by Carolyn Arnold
There’s an added sense of energy and enthusiasm in downtown Fairfield, where the Fairfield University Accelerator and Mentoring Enterprise (FAME) opened its doors to the business community this fall.
A new initiative of the University, the Town of Fairfield’s Economic Development Department, and Kleban Properties, FAME helps promising entrepreneurs mold their innovative ideas into successful businesses by giving them access to a suite of services at the business incubator, which will help them grow their companies.
The first two client companies to be awarded a spot at FAME include a specialty bakery founded by Nicole Juliano Peranik ’03, and a green living consulting firm, led by Daphne Dixon. They were introduced to the wider public at FAME’s opening ceremony, held in October, which was attended by a range of governmental officials, business leaders, and the Fairfield University community.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, said at the opening event, “We’re delighted that Fairfield University has taken such a bold step as to recognize the importance of creating small businesses and helping drive the economy right from the ground up.”
FAME is meant to foster business ingenuity and offers its client companies a range of services, including operational support, funding assistance, networking opportunities, and technology and design support. All of this is offered at the newly renovated downtown office space above the Fairfield University Bookstore.
In addition to office space and access to services, the client companies will be mentored by business community members and faculty led by Dr. Christopher Huntley, associate professor of information systems & operations management, and Diane Salerno, of Kleban Properties and FAME program director.
Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, was pleased about the collaborative effort behind FAME’s creation.
“There are many incubators in the state. Many are university-run, some are commercial enterprises, some driven by cities. This incubator is different. It is a true partnership between the University, the town of Fairfield, and the business community. This initiative represents a new model in how collaboration can help to foster vital economic growth ideas for Fairfield County and beyond,” he said.
FAME is also unique in its commitment to ethical entrepreneurs, which connects strongly with Fairfield University’s mission and identity. Through a partnership with the Program in Applied Ethics, chaired by Dr. David Schmidt, associate professor of business ethics in the Dolan School, and the Rotary Club of Fairfield, a series of free breakfast discussions were hosted with “The Ethics of Entrepreneurship” as the theme for the year.
Going forward, each of FAME’s client companies will work at the incubator for several months with specific business goals to complete by the time their residency is over. FAME will continue to review and accept new client companies with the goal of turning good ideas into great companies. Dr. Gibson said, “Cultivating promising new business ideas will benefit the region and beyond. It’s a win-win for the community, entrepreneurs, and the University.”
MEET FAME’S INAUGURAL CLIENT COMPANIES
Daphne Dixon was just 10 years old when she first started thinking about a business that would bring her passion for sustainability and all things “green” into the mainstream. A native of California, the UCLA, Los Angeles-educated Dixon said, “I founded ‘Conscious Decisions,’ a socially responsible business venture, to educate the public on sustainable and eco-friendly living practices,” she said.
The town of Fairfield can expect to see Dixon, who describes herself as an ecoentrepreneur, embedded in the community and a trusted source to educate the public on sustainability. Through a variety of methods such as events, social media, and online resources, Conscious Decisions strives to create stronger communities that will enable people to make environmentally sound decisions that will help not only their personal lives, but their surrounding communities and the health of the planet.
Dixon believes in building resilient communities, which made her company a perfect fit for FAME. She said that she was interested in applying to the incubator because of its connection to the city. “Since moving to Fairfield 13 years ago, I have fallen in love with this community and loved the collaborative feeling of FAME,” she said.
With Love from the Cupboard, Inc.
From heirloom cookies to fresh fruit jellies and pies and tarts, Nicole Juliano Peranick ’03, a graduate of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business and the French Culinary Institute, promises an enchanting dessert experience to customers of “With Love from the Cupboard, Inc.”
“I put a modern twist on old-world recipes,” Peranick said. Her bakery, located in Westport, Conn., is a baked-to-order dessert purveyor that “unlocks old world, secret family recipes to deliver truly customizable service and enchanting flavors with the comforts of home.” Peranick’s professional background is in corporate brand marketing but she decided to build something of her own that was rooted in her love of baking, family tradition, and “savoring life’s sweet moments.”
In addition to her own products, Peranick offers a unique service: “Recreate-A-Recipe.” If a customer has a secret family recipe, but needs it updated for taste and/or dietary restrictions, Peranick will use her sophisticated palate and expertise to update the recipe while preserving the secret family ingredients.
Peranick said she was attracted to FAME because of the accessibility to resources and tools that would help her bring “With Love from the Cupboard” to the next level. Like FAME and Conscious Decisions, Peranick’s company is deeply rooted in the Fairfield community and adds to the vibrancy of the town’s economy.