What does it take to launch and grow a start-up?
Local biomaterials company KeraNetics—a global leader in purified keratin medical products for wound care and tissue regeneration – is a prime example of an invention that spun out of a research laboratory at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, successfully transitioned to the marketplace and now calls Wake Forest Innovation Quarter home.
Since its founding in 2008, KeraNetics has used the keratin platform to patent 18 technologies – including KeraStat® for wound care and burn management and KeraGenics® for tissue regeneration – and has grown to include a staff of 23 employees. Jessica Beaver, PhD, RAC, their managing director of regulatory and quality affairs, shares firsthand her tips for starting – and sustaining – a new business.
1. Entrepreneurial Traits
No matter who you are or your personality type, certain personal characteristics are fundamental to being an entrepreneur and moving your company forward. Jessica says commitment and dedication are key. You must also have confidence—in your idea, your plan and your team—and the courage to take risks, ask hard questions and make difficult decisions. “Entrepreneurship isn’t a solo act though,” says Jessica. “In addition to risk-taking, it requires a great deal of collaboration. Know your risks from the start, embrace them and make sure you have the support you need.”
2. A Business Plan that Forges a Path
A comprehensive business plan is vital – it’s essentially a roadmap for your company through what can be, at times, a winding journey. Jessica says a successful business plan must find an unmet need or hole in the market and build a credible strategy around it, identify the right opportunity for success and be adaptable and convincing because change is inevitable. She advises to dream big: “Look for large growth potential and sustainable competitive advantage, but always stay authentic to yourself and your consumer.”
3. A Calling Card for Investors
Build an investor-ready financial plan that attracts and impacts all of your stakeholders, including your employees. Jessica refers to this as “the calling card that brings people to your business.” When devising a plan and financial structure, she advises beginning with the end in mind and seriously thinking about where you’re trying to go with your product. “Your invention must move the needle for your investor. To get there, be sure to ask for necessary resources, get mentors and surround yourself with support and help, both professional and personal.”
4. The Right People at the Right Time
Jessica believes that securing the best people for your company can make it or break it. From the very beginning, focus on individual talents and maximize team member strengths to improve the whole. Foster passion and engagement, and surround yourself with people who are hardworking, engaged and fun. Build the culture of your organization, and involve your whole team. Talk often and talk about all of it – communicate! “A great team can create success out of an average idea and vice versa,” said Jessica. “Your people are the heart of your company.”
5. An Eye Toward Innovation
Throughout your journey, through the ups and downs, stay focused on your vision for the future and see transformative opportunities through the clutter. “Hear the beautiful melody through all of the noise,” says Jessica. “Find the needle in the haystack, and build a game-changing idea. Keep an eye on what’s happening in front of you, but also stay focused on the here and now.”
And one last word from Jessica about creating a start-up: “It can be like walking on a swinging bridge. There’s risk ahead, but you cross because you truly believe that you’ll make a difference on the other side. It’s part of the journey.”
Learn more about KeraNetics.
by Katherine Files