In November we highlight the Entrepreneurial Center led by Fred Wergeles, Director, and Women’s Business Center led by Milena Erwin, Program Manager.
OSP: For those not familiar with the Entrepreneurial Center, tell us who you are and what you do? EC/WBC: “The Entrepreneurial Center and Women's Business Center is part of the Barney School of Business and assists CT entrepreneurs and small business owners start and grow their businesses. Through training workshops, free business and technical advising, networking events and more, we give our clients the knowledge, connections and confidence to make their business dreams a reality”.
OSP: How long has the center been a part of the University? EC/WBC: “The Entrepreneurial Center was established in 1985 under the Hartford College for Women. The Center recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Women's Business Center, the EC's largest initiative, was launched in 1999 with funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The EC/WBC continues to work closely with the UHart community – offering student internships, conducting faculty-led workshops, and co-producing alumni leadership presentations. Also, three of the EC/WBC staff are adjunct professors and currently teach at the Barney School of Business”.
OSP: The Center recently moved to office space at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies (CCAT). How does this relocation help the work you do for the community at-large? EC/WBC: “The move to CCAT in East Hartford allows us to expand our reach into new communities and attract new clients, as well as develop new partnerships. While establishing a new presence East of the River, we are also maintaining our Hartford presence through our Babcock House office on the University's Asylum Avenue campus. Workshops and advising are offered at both locations.
OSP: What significant work comes out of this center and what are the impacts to the community at-large? EC/WBC: “Each year we report the impact of our work to our funders. In the last year, over 1,600 people attended our training programs, and we counseled over 500 businesses. Through our assistance, 56 businesses were started and almost 1,000 jobs were created or retained. Our clients accessed over $1 million in capital start and grow their businesses”.
OSP: You have been successful in writing grants for the center. What has been your most challenging part of the grant process? EC/WBC: “Our center is fully grant-funded, operating with the generous support of several public and private funders. Each grant application is unique, with our federal SBA grant being the most complex. A successful proposal requires careful blending of the funder's and the Center's mission. However, the most challenging part has been coordinating the different timelines and reporting requirements”.
OSP: What can your colleagues learn from you that were valuable lessons in the grant process? EC/WBC: “Stay organized and plan well ahead of the grant deadline. Stay true to your mission and find a way to support the funder's mission through your work. Identify synergies and strategic connections”.
For many, the life cycle of a grant comes to an end rather quickly, and before other funding has been awarded. In the current funding environment, the odds of winning a grant are often slim with the competitiveness of so many competing for the same grant. There are helpful strategies and guidelines – articulating an original idea, seeking feedback from multiple sources and writing concisely – for putting together a winning proposal.
Presenting Good Information: Applicants must make sure that they are presenting excellent and original work. Grant officers are looking for a novel kind of research – not a continuation of some standard research you’ve already done. Be innovative! Bounce ideas off your colleagues. Grant officers or reviewers are looking for an enduring influence. Your project should lead into a study -have you thought about what happens next? Ask yourself Why, Who, What, When.
There are no hard and fast rules on which funder to approach. Colleagues with their own grants can offer advice; early-career scientists applying to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), can get the names of successful grantees from NIH RePORTER refer to: https://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_results.cfm?aid=8925564&icde=35735609
Nuts and bolts: Applicants must effectively outline their ideas in the application, including a clear and direct hypothesis along with the expected results. A proposal that includes preliminary results and explains the potential impact of the discovery would have a far better chance.
Some applications call for both a summary, aimed at reviewers who are not in the relevant field, and an abstract, for those who in the field. Most also have a section for a research plan, in which applicants can explain technical details. However, reviewers who see an application for the first (and perhaps only) time in a review-panel meeting usually turn immediately to the summary, say grant officers. That is where applicants should persuasively and succinctly explain exactly why their proposal deserves funding. It's important to be able to clearly articulate your ideas. If you can't do that, you're not going to be able to inspire enthusiasm. Some funders also call for a project description or narrative, but veteran grant-writers say that if there is a choice, it is best to make the strongest case in the summary.
Focus is key. If the summary is too technical or rambling, the application's score will suffer, even if the idea itself is brilliant. A bad summary is really disastrous and sets the tone for how a reviewer will read the rest of the application.
Funding Request: Applicants should make sure to request an appropriate amount of funding. Too little and there won't be enough money to finish the project — and it is next to impossible, say grant officers, to get supplementary funding. Too much and reviewers are likely to question the applicant's competence. This can imply that you don't know what you're doing and don't have a realistic grasp of the project. Applicants should reach out to their office of sponsored research, colleagues, Deans, Chairs.
Don’t’ sweat the small stuff: Other fundamental requirements may sound mundane or even silly but failing to adhere to them can derail an application. Investigators should read and follow all application instructions carefully: most stipulate length and format, including particular typefaces, fonts, font sizes and margins. It does not pay to deviate from these in the hope of cramming in more text or figures.
If you have a topic to suggest for the newsletter, please contact Christina Lapierre, Assistant Director at firstname.lastname@example.org