Tag Archives: B:Hive Bridgeport

New “Refinery” Targets Women Business Leaders

This area is blessed with many things: Natural beauty. Educational and cultural opportunities. And an abundance of brilliant women.

Fairfield County teems with high achievers. After starting families, they’re ready to go back to work. But rather than return to the corporate world, they’re starting their own businesses.

Westporter Janis Collins — entrepreneur-in-residence for the Stamford Innovation Center and B:HIve in Bridgeport — has met with over 200 Connecticut startups in the past year. A quarter were led by women.

Refinery logoBut every business needs a boost. The Refinery is an exciting new project that leverages extensive local intellectual and financial capital to help women-led businesses grow. (The definition: at least 1 woman in a leadership role.)

It’s an underserved market, Collins says. They get less than 10% of all venture capital money — despite studies showing that these companies perform at par or greater than those with male CEOs.

Over 25 mentors — female and male — have already signed up. The core team includes Jen Gabler, North Shutshiwaran and Bill Gordon. All 3 live in Westport or Weston.

Local talent like Andy Moss, Steve Obsitnik, Galia Gichon and Jenny Lawton are ready to advise and assist too.

The Westport Library, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Stamford Innovation Center provide grant money to the top performing company in the program.

Janis Collins (left) and Jen Gabler work with Daniel Ruskin, who is helping with The Refinery's tech side.

Janis Collins (left) and Jen Gabler work with Daniel Ruskin, who is helping with The Refinery’s tech side.

The Library has integrated The Refinery into its Maker-in-Residence program. So — along with meeting rooms — the innovative Maker Space is available to Refinery members.

The Refinery says it is different from other accelerators because it is highly individualized; it serves pre-revenue companies, as well as those that have launched or need a re-boot; it matches mentors with industry-specific experience, and its location accesses New York and Boston networks.

Through June 15, the organization is accepting applications for a 12-week fall program. Applicants should have launched — or be ready to launch — a product or digital service by the end of 2014. Companies should have the potential to grow to more than $10 million in revenues within 4 to 6 years. To apply for the fall program, click on The Refinery website.

The accelerator culminates in a Pitch Night. Teams will present their companies to the community, pitch to potential investors, and compete for cash awards.

“This is a community effort to create local jobs, and investible companies,” Collins says.

And Fairfield County’s remarkable women lead the way.

Luke Scott Boosts Bridgeport’s B:Hive Buzz

If B:Hive is half as successful as the group that created it — and gave it its spectacularly clever name — it will be one of the most impressive Bridgeport stories in years.

And an avid Westport booster is playing a big role in the city’s renaissance.

B:Hive is a great environment to work in...

B:Hive is a great environment to work in.

B:Hive is a flexible, funky (and very airy) “co-working space” in Bijou Square. Boasting workstations, supplies, a lounge with video and board games, 3 “phone booths” for private conversations, conference room, mailboxes, free coffee, storage for laptops and bikes — and of course killer WiFi — it’s the perfect way for entrepreneurs, writers, tech guys (and gals), musicians and producers, small business owners, and anyone else with a home office to get out of the house and into a lively, shared, work-and-fun environment.

Oh, yeah. It’s open 24/7/365.

The name says it all. B:Hive is:

  • a honeycomb-like place buzzing with productive activity
  • a spot where cross-pollination — in this case, of ideas — happens constantly
  • proud to “B” in Bridgeport.

BHive logoLike a hexagonal beehive, “B:Hive” has a 6-sided logo. That’s a tribute to its 6 founders.

One of them is Luke Scott. A proud 1991 Staples High School grad who last year moved his very successful company — Madison/Mott, a hip branding, advertising, digital and social agency to Ketchum Street, in the heart of resurgent Saugatuck — he nonetheless lives in downtown Bridgeport.

He loves his adopted city. He goes to the Bijou Theatre, enjoys pizza and music at Two Boots, and is inspired to contribute his many talents to harnessing the immense — but achingly unfulfilled — potential of Connecticut’s largest city.

He found kindred spirits in his girlfriend, Marcella Kovac, and 4 good friends (who are also couples). All are committed to Bridgeport, emotionally and financially.

Each of the 6 contributes a special talent. Besides Luke and Marcella — a graphic designer — there’s Jordan Rabidou (programmer); Madeline Rhodes (visual stylist), Amy Henson (teacher) and Ben Henson (city planner).

3 of the B:Hive's 6 founders (from left): Luke Scott, Jordan Rabidou and Ben Henson.

3 of the B:Hive’s 6 founders (from left): Luke Scott, Jordan Rabidou and Ben Henson.

It’s a high-powered group. And they work fast. In less than 2 months from the day they got the idea for B:Hive, to the party that opened it, they:

  • found the perfect space (285 Fairfield Avenue)
  • scoured Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, antiques stores (and, okay, Ikea) for sofas, work tables, chairs, a gorgeous old stand-up radio/record player, eclectic art and (of course) a ping pong table
  • developed marketing materials (“Working from home doesn’t always work.” “Cowork. Collaborate. Comingle.” “Way more caffeinated than a coffee shop.”)
  • devised a pricing structure ($20 a day, $80 for 5 days, $200 a month, $2,000 a year).

“We have a vested interested in seeing the Bridgeport — and Connecticut — economies prosper,” Luke says. “We think we can help by stimulating creativity. That leads to better business.”

He smiles. “And fun.”

As B:Hive builds its community, its founders look ahead.

B:Hive is also a great place just to chill.

B:Hive is also a great place just to chill.

They’ve already hosted a very successful tech event and ping pong tournament. On August 1, there’s a Game Night.

When students return to nearby campuses — UB, Sacred Heart, Housatonic, Fairfield U. — B:Hive will reach out to them.

Amy says, “When I was a night student, it was hard to find places to study. And some kids still live at home. This place has everything. It’s right off 95, it’s got parking, it’s on the bus line, it’s near the train station. Plus we’ve got coffee and food.”

Luke  Scott loves Westport. Moving Madison/Mott to Saugatuck is one of the best decisions he ever made, he says.

But — unlike many here — he also loves the often-kicked, seldom-respected sleeping giant of a city 15 minutes away.

How much does he love it? He points to B:Hive’s spacious bathroom.

“There’s plenty of room to change into a power suit for a client pitch,” he says.

“Or workout clothes. You know, you can walk to Seaside Park from here.”

The funky welcome at B:Hive Bridgeport.

The funky welcome at B:Hive Bridgeport.