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August 27, 2014

Entrepreneur program at Walsh launches sweet initiatives

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Entrepreneur program at Walsh launches sweet initiatives
Danny Cecconi and Marina Kapordelis are building their business, Doce Brigadeiro, with a sweet treat that Cecconi devised from a traditional Brazilian favorite.
Cecconi and Kapordelis launched their business with help from Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.
 

Danny Cecconi, from Brazil, had to look up what “entrepreneur” meant after she kept seeing the word all over campus while pursuing her master’s degree in business management at Walsh College on a student visa.

Signs inscribed with “Entrepreneurs Wanted” were aimed to engage students in the Blackstone LaunchPad program, designed to get students thinking about, and developing and launching, their own businesses.

Cecconi was passionate about a sweet treat she had grown up eating in Brazil, brigadeiros, made painstakingly with condensed milk, cream and chocolate. Ingredients are cooked and stirred for a half hour to 45 minutes, cooled and hand-rolled.  Cecconi flavors her treats with mint, toffee, lemon zest, sea salt caramel, and white and dark chocolate.

“I grew up eating it,” Cecconi said. “I would grab two handfuls of them at a time. I always had a sweet tooth.”

She said the reaction was overwhelming whenever she gave the treats out.

“Kids love it. Kids go crazy for it. So I thought, ‘I want to bring it here,’” she said.

So she met with Carol Glynn, director of Blackstone LaunchPad program at Walsh College, in its fourth year. The program is open to Walsh students and alumni, and Wayne State University students, and is funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation in partnership with the New Economy Initiative. Automation Alley, a technology business association based in Troy, provides venture coaches.

“It’s been a success,” Glynn said of the program. “The whole idea was obviously to allow students to explore entrepreneurship on their own terms, to come in when it’s convenient in a relaxing atmosphere. Some of them, like Danny, are turning their passion into businesses.”

Glynn said that of the 445 members of Blackstone LaunchPad, 250 have put in a business idea. “Roughly half who come in for consulting go forward and have created several companies,” Glynn said.

She added that the success of the Michigan program has led to Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s expansion of the program to 13 other campuses in other regions across the country.  

Businesses created through Blackstone LaunchPad include Picasso’s Grapevine in Clarkston, where customers may bring their own wine to sip and learn to create art; a dental ceramic studio; and an e-commerce businesses focusing on travel and fashion.

Working under the Cottage Food Law, Cecconi and her business partner, Marina Kapordelis, make small amounts of the treats from their homes. Cecconi explained that doce means sweet in Portuguese.

And Doce Brigadeiro was born.

“I saw a demand and thought, ‘Let’s make a business. We can totally do this with Walsh guiding us,’” Cecconi said.

She and Kapordelis are currently looking for a certified commercial kitchen to expand their business and open a store with the treats, as well as Brazilian coffee and other snacks.

“We definitely have a vision of where we want to be,” Cecconi said.

For information on Doce Brigadeiro, visit www.docebshop.com. For information on Blackstone LaunchPad, visit www.walshcollege.edu/blackstonelaunchpad.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.