Two prominent Baltimore entrepreneurs have been named the first mentors in the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program, an immersive learning experience for highly qualified University of Baltimore juniors and seniors that is being run by the Merrick School of Business. The mentors—Greg Cangialosi, founder of Blue Sky Factory and co-founder of Betamore and Baltimore Angels, and Lily Bengfort, founder of a local pest control firm and CenGen, a wireless and mobile communications technology venture—will work with selected student Fellows in a two-year program. For students seeking to become entrepreneurs (sometimes even before they graduate), the opportunity is setting new standards in a changing economy.
The program combines traditional course work and specialized instruction with direct exposure to successful new ventures, and features a capstone project in which Fellows launch their own companies under faculty supervision. Student applications are now being accepted for the program, which begins this fall.
Cangialosi and Bengfort have been dubbed "Gazelles" by the school, a term that refers to their status as heads of rapidly growing new ventures located throughout Maryland and their role as hosts of the apprenticeships. MIT researcher David Birch coined the term "gazelles" to refer to the kind of fast-tracking businesses that generate most of the new employment in America today. Related "high impact" firms generate all net private sector employment growth in America, and number 7,330 in Maryland, according to a 2008 study by the Corporate Research Board commissioned by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"We are fortunate to have Lily and Greg join with us as we launch the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program," said School of Business Dean Darlene Smith. "They are among the most accomplished expert entrepreneurs in Maryland today. Their appointment as mentors here confirms their many accomplishments as business leaders, strategic thinkers and hard workers. Our students have much to gain from their involvement."
Bengfort, who emigrated with her family from Guyana to the United States, started CenGen in 2000. The company was named Maryland Technology Company of the Year in 2006, and Bengfort was declared the 2010 Maryland Small Businessperson of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2011, she received the Influential Marylander Award from The Daily Record. A practicing network engineer, Bengfort has now founded and sold two companies—the mark of what is known in business as a "serial entrepreneur." She also is a member of the Dean's Advisory Council.
Cangialosi established Blue Sky Factory, an e-mail marketing firm, in 2001. He sold the company last year. Located in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, his Betamore venture is an urban campus for technology and entrepreneurship modeled after New York City's General Assembly initiative. Cangialosi is also the managing member of the Baltimore Angels, a local network of active technology-oriented individual investors.
"UB's Entrepreneurship Fellows program is a different type of entrepreneurship program that gets students off campus and into the real world," Cangialosi said. "This is in line with our broader mission here at Betamore, which is to expose those students who are about to graduate to the start-up life and entrepreneurial ecosystem that is being built here in Baltimore. An ideal success metric for this program is to see students graduate, team up, and start a company right here in Baltimore. The more of that type of activity, the better for this region."
"Baltimore is an ideal place for an Entrepreneurship Fellows Program," Bengfort said. "We have so much untapped potential in people who otherwise would not have the resources to develop their talents and dreams. It also intersects with the two things that helped me to be successful: education and entrepreneurship."
Bengfort reflected on her personal upbringing as a person who has come from limited means and one who believes in the strength of mentoring student entrepreneurs.
"I personally experienced how this country wonderfully nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit," she said. "Now my desire is to help others have the same experience and develop their passions in a way that creates value for themselves and others. I believe UB's program is a great way to do this. Besides, I love the incredible energy and creativity of the entrepreneurial community in the Baltimore-Washington region. Who wouldn't want to be a part of it?"
David Lingelbach, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and academic director of the program, said, "Lily and Greg will be our partners as we build the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program into one of the most innovative of its type in North America. I am particularly excited that the students we will name as Fellows in the program will have the opportunity to work closely with these mentors as they build innovative new ventures that can power Maryland’s economy."
Those interested in learning more about the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program can visit its website.