of Maricopa has more than 600 businesses including more than 300 home-based businesses who we work with on a daily basis,” explains Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart. “We are committed to creating an environment for these businesses to grow and succeed. We are looking forward to evaluating our options to ensure we provide the services that will most benefit our community.”

Registration with the SBDC and an appointment are required to meet with their business analyst. To register for an appointment, go to https://centralaz.edu/community/business-outreach/small-business-development-center/ or call 520-494-6610. To contact the City’s Economic Development Department call 520-316-6990 or email economicdevelopment@maricopa-az.gov.

Navajo rug woven by Tiffany Yazzie. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Women Spring Into Art: Textile Extravaganza is on the walls of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship for the month of May. The display includes the works of Cynthia Portrey (weaver), Crystal Dennis (quilter), Tiffany Yazzie (weaver), Beth Soucie (hooked rugs), Angelina Martin (clothing designer) Bonnie Del Turco (burlap), Diane Hebert (bead designer/jewelry maker), Nelda Mullins (copper wire jewelry designer) and Linda Taylor (gourd artist).

 

Brad Kammeyer. Photo by Michelle Chance

Brad Kammeyer, 55, began painting two years ago. Since then, his portfolio has grown to over 731 pieces.

He paints nearly every day. On Sundays, he sometimes begins and finishes up to four original oil paintings.

A large, panoramic landscape of a cabin nestled at the foot of snow-capped mountains took Kammeyer 2.5 hours to complete.

His inspiration derives from visions inside his mind.

“I see a picture all of the time until I paint it,” Kammeyer said. “I’ll see dragons and, until I paint a few dragons, they won’t go away.”

Kammeyer’s passion is also what brings him joy. A handyman by trade, Kammeyer said he’s always wanted to paint, but never thought he’d be able to.

That’s until 27 months ago when he bought art supplies and got to work.

“I found a picture I had of a frozen tree and just tried to paint it. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Kammeyer said.

“Painting no. 1” by Brad Kammeyer

His “Painting no. 1” was practice that led the way for hundreds of wildlife scenes, southwest and forest landscapes, as well as floral portraits.

Kammeyer has since displayed his large collection at events around the city and has lectured at the Maricopa Public Library. Most recently, Kammeyer was named Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship’s featured artist during an exhibition March 8. His work is on display at MCE for the month.

“I have so much inside that’s trying to get out, and that’s all I can think about,” Kammeyer said.

Kammeyer has lived in Maricopa for 13 years and is originally from Idaho.

Quintin Baker directs Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo by Mason Callejas

The director of Maricopa’s small-business incubator presented its third quarter update to City Council Tuesday, during which he proclaimed he would no longer be using certain metrics to measure success despite councilmembers previously requesting more detailed numerical data.

Quintin Baker, director of the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, presented its Q3 numbers which showed growth in certain areas such as attendance, social media presence and mentorship. However, he showed the number of clients served, and the jobs created, slipped.

In the Q2 report, Baker reported four jobs created and 39 clients served, but in Q3 there were zero jobs created and 32 clients served.

As such, Baker said he would no longer be providing metrics related to job creation. But, that’s a good thing, he said.

“It’s not that I don’t think it is [important], it’s just that the numbers weren’t there,” Baker said. “The small businesses weren’t showing job growth, and yet they were still showing measurable success and accomplishments along their milestones and things of that nature.”

In terms of average reoccurring attendance at MCE programs, Baker said, those numbers doubled from seven in Q2 to 14 in Q3. Likewise, social media likes nearly doubled from only 894 in Q2, to 1,662 in Q3.

Baker attributed this new-found local awareness to the attention generated by the organization’s recent Pitch Competition.

The winner of that competition walked with a $500 cash prize provided by MCE’s parent organization – The Norther Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET).

MCE also picked up three new mentors, Baker said, something he attributed to that new-found awareness and the fact that people are showing greater willingness to help.

“I think it’s because people know who we are and what we’re about,” Baker said. “People have been wanting to contribute.”

Those businesses, he said, want to help with specific industries and can provide accesses to resources that could significantly improve small businesses.

Members of that new mentor pool now include Councilmember Peggy Chapados and other area community and business leaders.

MCE further accomplished several other tasks Baker said are helping the organization reach its goals, including a Boot Camp and a new Business Advisory Board.

Combined, he said, all of these elements will help MCE not only provide success to others, but also promote its own success and eventual self-sufficiency.

“The whole point of this is to try to get us to a foundation to where we can then be in a position to be self-sustaining, whether through leveraging different funding options or by being able to generate revenue through our programing.”

Baker said he hopes to soon see 15 percent of the MCE’s expenses sponsored by other organizations or companies.

City Hall has already started a search for organizations that could run the business incubator after city council expressed dissatisfaction with NACET. At Tuesday’s meeting, the councilmembers spent very little time questioning Baker.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Local artist Kristal Hoeh presented her gallery Thursday evening during the Art and Entrepreneurship Mixer at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship.

Hoeh displayed acrylic works featuring nature scenes, tropical landscapes, florals and still life paintings. The artist also teaches watercolor and charcoal at Central Arizona College, as well as online art history and 2D design courses.

To view more of her work visit her gallery at MCE or view her website.

 

Startup wins MCE Pitch competition

Jenny Zarogoza (far left) of Maricopa took home the top award from the MCE Pitch competition with her home-based business Mythical Garden, which creates outfits for cosplay, comicons and other costume events. (Images 1 & 4 by Anita McLeod, all other submitted.)

After Jenny Zarogoza’s mother passed away in 2015, she inherited a couple of sewing machines and leftover fabric.

The loss unexpectedly produced a new beginning for Zarogoza. The tools handed down from her late mother revived an old passion for design and an ambition to start her own business in Maricopa.

That same year, she opened Mythical Garden, an online store that sells fantastical “cosplay” (costume play) costumes handmade by Zarogoza herself.

Her experience creating costumes was first born during her 25 years as a professional dancer.

“My mom and I used to sew ballroom dance gowns together,” Zarogoza said.

Her interest in cosplay regalia is also a generational influence. It began when Zarogoza’s daughter and granddaughter invited her to a Comic-Con event a few years ago.

“I had never been to one, and we went out and had so much fun that I thought this would be fun to have a little shop and sell stuff here so that we could all come to the Comic-Con and make money at the same time,” she said.

Zarogoza and her family began selling ready-made costumes at Comic-Cons in Utah and Arizona, eventually creating a website where customers order and customize online.

The company has since grown to include Zarogoza’s sister Linda as partner. In August, the sibling-team placed first out of five competitors in Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship’s inaugural pitch competition.

After the experience, the sisters say they plan to expand their reach to include designing and creating Halloween specialty costumes at a temporary pop-up shop in Maricopa.

“We are thinking about setting up shop, bringing in all of our costumes, putting some outfits together, and getting the machines out,” Zarogoza said.

The Zarogozas are also in talks of designing costumes for customers who attend masquerade balls held in the Valley.

“We get the joy out of seeing the light come on in people’s eyes when they try on an outfit for the first time and they feel beautiful,” Zarogoza said.

Mythical Garden offers custom designs for men and women in “steampunk,” Victorian-era, Civil War-era and gothic styles. Some designs are customizable in plus sizes up to 6XL.

MythicalGarden.com, MythicalGarden@gmail.com 


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Jenny Zarogoza (in hat) of Mythical Garden accepts the first-place award at the inaugural Pitch Competition. With her (from left) are judges Mayor Christian Price, Paul Thomas, Kiersten Hathcock, Scott Hathcock, Brandon Ames and Kevin Fort. Photo by Anita McLeod

Five local business owners competed in the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship’s first “Pitch Competition” Saturday at Elements Event Center at Ak-Chin Circle.

Judges:
Christian Price – Mayor, City of Maricopa
Kevin Fort – Director, Central Arizona College Small Business Development Center
Scott Hathcock – CEO, Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology
Brandon Ames – CEO, AniCell BioTech
Paul Thomas – Executive in Residence, The W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University
Kiersten Hathcock— Participant on “Shark Tank” and founder of Mod Mom Furniture

The event allowed entrepreneurs to present their start-ups to a panel of judges for a grand prize of $500, professional branding and social marketing from MCE.

Local retailer, Mythical Garden, received the highest scores from judges and the most votes from the audience after a pitch-turned-fashion-show from co-owners Jenny and Linda Zarogoza and their team of models.

The sisters create and sell cosplay costumes at ComiCon events, as well as through their online store.

The pair said the win means “a new beginning” for the business.

Following suggestions from a few of the judges, the pair plans to open a temporary costume shop online in preparation for Halloween.

“Everybody has been so positive with all of the help that we’ve had,” Linda said.

Second place in the competition was Maricopa resident Derrick Turner’s Mesa-based business, HardCopy Fingerprinting Services.

Turner’s company offers background checks to employers of youth organizations.

“My next step is to, one, keep pitching the business, and two, definitely go after youth organizations and protect the kids basically,” Turner said.

Turner will receive similar services as the first prize winner, including data analytics from MCE.

During the event, participants received certificates for completing a 14-day boot camp challenge prior to the pitch competition.

“The job isn’t just what you performed on the stage, but what it took for you to get here,” said Quintin Baker, MCE director.

As part of the competition, all participants received free social media monitoring and data analytics from MCE for three months

Other competitors included Star Productions AZ, the Maricopa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Copa Shorts Film Fest.

Dance instructor Areece Howard owns Star Productions AZ, a home-based dance studio in Maricopa. She said the lessons learned during the two-week boot camp, although tough, were worth it.

“Setting the business owner aside and thinking of the consumer, that was difficult, but you get to see it from someone else’s eyes,” Howard said.

Frances Soto with the Maricopa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said learning to gain confidence to pitch on stage was one of the biggest takeaways from the experience.

“I’m going to continue learning about pitches and continue with the chamber, meeting with the board and connecting with other businesses in the city to get the word out that we’re here and not just for Hispanics, but for everyone,” Soto said.

Shelley Gillespie, executive director of Copa Shorts Film Fest, called the process “intensive.”

“I’ve learned I’ve got to get tighter on numbers, but for me it’s about the feeling because we are trying to change people’s lives,” Gillespie said.

The fest launched in February and gives exposure to independent filmmakers. In addition to an annual fest, Gillespie and her husband Roger plan to offer film workshops to keep the momentum going.

Baker said the inaugural pitch competition will most likely lead to more in the future, albeit with a few changes.

“Going forward, we are going to have (the competition) tailored toward not just being prepared for investors, but also being prepared to market yourself, present yourself and get to the meat faster and hopefully have more participants,” Baker said.

Members of the Maricopa City Council grilled MCE Director Quintin Baker over the performance of the business incubator. Photo by Mason Callejas

The director of the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship found himself in the hot seat at a City Council meeting Tuesday when council members expressed frustration with his presentation and certain answers he provided after inquires.

Quintin Baker

Quitin Baker, the MCE’s director, provided second quarter data during the presentation, which, for the first time, showed direct job growth.

In all, Baker said, four jobs were created with MCE client businesses since his last report three months ago. The positions where either administrative or “special-event” jobs that, he said, have all been maintained for the last two months.

Councilmember Nancy Smith felt the MCE presentation didn’t address the long-term goal updates outlined in the city’s contract with MCE. She said that is an important assessment to have to track the eventual sustainability of the organization.

“In the two and a half years I’ve been serving, I’ve never seen an update to the one-year business plan or five-year business plan for MCE,” Smith said. “So I haven’t seen any status, and we’re supposed to be receiving a status to your milestones, to your business plan.”

In response, Baker acknowledge the concern, indicating he would heed their advice and possibly provide that information in future updates.

City Manager Gregory Rose further questioned Baker about the role MCE’s parent organization – the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) – plays in assisting the organization. Last October, the council approved up to $200,000 in funding.

“Maricopa, the city council, has the opportunity of creating their own entrepreneur program, but there is a reason that they elected to bring NACET onboard, to help with the structure, and to help also with the funding potential. So why do we have you running our program?” Rose asked.

Baker responded by saying since he joined MCE he has been in a recovery mode of sorts, trying to shore up the basic structure of the organization.

“To be honest, at this point, I’ve been focused on the foundational things,” Baker said, alluding to the disorganized MCE he inherited when he came aboard in December.

“Some of the resources that NACET has I have not been able to utilize simply because bringing that in may not necessarily do us the best good at the moment,” Baker said.

In a subsequent interview with Baker, he said the majority of the resources offered by NACET are merit based and there needs to be milestones reached before they can access them – milestones most of MCE clients have yet to reach.

Baker did say the MCE’s upcoming Pitch Competition is a NACET program that MCE has taken and modified slightly.

Speaking to the goal-setting and sustainability aspect, he said the MCE would like to soon gain a larger office to be able to rent to clients needing more resources than are offered at the current MCE office space.

By providing more work space, Baker said, there would not only be direct revenue created for MCE, helping with sustainability, but it’s also likely to create a trickle-down effect that will help bolster local businesses.

Craig Dourmashkin with his portrait of Bob Marley. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa artist Craig Dourmashkin has a celebration of color on the gallery walls at Maricopa Center for the Arts as the selected artist for June. He often works from black-and-white photographs so he is not distracted or biased by the colors in front of him, and then chooses his own palette of bright hues. Several of his latest works are portraits of late musicians, such as David Bowie and Bob Marley. Visit the gallery during MCE office hours at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108.

The works of Craig Dourmashkin will be on the walls of MCE this month.

The gallery at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship is hosting a new artist for the month of June, displaying mostly portraiture work with an awe-inspiring sentiment of colorful realism.

Maricopa painter Craig Dourmashkin’s 25 years of teaching art and experimenting with different techniques and media have created a uniquely colorful and subtly stylized method that brings a certain sense of magical realism to the canvas.

His striking images bring forth thoughts of an alternate universe where Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in the post-Vietnam War era and had forfeited the typewriter in place of a paintbrush.

MCE with the help of the Maricopa Arts Council and city officials has gone to great lengths to support Maricopa artists like Dourmashkin.

While some have objected to expending community resources on the arts, others feel it’s crucial to underpin a form of entrepreneurialism that not only helps make the community a diverse and vibrant place, but also makes it a destination for art lovers from the world over.

MCE Director Quintin Baker happens to be one of the latter.

“I believe art is a powerful expression of creativity, and every entrepreneur needs creativity to turn their dreams into reality,” Baker said.  “Much like art, business formation takes commitment, patience, consistency, improvement, and perspectives of others.”

Efforts to bolster the arts in Maricopa were underway at MCE before Baker came aboard last fall. He plans to further support and promote artists like Dourmashkin for as long as possible.

Dourmashkin’s exhibit will be on display for the entire month of June, and a special reception will be held Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the MCE gallery in their office at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108.

MCE Director Quintin Baker was praised by council, but MCE's parent company inspired disappointment.

In a conversation with InMaricopa, Quintin Baker, new executive director of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, talks about the influence Maricopa has on the surrounding marketplace, the necessity of business measurement and transparency and the attributes entrepreneurial “millennials” bring to business. “Anything is possible” for those willing to take a chance on their ideas and passions, he said.

Quintin Baker, center, meets with business owners at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo by Mason Callejas

The incoming director of Maricopa’s small business incubator met with the public Thursday to discuss his ideas for the future, ideas that could very well mean a positive change for an organization that has come under recent fire for a lack of transparency.

Quintin Baker is moving in to lead the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship after his predecessor, Dan Beach, was abruptly removed from the position in November.

MCE uses a grant from the city, as well as federal and state grants, to conduct seminars, offer work spaces and even award modest loans to small businesses in Maricopa. Toward the end of his appointment, Beach was reproached for being unable to precisely show how well these investments were working.

Though it is uncertain if this lack of clarity was directly related to Beach’s termination, Baker said he realizes this is a community investment and thus wants to ensure taxpayers see a positive return and business under MCE’s wing  creating jobs.

“What I think I’m going to add is just a little more measurement, more metrics and more tracking,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of systems in place out there that I just noticed were not a part of what was happening here.”

In the past, there has also been concern about whether the businesses utilizing MCE’s resources were actually based in Maricopa. To that point, Baker said he understands the concern, yet he believes an investment in nearby communities translates into an investment for Maricopa.

“When it comes to business you kind of have to go where the market is,” Baker said. “We want to show that as you contribute to other surrounding areas, whether it’s through jobs or marketing, you actually become more of the destination spot, you actually drive traffic into Maricopa.”

Another attribute that makes Maricopa such a “destination spot” is the arts. The city is home to a sizeable population of artists, and thus the MCE has become and, in Baker’s words, will remain a champion of the arts in Maricopa.

Baker also hopes to promote mentorship programs that he believes help provide MCE clients with an entrepreneurial edge. Furthermore, he hopes to install a graduated learning program that addresses a business’s needs based on their development and level of commitment to growth.

Quintin Baker holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from ASU, serves on the board of Seeking Doors Inc., is a mentor for the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) and is a cofounder of Dual Path Wifi & Internet.

Maricopa Marketplace was a Small Business Saturday Shop Local event in front of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship on Saturday. Around 40 Maricopa small businesses participated, displaying and selling their goods and services.

Dan Beach was terminated as executive director of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship as NACET streamlines its management.

The termination of Dan Beach as executive director of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship surprised many, but no one more so than Dan Beach.

“It was hurtful to me,” said Beach, who was hired two years ago. “There are so many things we’re in the middle of.”

Election night, he was told he was being let go effective immediately by Scott Hathcock, the new chief executive officer of Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET).

Beach said the only reason he was given was that NACET was streamlining management.

The City of Maricopa has a contract with NACET to operate the business incubator program known as MCE. It provides resources for start-up small business in Maricopa.

In October, the contract was renewed on a unanimous vote by the city council, with Maricopa investing $200,000. Also in October, NACET hired Hathcock as its CEO.

City Hall was apparently not informed ahead of time about the decision to terminate Beach.

“It was a surprise to us,” said Dorothy Wolden, economic development specialist with the city.

She said city staff was told Hathcock would be in town but did not know the nature of the visit. Wolden said NACET reached out earlier to inform Maricopa of the implementation of a new program.

“They haven’t done anything outside the contract,” Wolden said. “We would have preferred to be informed ahead of time.”

Hathcock was not available for comment.

“This is my reputation,” Beach said. “I’ve worked hard and we’ve done a phenomenal job here. I love Maricopa. It’s an incredible, awesome place.”

Beach himself told the city what happened in his meeting with Hancock Tuesday afternoon.

Two important events involving MCE this month are Maricopa Shark Tank on Monday and Maricopa Marketplace on Nov. 26.

“It will be business as usual as much as possible,” Wolden said. “We understand there’s some uncertainty.”

Her understanding is that Christine K. Bailey, executive director of NACET’s Chandler office, will be brought into the Maricopa office part-time. The structure of MCE is expected to be more clearly laid out on Monday.

After the contract was renewed in October, some residents and council members raised questions about MCE’s services and accomplishments. That resulted in a Nov. 2 report compiled by the city Economic Development Department and MCE.

The report, which was not given to NACET, expanded on information Beach gave in his presentation before the council approved the contract. It included a June executive report breakdown of MCE’s activities.

That data showed 78 clients, four of which are resident clients, and 80 prospective clients. Wolden said questions were raised about how the agreement with NACET was structured. Residents also asked about details on accountability.

Wolden said the new program to be implemented by NACET will have a “more measurable matrix.”

The contract with NACET does not give the city involvement in the hiring and firing process of directors. Wolden said city staff is watchful of program changes and whether they fit into Maricopa’s vision of its business incubator.

“Maricopa businesses don’t have access to a lot of resources. That was the catalyst for the creation of MCE,” Wolden said. “It’s been the go-to place for small businesses.”

Jennifer Sultzaberger was among local residents who spoke in favor of MCE while Eric Lacz questioned its accountability as the city council mulled funding for the business incubator.

Maricopa business owners have differing views on the effectiveness of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, a business incubator that recently received $200,000 from the City of Maricopa by unanimous vote of the city council.

Jennifer Sultzaberger

The most important reflection I have about the MCE is being involved with Maricopa High School’s DECA program and their youth.

Without the MCE, Shark Tank would happen, however it would not be as impactful.  #vidit sponsored the DECA club at Maricopa High School in 2015 and had a #vidit intern, McKinzy Blewett, who participated in Shark Tank 2014 to introduce the #vidit value proposition.

The Shark Tank Program allows our youth to participate at a local level in something kids dream about all over the country when they watch the TV show Shark Tank on Friday nights. Then MCE takes our local #SharkTank to another level by allowing internships and entrepreneurial mentorship to local students.

As an existing business in Maricopa since 2013, which had absolutely no success with the Ahwatukee or Maricopa Chambers, the embrace and welcoming I received from MCE and Dan Beach allowed me to share my technology and personal message to youth and the City of Maricopa.

Furthermore its local entrepreneurs like myself and MCE that are here to excel the city of Maricopa to its new heights by supporting and helping local youth realize they can become anything they want to be with the proper plan, drive and determination. #BecomeYourDream.

Jennifer Sultzaberger is the founder of #vidit.

Eric Lacz

I believe Maricopa needs a business incubator to help insure small business success. With that being said, MCE is not the right choice to run this program in Maricopa.

There are many questions being asked by small businesses in Maricopa about the effectiveness of MCE over the last three years. At a recent City Council meeting many questions were raised, yet none were answered. Neither the city of Maricopa nor MCE is willing to answer basic questions about how the program is being operated.

What are the expectations for the next year of service?
What is MCE’s responsibility under the current contract?
Are there any true results posted anywhere for the public to see?
What does $200,000 in funding pay for?
What is the number of new businesses added each year?
Are there any results of job creation?
How many MLoan requests have been made and funded to date?
Are there other options available?

I agree that the city of Maricopa needs to fix its small business infrastructure, but not without transparency and accountability.

Eric J. Lacz is the owner of ADworx Local.

Dan Beach was terminated as executive director of Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship as NACET streamlines its management.

By R. Mason Callejas

The Maricopa City Council approved up to $200,000 in expenditures to facilitate small business growth Oct. 4.

Supported unanimously by the council, the move grants further funding of the Northern Arizona Technology & Business Incubator’s area extension to the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship. MCE, in turn, provides assistance to small companies in the Maricopa area in the form of low-interest loans, inexpensive workspaces, workshops and networking opportunities.

Because of the large role small business takes in the local economy the incubator is considered by many to be a blessing. Though, however helpful, some residents are concerned about the relinquishing of tax dollars to private companies and are asking for more accountability from MCE as well as proof-of-return from their investment.

Maricopa Business Council Executive Director Eric Lacz spoke at the meeting and said he supports the idea of a city-subsidized incubator program but wants to know more about the legitimacy of the MCE program. He wants to see more concrete evidence of the incubator’s direct influence on bolstering small-business growth.

“What is the responsibility under the contract to MCE, and what are the expectations of reporting back to the city?” Lacz asked. “Is there a quarterly reporting process? Is this something that is available to the public to be able to sit back and say, ‘OK, they’ve added five new businesses this month, or this quarter, and along with it they’ve created 10 new jobs’?”

Lacz dually expressed concern about the viability of the loan program and wanted a more detailed explanation of the qualifications small businesses need to receive the loans.

MCE utilizes both the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s M-Loan program and the Arizona Microcredit Initiative to provide loans to small businesses. The funds they provide are meant to be used for small business expansion, yet there is little explanation from MCE of who is receiving what and why, and how it has helped.

MCE Executive Director Dan Beach spoke to council to answer for and defend the program his organization has championed over the past two years. He expressed no concern with the viability of the loans or their default potential. As for eligibility, he claimed he almost never says no to a loan request.

“Bad credit is good, it’s not an issue,” Beach said.  “Both of the funds are looking to create jobs in the community. They’re both funded with grants, so we have that opportunity. We’re not a bank so we don’t have to get the high interest rates.”

Beach referred to the loans as “revolving funds,” and said as the funds are repaid they then are loaned out again. Beach provided an in-house analysis of benchmarks his organization has established to help small businesses and the local economy grow. And, according to their measures, the city’s initial investment has already paid for itself more than four times over.

Beach’s presentation claimed the program has “created or retained at client companies 124 jobs (estimated),” which generated an estimated $5.6 million per year in wages. The assessment further asserted $4.3 million of the aforementioned wages was injected back into the local economy, which in turn generated almost $830,000 in local tax revenues.

The organization cites information from the USDL Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Kauffman Foundation as the source of some of these numbers. And though the math in the middle of this equation checks out, how the book-end figures were determined is not entirely understood.

InMaricopa is continuing to study these and other figures put forth by the MCE and will provide updates and a detailed analysis as more information becomes available.

by -
Christine K. Bailey

“Uncovering Your Story” is the theme of Christine K. Bailey’s MCE Lunch and Learn presentation at Copper Sky on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from noon to 1 pm.

Bailey’s workshop will teach business owners the six steps for writing and sharing your story, plus six ways business owners can actively share it with the right audiences to attract new customers, improve existing vendor relationships and build a better business.

Bailey, a published author and business growth strategist, specializes in harnessing the power of the written (and spoken) word to help CEOs, business owners and individuals effectively communicate with their stakeholders – employees, customers, investors and partners – to scale and grow their businesses.

“As both an author and business owner, Christine has a unique perspective,” said Dan Beach, executive director of MCE. “This allows her to cut to the chase and deliver the important message that will impact Maricopa business.”

As the owner of Christine K. Bailey & Associates she focuses on working with CEOs and business owners to clarify their business vision and lead their companies to improved performance and profitability. In her career, Christine has developed and led marketing and sales operations efforts for private equity and venture capital-backed organizations to help them effectively tell their stories to the right audiences to build and nurture multi-million dollar sales pipelines.

Today, she is serving as executive director building a business incubation and entrepreneurial development program for the City of Chandler – Chandler Innovations powered by NACET – and sharing its story across the Valley. An advocate for exploring life’s adventures and passionate about discovering the stories of her adopted home state of Arizona, she is also the author of travel books and articles, including the recently published 100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die (Reedy Press, 2015). Her next book is due out late summer 2017.

The City of Maricopa is home to roughly 800 local businesses that are making a positive impact in the community. Each unique business contributes to Maricopa’s high quality of life and plays an important role in building a sustainable local economy. The valuable goods, services, and job opportunities you provide make Maricopa a better place to live, work and play. Together these businesses comprise the largest employer in Maricopa.

MCE is committed to providing assistance for small and medium business entrepreneurs as well as existing business owners to grow and flourish. In its mission to build strong local businesses, the Center offers business consulting, training and workshops, as well as small office space and a revolving loan fund through the City of Maricopa. The resources offered by MCE can help an entrepreneurial company to accelerate its growth towards success, be it small, medium or perhaps a prospective entrepreneur toying with the idea of a business plan.

Mike Richey, owner of Maricopa ACE Hardware. Photo by William Lange

Mike Richey, owner of Maricopa ACE Hardware is the September business thought leader for ‘engage,’ a new program from Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship that invites the entire community to engage “upfront and personal” with important “business thought leaders” of our community.

The program is set for Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at MCE, 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108. Residents of Maricopa and others interested are invited to RSVP online at http://conta.cc/2bcEBSi.

The interview-style program asks these leaders questions like “What makes them think and react? How did they become the people they are? And what are their thought, hopes and dreams about the future of our community?” The audience is also invited to propose questions when they RSVP for the program.

This month’s guest speaker is following in his father’s footsteps as a champion for his community and those in need. Richey is a strong supporter of everything from the Maricopa Police Foundation to the Maricopa Historical Society to Maricopa High School.

After acquiring Ace Hardware in 2010, the former commercial real estate industry veteran quickly became involved in the local community. He started volunteering on the board of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce in 2011.

Jim Rives, former CEO of Maricopa Economic Development Alliance, credits Richey with helping lead the chamber through difficult times as it transitioned away from relying on city funding to becoming funded by membership dues.

“He is always having an eye out and an ear to the ground about what is really stabilizing this community,” Rives said

Maricopa is home to roughly 800 local businesses that are making a positive impact in the community. Each unique business contributes to Maricopa’s high quality of life and plays an important role in building a sustainable local economy. MCE is committed to providing assistance for small and medium business entrepreneurs as well as existing business owners to grow and flourish.

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Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship opens its June exhibit of local art tonight with an artist’s reception for Samantha Hawksworth.

A stay-at-home mom, Hawksworth took private art lessons in high school, eventually shifting from colored pencils to painting. She now calls herself a self-taught abstract painter.

“My artwork is inspired from within,” said Hawksworth, whose husband works for the City of Maricopa. “Each piece flows from the ideas that the Spirit of God gives me. Some have specific stories; others create their own story as they come to life on the canvas. I find that the best pieces of art are created when my heart takes over and my thoughts are silenced.”

Tonight’s reception starts at 6 p.m. at MCE, 20800 John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108. Hawksworth’s art will be on display all month. For more information, call 520-510-5535