In Tabor City, a rural area not far from the coast, Carroll discovered that the local “workforce [was not] used to working for the federal government.” He was faced with the need to develop skilled workers while also identifying funding opportunities to allow for his company’s expansion through government contracting and international exporting.
Meanwhile, there were the fine details to address: how to build a web presence to attract high-quality clients, navigate the specifics of international compliance standards and government contracts, and, of course, continue growing during a global pandemic.
"I really believe that the SBTDC has some of the best people and we have gotten the very best advice that we possibly can get."
Initially, an SBTDC government contracting counselor explained the “deep details” of federal contracts, helped Carroll enhance their capability statement, and reviewed proposals. As a result, Carroll was awarded contracts as both the prime and subcontractor. Then, with the SBTDC’s help, Carroll was awarded a STEP grant, enabling him to travel abroad for trade shows and to translate his website into Spanish and Arabic to encourage international customer growth. He utilized masters-level interns through the SBTDC to help write his international compliance manual. Carroll International is now exporting to South America and looking to expand to other parts of the world.
Early on, Ragopalan struggled to lead Murano Corp, which provides advanced cloud, supply chain, and AI technologies,towards profitability. He was intrigued by the idea of contracting with the government, but he did not know where to start. The process for registering with the System for Award Management (SAM) was complex and frustrating. Left to his own devices, he would not have taken the time to figure it out, missing out on an opportunity that would prove invaluable to his company.
"[The SBTDC counselors were] instrumental in helping us get into the world of government contracting and obtain multiple SBIR awards."
Ragopalan met Alex Viva with the SBTDC at the NC World Trade Center in 2016, while he was prospecting for new customers. Viva and his fellow counselors walked Ragopalan through the process of registering and applying for government contracts and becoming 8(a) certified, leading to the procurement of their largest client, the U.S. Navy. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding they received from the government has also been instrumental in their success. “The SBIR awards that we have today that support our employees that would not have happened without SBTDC’s involvement.
Through SBTDC events, Ragopalan and Murano Corp met with prime contractors General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, and other large companies they would not otherwise have had access to. In addition to these connections, Ragopalan said, “SBTDC has been providing really qualified, talented interns for us [through their Technology Summer Internship Program], connecting us with other customers, and also providing mentoring services on business strategy and marketing assistance.” Several of the SBTDC-recruited interns from 2017 and 2018 have gone on to become full-time employees with Murano, significantly impacting the company’s development. Even as interns, Rajagopalan said, they were “involved in building some of the cutting-edge stuff
From an early age, Douglas Miyazaki, M.D., knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, not only to become a medical doctor about the decline in OB-GYN surgeon's training opportunities but to improve the profession through invention. Dr. Miyazaki opened his gynecology practice in Winston-Salem in 1994 and soon became concerned about the decline in training opportunities for OB-GYN surgeons. As the number of female pelvic surgeries declined, so did the opportunities for training new surgeons, and the existing pelvic models were plastic and unrealistic. So, he set out to develop a prototype that would allow for a realistic surgical experience without putting live patients at risk or requiring cadavers.
Miyazaki and his son, Noah, now Vice President of Business Development at Miyazaki Enterprises, put together a team that included individuals with a wide variety of expertise in medicine and product development: Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director of Research; Erica Needham, Chief Engineer; One World, model production company; and many others. “It was a global team effort,” Dr. Miyazaki said. “I’m a physician; I’m good at what I do, but I don’t know much about business, research, and development.” Specifically, he lacked critical knowledge of grant funding.
"[Our SBTDC advisors] have been part of our professional business family since 2015."
In 2015, while researching the grant application process, Miyazaki was introduced to Chris Veal with the SBTDC. “We were brand new,” he said. “We didn’t really know what the resources were. Then Chris opened the doors to resources.” Though their first grant application was denied, Dr. Miyazaki and his team were unfazed. They regrouped, addressed the critique of their first application, and, with the help of Veal and others, reapplied. Six months later, they received their first grant approval. Veal has “been part of [their] professional business family ever since.”
Despite some COVID-related setbacks, the Miyazaki Enterprises team has set themselves up well for growth. They’ve built out their academic resources, including videos and free downloadable applications. Recently, they’ve begun expanding to markets abroad, enlisting the help of Owen George, an SBTDC International Business Development Counselor. “What we’re doing right now is engaging strategic organizations, strategic partners, key opinion leaders, and ensuring that we’re very well integrated with these programs,” said Dr. Miyazaki.
“This space is very, very slow to adapt innovation historically,” said Noah Miyazaki. “Our training model presents a new fundamental shift and understanding of skills acquisition and training and understanding of the environment.” As the market adapts to their innovation, Miyazaki Enterprises has experienced steady gains. They’ve received four NIH grants and undergone Phase I, II, and II B R&D grants totaling over $4 million. They were the first North Carolina business to be awarded a Phase II B grant from the National Institute of Child and Human Development. That grant will involve “a seven-site national study that will show intervention with simulation training versus traditional training and will show performance in the OR.”
Dr. Miyazaki plans to make his training model the gold standard in gynecological surgery and leave an indelible mark on the medical landscape. “It’s extremely rewarding and exciting for me to be able to give back actively and be a caterer of change.”