Queen City Angels host 10th annual entrepreneur boot camp

Cincinnati venture mentoring and investment firm Queen City Angels held its 10th annual Entrepreneur Boot Camp June 6 and 7 at the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati's offices. For two days, entrepreneurs networked, met and learned from guest panelists, Queen City Angels' experienced members and each other.

"These are entrepreneurs who are starting their first business, or haven't raised money from strangers before," explained Jim Cunningham, Queen City Angels member and executive director of C-Cap, Cincinnati's angel capital hub. He noted that the two-day seminar focused heavily on financial and funding matters. "That's what we do, and most entrepreneurs don't have a financial background."

As local entrepreneurs and experienced venture capitalists discussed topics ranging from online branding to creating a business plan that appeals to investors, attendees took copious notes and enthusiastically asked questions. Often, one attendee would help answer another's question, giving the seminars a sense of thorough, complete engagement on both sides of the speaker's table.

Jocelyn Cates, who founded the Cincinnati Innovates prize-winning business Venue Agent, said she attended the boot camp after her experiences in Queen City Angels' Morning Mentoring program. She noted that much of the seminar served to reinforce the value of coaching and networking, two key aspects of her business as she prepares to seek additional financing.

"I want to make sure I have all the tools under my belt," she said.

Selena Cuffe, founder and CEO of wine importer Heritage Link Brands, said being part of the boot camp helped her clarify plans to handle her company's early growth; in the first six months of 2011, she said the company has already exceeded its 2010 sales by 40 percent.

"I came here to try and decide how to best move forward," she said. "When you're going through the steps of taking your business to the next level, it's nice to have somebody you can bounce ideas off of before you do that," she said.

Queen City Angels chairman Tony Shipley said the boot camps don't only offer a chance to help entrepreneurs like Cuffe and Cates move forward; they also inspire and energize the veterans who come to provide advice.

"It's always good to be engaged with people who are passionate about taking good ideas and bringing them to market," he said. "From the investment standpoint, you get to see all these neat ideas and meet people making the ideas happen. It's high-energy stuff."

Story: Matt Cunningham
Photo: Courtesy of Queen City Angels