Case Study

Designing and Delivering National Award-Winning Programming for Local Founders

Learning Design, Program Development
Vance MacEwen

Since 2021, we've been working with the Maryland Innovation Center's resident and affiliate businesses. Grant funding from Howard County enabled us to help design and deliver BRITE (Business Revitalization Through Entrepreneurship) programming for underserved entrepreneurs across the state. The MIC provides our services to local founders as part of their effort to revitalize small businesses and drive innovation. And to be clear, innovation does not just mean technology. We work with artists, social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, product and service for-profits - the whole gamut of local founders.


Provide crucial business support to underserved entrepreneurs across Maryland

Introduce founders to design thinking tools they can use to innovate and create impact


Designing classes that work with local founders' bandwidth. A lot of programming out there is very demanding. Startup founders are often juggling responsibilities - conventional full-time W2's, parenting, and sometimes multiple side gigs and/or startups. We create courses that maximize access to knowledge and practice using new tools while minimizing busy work.

Listening and improving. We constantly listen to our users and adjust courses to best meet their needs. Everything is shaped by user voices, from time of day, length, content, ESOL, and disabilities access, to follow-up after course completion.

Prototyping. In order to listen, we first have to put something out there for feedback. My first design thinking class was virtual. 3 out of 16 registrants showed up. I made class fully in-person and offered food. Then I got 100% attendance! I've run morning classes, evening classes, on-site and off-site, and many different variations on my course content. I'm always taking feedback and making changes.


Hundreds of mentoring and coaching sessions accessible by the Maryland entrepreneur community

Took about a hundred students through the 30-hour Kauffman FastTrac entrepreneurship fundamentals program

Refined an eight-hour design thinking series, guiding seven cohorts of entrepreneurs so far through experiential learning

Pitch coaching presenters for the Pitch and Mingle competition who earned nearly 50K in Howard County grant funding

Reaching and engaging diverse founders, with our participants skewing toward women and minorities

Ensuring representation as we grew our mentor pool from two to nine

Cultivating a sense of belonging in the MIC for anyone who walks in

Many, many glowing testimonials - you can read some here:

Read more about the NACo award:

Image credit: Terra Lee Blissett,

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