The ENet incubator program at Goodwin University culminated with a live pitch event on Tuesday, August 18. Students pitched virtually and in person in a safe, socially distanced format.

The ENet (Entrepreneurial Network) entrepreneurship program for the formerly incarcerated reentry population was the brainchild of Matthew Connell, Program Director of the Business Administration Program at Goodwin University.

Attendees included ENet peers and community supporters, Goodwin University President Mark Scheinberg, Matt Connell, and three panelists: Clifford Thermer, who is Assistant Vice President for Strategy & Business Development and Dean of the School of Business, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing; Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union Business Solutions Consultant Orlando Marquez; and Bears Smokehouse BBQ Co-Owner Cheryl McDonald.

Others attending the event included representatives from CTNext, whose parent company, Connecticut Innovations provided Goodwin University with a $200,000 CTNext Higher Education Entrepreneurship and Innovation grant to support ENet.

Each ENet student will receive $3,000 of startup money for pitching and completing the program—$1,500 of seed money, which Nutmeg State Financial has matched.

In opening remarks, Clifford Thermer praised the accomplishments of every participant for working through adversity, noting his excitement about “seeing opportunities for people to empower themselves.” He also commended Matt Connell for creating the program, saying, “I’m proud to be a part of this.”

After each of the 11 ENet participants pitched, they were supported with questions and comments from the panelists about topics including branding, creating a differentiator, evaluating the market, and transitioning their business inspirations into realities.

In closing, Orlando Marquez emphasized that Nutmeg State Financial wants to “provide money with a purpose.” He also spoke about how perseverance and resilience work hand-in-hand—and both are needed by entrepreneurs and business owners. “You all demonstrated an ability to handle both,” he said.

President Scheinberg also shared words of encouragement. “I’m an entrepreneur, as well,” he reminded the audience. “It takes a special type of person to stay with it. Failure will happen—and that’s okay. Lessons come don’t always come from successes, they come from getting through failure.”

About the participant’s success with the program, he said. “We can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Learn more about the ENet program.

Photo: ENet participants who pitched at the event (left to right, top to bottom) Ob Lugo, Amir Rahman, Alberto Rivera, Erika Roberts, Brian Sullivan, Richard Brown, Edward Andrews, Freddie McCoy, and Amy Wergin.