A Clear Vision for Innovation
On June 9, 2020, Monica Miller, along with nine other entrepreneurs, concluded an intensive seven-week program through startup business accelerator gBETA, with a digital “pitch night” for potential investors. The […]
On June 9, 2020, Monica Miller, along with nine other entrepreneurs, concluded an intensive seven-week program through startup business accelerator gBETA, with a digital “pitch night” for potential investors. The City’s SEED Fort Wayne nonprofit organization sponsored the program’s five area businesses including Miller.
Monica Miller created the Glasses Gripper out of frustration and necessity from her years as a retail optician, when she adjusted and repaired glasses with sharp tools. “The chances of accidentally stabbing myself or damaging a patients’ frame or lenses became a more frequent and painful occurrence,” Miller recalled. She needed “something grippy,” she said, for stabilization.
Understanding that a safety solution was also a new business opportunity, Monica set out to invent a tool that would avoid injuries and, in the process, save time and money for industry businesses. Miller began searching various upholstery shops and discovered the synthetic rubber neoprene material called sharkskin, commonly used as a liner in diving suits. “I knew it was exactly what I needed,” she said. After affixing it to a piece of metal, she dubbed it the Glasses Gripper.
Miller was introduced to gBETA from Andie Hines-Lagemann, her Build Institute instructor. The Build Institute is a business planning education program launch by SEED Fort Wayne in 2019. Build was Miller’s first step forward after creating her product. She signed up for the nine-week program. “I believed taking a business planning class would be my best chance at learning how to run a business,” she said. The program’s commitment to having local entrepreneurs facilitate the classes impressed her. “That was a new experience for me.”
SEED’s Build Institute also led her to The Workbench, a local company that assists startups with industrial design and manufacturing. “My biggest need is to show how Glasses Gripper can save optical [companies] and labs thousands of dollars,” she said. Jon Rehwaldt, The Workbench owner, is also a Build instructor and is located at SEED’s Business Enterprise Center. “If it wasn’t for Jon and The Workbench, my [inability] to obtain a manufacturer would have stopped me in my tracks.”
A SEED trifecta, the Build Institute led Miller to The Workbench and ultimately gBETA’s business accelerator program. gBETA is where she participated in coaching sessions and networked with over 25 mentors. The gBETA cohort is a 7-week intensive business preparation course that focuses on refinement of the business model and strategic direction, exposure to area business leaders/mentors, customer traction approaches, and an aggressive schedule of investor pitch presentations.
Appreciative of the gBETA experience, Miller shared, “I’ve learned more in these last seven weeks than I could’ve learned through years of trial and error.”