By Feoshia Henderson
Fort Thomas entrepreneur and business consultant Casimir “Cass” Choppy joins Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, a non-profit economic development organization, during a dynamic period of entrepreneurial focus in the region.
Choppy was just hired as assistant director for Tri-Ed’s ezone Entrepreneur Center, helping launch new companies. Also, ezone helps existing companies get new products and services into the marketplace.
The center’s ultimate goal is to cultivate viable, fast-growing companies – with a tech bent – that keep talent and jobs here.
Choppy joins ezone as Northern Kentucky’s government, education and business leaders visibly pour increased resources into entrepreneurship. Having founded or worked for a half-dozen startups himself, it’s a job Choppy enthusiastically embraced in the few short weeks he’s been at ezone.
Stepping in, even he was surprised at how the landscape has changed for Northern Kentucky entrepreneurs in recent years.
“Coming into this, I didn’t realize the support that Northern Kentucky gives to get these entrepreneurs up and running, from attorneys to accounts and investors,” he says. “I’m just excited to be involved in this great organization.”
A division of Tri-Ed, ezone was founded in 2001. Through various programs, it helps navigate the turbulent waters that come with making a business idea a reality. Among other things, ezone helps businesses secure early financing options through through grants, loans, forgivable loans and equity investments through the Kentucky Enterprise Fund and the Kentucky Department of Commercialization and Innovation.
Since the program began, the ezone has assisted over 200 companies that have brought more than $121 million in investments to Northern Kentucky.
Choppy is working to contribute to that legacy, bringing decades of experience in creating new tech-based processes and services.
“I’ll be working working with people starting a business who are looking for grants, that is my primary area. And if they are accepted (as an entrepreneur center portfolio company) I will work with them on a consulting basis, as needed,” Choppy says.
Choppy brings real-world experience
Choppy has bachelor’s of business administration degree from California State University-Fullerton and is working on an MBA from California State University-Dominquez Hills. He is active in the area non-profit community, serving on the Advisory Board of Directors at the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and the board of both Family Promise and ACA International. He is a former member of the American Management Association.
Before coming to ezone, Choppy oversaw project leadership, business analysis and system testing as vice president of operations services at Fidelity Investments. He also was a leader at J.C. Penney Company; as vice president he launched a new business services venture and was responsible for the strategic direction of the new company.
“Cass Choppy has held positions that make him a significant asset to the ezone and the entrepreneur community in Northern Kentucky,” said Casey Barach, vice president of entrepreneurship at Tri-ED and ezone director in a job announcement. “We will leverage his experience at large companies such as Fidelity Investments and J.C. Penney and his diverse background in many facets of business, including sales, marketing, product development, project management, quality assurance and operational management.”
For decades startup companies have been the job creation engine of the country, and even during this long economic recession, that’s remained true.
Startups have taken their lumps too, (the average opened with 7.5 employes in 1994 compared to 4.9 by 2010) but remain the major source of new job creation nationwide. In fact, while established firms have been shedding millions of jobs in the last decade, startups have been creating nearly 3 million new jobs a year. (Though that number appears to have dropped some in the last couple of years.)
New ezone accelerator
Historically, money – and lots of it – has been the main way to recruit and develop a startup culture. And while money is important, other support, from legal, financial and marketing services as well as old- fashioned networking, is also valuable. That’s why a new proliferation of entrepreneurship contests and startup incubators and accelerators have sprung up across the Northern Kentucky region.
Northern Kentucky ezone has just launched one of the region’s most impressive startup accelerators, UpTech. It’s a partnership among several Northern Kentucky institutions, including Northern Kentucky University, Tri-Ed, ezone and Vision 2015. Through a competitive process, it has chosen eight businesses for an intense, 6-month accelerator program that includes $100,000 in funding. The program
started in early June.
“I am involved with those eight companies, and have been working with them on training. We’re going through the steps of starting business, and getting it running to generate revenue. I have an opportunity to work with the NKU College of Informatics, and with all the mentors and businesses involved in supporting this whole UpTech venture,” Choppy says.
In addition to funding, UpTech offers research support from NKU’s College of Informatics, office space, financial, marketing and legal support and an executive mentor program.
“When I was looking to buy a business previously, I didn’t see this kind of support available. With the ezone, the College of Informatics and the business and investors communities supporting UpTech, its providing a great place to foster, grow and develop our economic base,” he says. “We want (startups) to like Northern Kentucky and to do business here.”