Three local entrepreneurs whose businesses partner with organizations regionally and nationally to produce a wide gamut of creative and advertising materials will offer insights into strategies for business-to-business success in a panel discussion on Monday, April 16, at Western Connecticut State University.
“The Entrepreneurial Arc,” a WCSU series of programs showcasing local entrepreneurs, will present the panel featuring Jonathan Soares, founder and CEO of the IT engineering firm Agency Labs in Bethel; Tony Vengrove, founder of the innovation and marketing consulting firm Miles Finch Innovation and the collaborative workspace Makery Coworking, both in New Milford; and John Kane, photographer and owner of Silver Sun Studios in New Milford.
The forum will be at 6 p.m. in Room 218 of the Classroom Building on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend. Co-sponsors for the event include the Center for Entrepreneurship, Research, Innovation and Creativity (E.R.I.C.@THEGARAGE), the Ancell School of Business and the Macricostas Entrepreneurial Endowment at WCSU; the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce; and the Danbury Hackerspace.
“Selling business-to-business requires different skills, especially for solo practitioners and small specialized-service providers,” remarked Associate Professor of Management Dr. Pauline Assenza, coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Arc program. “Here are three local businesses who are making their mark servicing the creative side of things. Our panelists will discuss how they find their customers, close the deal and continue to grow.”
Since its founding in 2011, Soares’ Agency Labs has provided IT engineering services in partnerships with leading digital, creative and advertising agencies, building more than 500 websites, mobile apps and customized software platforms for firms that represent clients ranging from major consumer and luxury goods, industrial and financial services companies to universities, museums and nonprofit organizations. The Agency Labs website observed that the key to success in completing diverse IT projects is to forge “great partnerships in a world of evolving collaboration, cathartic debate and technical prowess. The methods we use constantly evolve to accommodate a variety of project management and production work flows. We understand that every client, timeline and project is different, so we work closely with our partners to ensure an efficient yet flexible engagement.”
Soares, a Danbury native who earned his B.B.A. in Marketing from WCSU in 2006, started his entrepreneurial career as founder of Q Products, a specialty food company that grew from a small home-based startup in 2005 to market his “Jonathan’s Q” barbecue sauces, salad dressings and marinades in more than 15,000 stores nationwide.
Assenza observed that Soares is willing to take risks and has a clear understanding of his strengths and his brand identity. “You have to know what you stand for and fully understand the business you’re in if you partner with agencies that represent clients like Sotheby’s Diamonds and the Rubin Museum,” she said.
Vengrove, of New Milford, has drawn upon more than 25 years’ professional experience in the global advertising and corporate marketing fields to embark on his latest venture in innovation and marketing consulting as CEO of Miles Finch Innovation. Founded in 2012, Miles Finch has shared its “Idea Climate Equation” and “Seven C’s of Creative Leadership” instruction in organizational innovation and change with corporate clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial startups across the eastern United States. Through coaching and mentoring in creative leadership, Vengrove said, Miles Finch seeks “to help clients capture value from ideas. We love to collaborate with innovation teams to uncover consumer insight, generate new product concepts, and connect ideas to technologies, manufacturing capabilities and thought leaders.”
His founding of Makery Coworking in 2016 provided a collaborative workspace in downtown New Milford targeted for self-employed freelancers and entrepreneurs who share IT and office facilities and equipment in an informal environment promoting creative exchange and networking. Since 2014 he has been a mentor for The Refinery, a Westport-based business accelerator supporting startup ventures by women in Connecticut. He also serves on the advisory board of the Management Department at the WCSU Ancell School of Business, provides consulting advice to many Connecticut nonprofits, and is a co-author of the book “Energize Your Leadership.”
“One of the marks of a successful entrepreneur is one who is always looking for opportunities,” Assenza said. “Tony has said he has ‘a healthy obsession for discovering how to do things better,’ and he does this not just in his business but also for the community.”
Kane, a WCSU alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in literature, has gained widespread acclaim during a professional career as a commercial and editorial photographer whose images have appeared in many national publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, and Architectural Digest. Among his best-known works are his images for “The Human Alphabet” and other books, articles and promotional materials featuring the Pilobolus dance company based in Washington, Connecticut, which include his Pilobolus website contributions that received a 2014 Webby Silver Prize for best use of photography. He has illustrated books and photo essays on other themes including fashion, travel, architecture and food, and has taught photography as an adjunct professor at WCSU and in many workshops.
A resident of Northville, Kane said that he is equally at home with diverse photographic subjects and styles, from the commercial to the editorial. “With that said, it’s a good idea to hang your hat on a specialty that makes sense,” he observed. “Years ago I decided that all the active modern dance companies in this area made it a no-brainer artistically to pursue that. Paying gigs follow if you do it right and with passion.”