Launch Manchester seeks to refine entrepreneur skills and support start-ups

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., May. 9, 2013
R.C. Thornton, president of RCJ Creative Group, organized Launch Manchester. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
R.C. Thornton, president of RCJ Creative Group, organized Launch Manchester. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

Do you have a great idea for a business? Do you see a glaring market need, or is your community missing something special? Can you meet that need better than anyone else, but do not know where to start? Launch Manchester was designed with people like you in mind.

The first Launch Manchester event, the first of what is expected to be many regular meetings, was held Wednesday, May 8, at Axis901, located at 901 Main St. in downtown Manchester. Guests were invited to stand up and deliver their 60-second business pitch, then received advice on how to improve their pitch by business mentors, and also networked.

The event was organized by R.C. Thornton, president of RCJ Creative Group. “How many of you have friends or acquaintances, or maybe you're guilty of this yourself, who say, 'I have a great idea for a business, but I'm too busy, but I don't know how to get started, but I'm not really sure what to do'?” asked Thornton. “The objective that we have tonight is to get that conversation going, to help people get from that initial idea to thinking about what it will take to make it successful.”

With Thornton was his business partner and co-founder of RCJ Creative, Jeremy Toce. “This is the first Launch Manchester, and what we're really trying to do is build an entrepreneur community in Manchester and the Greater Hartford area and really revive it,” said Toce. “It's about making connections, it's about refining your ability to pitch, and it's about thinking entrepreneurially.”

RCJ Creative, which provides web marketing and design solutions, is a tenant of Axis901. Artists, designers, or start-ups finding their footing can use the office space at Axis901 to pursue their own mission or to collaborate and share ideas with others.

Axis901 began as an economic development opportunity and as a way to energize the central business district, said Manchester Director of Planning Mark Pelligrini. “It's a great place to work and a great environment to be in,” he said.

As a place where business ideas are incubated and encouraged, Axis901 was the ideal location for Launch Manchester, which is the latest incarnation of the LaunchX format. LaunchX is an initiative presented by the organization The Whiteboard, which seeks to cultivate Connecticut's “entrepreneurial ecosystem” by giving entrepreneurs a place to share ideas and practice their business pitch. LaunchX began with Launch Haven, a monthly meeting held at The Grove, a co-working space similar to Axis901. Katelyn Anton is one of the people who developed Launch Haven. She is happy to see the idea cross-pollinate the objectives of Launch Manchester.

“It's a very vibrant community that's taking shape in Connecticut,” Anton said. “Every day we're seeing more and more people with nine-to-five jobs and students fresh out of college saying, 'You know what? I don't need to go to Boston or New York to live my dream and start something big. I can do it right here in Connecticut.' We think that's a very powerful thing.”

Residents of the Manchester and Greater Hartford community gave their pitches, and later broke into private sessions with business mentors Nick Bereza, head of LaunchScale, John Myers, sales manager for ForeSite, and S.B. Chatterjee, an independent consultant currently working for Microsoft. The pitch presentations were done in a spirit of friendly competition – the top three pitchers received prizes, including free use of Axis901 and consultations with RCJ Creative.

Raj Patel was one of the attendees who gave a business pitch. He believes the opportunity to practice the pitch in an encouraging environment is invaluable. “Many people rate public speaking as scarier than death,” he said. “Pitching is a basic skill for entrepreneurs, and practicing helps to break down those barriers of fear.”

For more information about The Whiteboard and Launch Manchester, visit

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