Community Shows Up for Local Startups

In an evening filled with the spirit of enterprise, four local entrepreneurs took the stage at the White Hart Inn on January 30 to present their business ideas to a gathering of over 70 mentors. The Northwest Community Startup Night provided a unique platform for these startups to engage with experienced businesspeople.

John Fiorello, Director of the Entrepreneurial Center at Northwest Connecticut Community College, set a convivial tone as everyone settled in for the main event as he introduced the rules of supportive engagement, which included: "Be awesome," and "lovingly critical.”

The entrepreneurs showcased a diverse range of business endeavors—Nakita Devlin of RIC, offering insurance for communities to provide immediate financial relief after storm flooding; Stephen Hastings-King of Pattern Recognition Research Collective, offering investment advice and vehicles for higher education foundations; Jodi-Ann Bryan of Jodi Cup of Health, maker of all-natural skin care remedies and beauty products; and Manish Bhardwaj of intelliTransit Solutions, a software application that optimizes delivery logistics.

Northwest Community Startup Night January 2024
(Pictured clockwise from top-left) Nakita Devlin, Stephen Hastings-King, Manish Bhardwaj, and Jodi-Ann Bryan

Each speaker gave a 3-minute presentation on their business and then asked for guidance in specific areas of development. Afterward, the entrepreneurs had dedicated time with groups of 5-10 mentors for 15-minute sessions to glean feedback and exchange ideas. The rotation continued for three sessions, providing ample opportunity for meaningful discussion. The presenters each received a surprise $500 gift from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation in support of their endeavors.

BTCF’s sponsorship of Community Startup Nights aligns with our priority to build economic opportunity in the region. By nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship and the conditions for early-stage business success, we aim to foster long-term economic growth, and forging partnerships that connect philanthropy with local organizations like the Entrepreneurial Center is a central role of our Foundation. This is the second Community Startup Night that BTCF has supported.

Entrepreneurs receive check at Northwest Community Startup Night with John Fiorello
Stephen Hastings-King, Manish Bhardwaj, Nakita Develin, Jodi-Ann Bryan, and John Fiorello

Learn More About Berkshire Taconic's Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority