As the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Celebrates its 15th Anniversary, Dozens of Startups Excel

CCEI celebrates their 15th anniversary this year. Left to Right, Kate Savinelli, Mehgan Williams, Michaela Hartl, Jen Mathieu, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Dean John A. Elliot, Alycia Chrosniak, Rory McGloin, and Rachel Borden.
CCEI celebrates their 15th anniversary this year. Left to Right, Kate Savinelli, Mehgan Williams, Michaela Hartl, Jen Mathieu, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Dean John A. Elliott, Alycia Chrosniak, Rory McGloin, and Rachel Borden. (Defining Studios)

When Jeremy Bronen ’20 [ENG] and Timothy Krupski ’15 [ENG] ’21 MS [ENG], ’21 MBA launched their business in 2020, the idea of raising $50,000 in funding seemed almost impossible.

Today the new entrepreneurs have raised over $800,000 in seed investment, led by Connecticut Innovations, for their company, SedMed, which provides mobility products to elderly and disabled people. Their inaugural product, a toilet-lift device, is already on the consumer market and will soon be available for businesses.

Bronen credits the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CCEI), a part of the School of Business, for guiding the inventors on their journey from problem-solvers to true entrepreneurs.

“I think CCEI really launched our company. We didn’t really know what we were doing in the early stages,” Bronen said. “I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go to the CCEI Summer Fellowship, but Executive Director Jen Mathieu pushed us.”

“When I look back, our first pitch was a picture on a screen, no prototype. People believed in us, our team, and our willingness to give it our all,” he said. “They gave us a platform to meet some very successful people, who taught us about entrepreneurship, raising money, and offered other valuable advice entrepreneur to entrepreneur.”

CCEI Celebrates 15th Anniversary, Hundreds of Success Stories

Jeremy Bronen '20 [ENG], right, speaking with attendee Nan Price at the CCEI 15th Anniversary Celebration (Defining Studios)
Jeremy Bronen ’20 [ENG] (right), speaking with attendee Nan Price (left) at the CCEI 15th Anniversary Celebration (Defining Studios)
CCEI is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year and in that time the Center has helped more than 950 startups. The companies range from medical pioneers to consumer product developers to pollution abatement strategists.

To date, some 1,100 aspiring entrepreneurs have participated in one of the many CCEI programs that provide the training that leads to new business success. The Center has provided $1.9 million in venture funding, and provided some $1.5 million in internships and scholarships.

Enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, with many students seeking entrepreneurship courses and advice from their first days at UConn, said School of Business Dean John A. Elliott. Some have even created companies during their high school years.

“The many accomplishments of CCEI cannot be overstated. This Center is an integral contributor to the growth of new businesses and innovation in Connecticut and beyond,” he said. “The repeated success that this Center has shown speaks to the quality of its candidates, the success of its business-development strategies, the presentation strengths it instills in its participants, and a host of other key financial, business growth, and directional partnerships that are proven many times over.”

The Center has expanded its umbrella to include entrepreneurship for veterans and for family-owned businesses.

Mathieu said CCEI has benefitted from a tremendous network of experts.

“Our ‘secret sauce’ is our people,” Mathieu said. “I can’t highlight enough the importance of the ecosystem we have built. CCEI does great work, but we can’t do it all on our own. The CCEI team, the entrepreneurs-in-residence, our alumni, mentors, and program sponsors and donors are all what makes our center so successful at inspiring entrepreneurs and launching new companies.”

President Maric Said Entrepreneurship Is at University’s Core

UConn President Radenka Maric, who is also an entrepreneur in fuel-cell technology, said that UConn’s success in innovation is remarkable. UConn experts helped put astronauts on the moon, developed sophisticated dentistry, pioneered nutrition information and even created the first two-way police radio.

“Innovation is the fabric of UConn, and we need recognize that and to bring that to the next level,” she said at a celebration of CCEI on Dec. 2. “I’m proud of our UConn story.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also attended the anniversary event and spent time speaking with the successful entrepreneurs who had been mentored by CCEI.

“The vision and courage I see first-hand is exciting and inspiring,” he said, before presenting Mathieu with a certificate recognizing CCEI for fostering entrepreneurship and catalyzing Connecticut’s economic growth.

“CCEI alumni are bringing extraordinary products and services to Connecticut and around the country, tackling issues like health, vision, apparel, and even finding new ways to feed the world,” he said.

In particular, Blumenthal praised Pisces Atlantic, a company that has created a healthier, sustainably-sourced fish food. The company was created by alumnus Peter Goggins ’21 (CAHNR), who attended the CCEI Summer Fellowship two years ago. The program helped propelled his business from his parents’ garage to a new facility in New Britain. In the last year, Pisces Atlantic has produced more of its own ingredients, reduced its prices and explored promising local and international partnerships.

“CCEI is the reason we’re here,” Goggins said. “Their help with R&D, their guidance and advice was critical. There would be no Pisces Atlantic without CCEI.”

Looking Forward to the Next Decade

Hayley Segar, founder of onewith, a women’s swimsuit company that creates seamless and more comfortable swimwear, said the past year has been phenomenal. Continued publicity on TikTok and through local media led to all the most popular swimsuits selling out before the summer of 2022 started. New inventory just shipped and customer interest has been strong.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” she said. “This is what I’ve been working toward; what’s been so carefully orchestrated. To see it come to fruition has been very validating.”

Segar also participated in CCEI’s Summer Fellowship program in 2020.

“CCEI was instrumental in getting my company launched, but also in getting me to the next step as an entrepreneur,” she said. “They were pivotal in creating and sustaining my business and introducing me to a networking where I met lifelong friends and mentors who’ve given me unwavering support. It’s hard to talk about it without breaking down in tears. I’m so grateful they took a chance on me.”

Mathieu is already looking forward to CCEI’s next achievements.

“We have a great deal in store for CCEI over the next few years. We are looking for ways to better engage our Connecticut ecosystem through various initiatives, including the Family Business Program,” she said. “We are in the process of talking with UConn alumni and local food entrepreneurs about a food entrepreneurship program to help support new retail and consumer-packaged goods food and beverage businesses. And we are also in the process of designing a program for alumni to better support them in their entrepreneurial journey after they graduate from UConn.”

Professor David Noble, director of UConn’s Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and a champion of innovation at UConn, said that being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely endeavor. UConn is fortunate to have people willing to devote their time and energy to helping others find support and community while pursuing their startup business passion, he said.

CCEI and the other entrepreneurial programs have changed more than the trajectory of the university, he said.

“We’ve changed the course of the Connecticut economy by changing the course of our students, faculty, and staff. CCEI is at the center of that,” he said. “This is not a celebration of the last 15 years, but a celebration of what’s to come.”