The Long Island Capital Alliance’s quarterly Capital Forums are increasingly hot tickets for entrepreneurs and investors, thanks primarily to Carol Lane, who’s been organizing the schmear-and-schmooze breakfast networkers since taking over as LICA executive director in November 2014. The adjunct professor of business and communications at Farmingdale State College is a one-time entrepreneur herself: Her 2011 Huntington-based startup Portage Coaching Group helped other first-time business owners set goals, draw plans and evaluate results, work that honed her early-stage instincts. With three more Capital Forums set for 2016, Lane offers her view from LICA’s trenches:
INVESTOR IMPROVEMENTS: We’ve been able to attract more investors, and a better quality of investors. It’s getting easier to get them to come out, possibly because of good word-of-mouth networking and the fact that there’s been some success with investors and the companies who present. Also, our board of directors does a good job reaching out to investors and promoting the forums.
RIGHT ON QUEUE: There’s no shortage of people looking to present at our events. We get 50 to 100 people sending in business plans for each forum. Some of them are not the right fit – we only select Long Island businesses, for instance – so we cull through them and screen them and pick the ones we feel will best meet our investors’ criteria.
START SPREADING THE NEWS: We also try hard to bring out New York City-based investors. That can be a challenge, getting people to come out to Melville for an 8 a.m. meeting. But we’re definitely trying.
CENTRAL PREOCCUPATION: Planning the Capital Forums is my job. We’re a membership organization, so part of my time is spent promoting members and attracting sponsors and all the other things you need to do, but most of my time is spent planning the quarterly forums. An hour after one ends, we’re looking at the next one.
ALL-CONSUMING: For our next forum, we decided to do consumer products manufacturing and distribution (May 6). The big areas are biotech, technology and healthcare, but there’s a lot going on in consumer products and we thought it would be interesting to see what’s out there. We’re also planning a technology forum (Sept. 16) and one on biotechnology (Dec. 9).
LADIES FIRST: I’d like to see more women-owned businesses coming out. Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing entrepreneur group, with something like 30 percent of all U.S. businesses now owned by women. We’ve featured some – Buncee (owned by entrepreneur Marie Arturi) presented once – and when we put out the call for presenters, I’d like to see more women coming forward.
STAY RIGHT HERE: The other thing I’d like to see is these young people I’m working with staying on Long Island and growing their businesses here. I want my kids to come home from college and want to work here and live here, and I’d like to see more support for the local economy to make that happen. Part of why we do this is because we’re here, and we want to support our families here.
LICA WHAT SHE SEES: Through the Capital Alliance, I have met so many entrepreneurs and investors on Long Island. I’ve been really impressed by the high-caliber, intelligent people out there involved in business development.
BRAIN POWER: I have especially enjoyed working with the world-class research institutions we have here. LICA ran a clean-energy forum with Stony Brook University last year and a tech-transfer forum with Brookhaven National Laboratory in May. We’ve run programs with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Being able to work with that level of professional researchers has been fascinating.
THINK FIRST: What I learned most is the importance of being strategic, from the very beginning. Most successful entrepreneurs are open to input and guidance and open to the feedback process; at least, those are the ones that seem most able to succeed. But the key is having a plan, and being accountable to it.
LESSON ONE: I teach marketing, advertising, public-relations and consumer-behavior classes, and I try to infuse in them the importance of being really clear and realistic. If you have a great idea and you’re going out there with it, you have to be clear about what your target market is – and whether there actually is an attainable market. You can have a great, great idea, but if there’s not an attainable market, you’re going to have problems.
YOUTHFUL ENTHUSIASM: I have so many students come up to me with ideas (for products or services), and that’s very interesting to me. This generation has been reared on “Shark Tank.” They have a great entrepreneurial spirit. And if they have an idea, they really feel like they can bring it through. This is the next generation of powerhouse companies. These are the kids who are going to be running things. I love their energy.
Interview by Gregory Zeller