Basic Information

What is the name of your organization?

enFocus, Inc

Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?


In what city, town, or region and state is your organization headquartered?

South Bend, IN, USA

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address? [Select up to 2]

  • Business development & procurement: Connecting small business owners to vendors, suppliers, and networks that will transform their ability to do business.
  • Support scaling: Supporting long term business plan and succession through mergers and acquisitions, generational/equitable wealth, hiring pipeline, legal advising, and back-office support.

What is the name of your solution?

enFocus e-Ship

What is your solution?

enFocus’s mission is to empower talent to build communities. We achieve our mission by providing a full-time Fellowship program where Fellows perform innovative and meaningful projects with local organizations. Our project clientele spans across government, industrial companies, startups, and more.  

Our solution is our entrepreneurship (eShip) portfolio, which is being expanded to increase the number of regional startups thereby increasing the local innovation capacity. Through our Research, Development, and Entrepreneurship (RDE) program, Fellows commit up to 30% of their time towards developing startups and/or working with an existing startup. This “side project time” is a concept originally implemented by 3M and subsequently used at Google and Atlassian to encourage employees to innovate within their portfolio or service lines. enFocus’s approach is unique in that this time can be used for any social initiative or entrepreneurial endeavor.

Within this solution, typical services for startups include:

  • Business model feasibility, inclusive of interviews to confirm problem and customer validation

  • Detailed financial projection and break-even point analysis, unit economics, customer acquisition costs, and valuations for investor return predictions

  • Product and service development and iteration, in collaboration with partners who can perform engineering and/or software product development

  • Design, execution, and evaluation of a beta-product pilots, tests and feedback

  • Support development of securing resources, across grants and investment opportunities 

Of note, the specific startup being highlighted and supported through this challenge is Mimik Studio, an output of enFocus eShip. Mimik is developing technology to automate phonetic transcription for use by Speech Language Pathologists.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The core technology powering this solution is practical application of evidence-based principles to bridge the gap between scholarly design thinking, and application into social innovation and entrepreneurship. enFocus’s solution incorporates components of four different mechanisms studied in literature to facilitate incubators, including innovation support, social impact creation, entrepreneurial cultural development, and commercialization and startup growth. 

This program provides a platform to encourage new ideas to be tested within our region by 

  • Leveraging a talent attraction model in enFocus

  • Pairing  it with an innovative and results driven startups and/or socially-conscious investment firms and 

  • Bringing more ideas to improve economic growth via startups and the collective quality of life in the community.  

Additionally, this technology is supportive of small businesses through talent and partners made available to them. These partnerships include

  • University of Notre Dame Engineering Science, Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master (ESTEEM)

    • We have a healthy and robust relationship with ESTEEM serving as a talent feeder system for Fellow candidates and Fellow-led startup ideas. Notably, 2 of 4 enFocus executive leaders hold degrees from ESTEEM. 

  • The University of Notre Dame IDEA Center 

    • The IDEA Center is responsible for commercialization of University intellectual property. We place Fellows with exciting startup ideas originating from University intellectual property

  • The University of Notre Dame iNDustry Labs 

    • iNDustry Labs works toward building productivity and resilience of regional industry and manufacturing companies. We partner with iNDustry Labs to perform projects in our Industry program. We aim to grow this partnership toward sourcing potential industry spinoff startup companies. For technical product development spinoffs, iNDustry Labs Engineers-in-Residence will also serve as key advisors to the company.

  • The University of Notre Dame Center for Research Computing

    • The Center for Research Computing (CRC) has served as an advisory for the development of multiple technology related startups over the past few years.  The CRC’s Director will continue to serve as an early stage advisor and choose to participate in certain ventures as they mature in the ecosystem. 

  • South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership (SBERP)/Startup South Bend Elkhart (SUSBE)

    • SBERP/SUSBE help to coordinate and align the region’s entrepreneurial programs across services and marketing the region’s key success stories. We will align our efforts with SBERP/SUSBE

  • Judd Leighton Foundation 

    • The Judd Leighton Foundation has provided multi-year operational support for the holistic enFocus program as well as project-specific funding for highly innovative and impactful project initiatives, including specific support to enFocus’s RDE program.

  • Elevate Ventures

    • Elevate will continue to be a partner and resource in providing key support for Fellow-led startups and we envision a more formal partnership where promising community startups can have access to more Fellow teams. 

  • Mission Innovation Network (MIN)

    • MIN has partnered with enFocus to introduce its portfolio companies for pilot, testing and customer acquisition in the South Bend-Elkhart region.  MIN hosts a $10M initial investment fund and a national investor network that helps source the best startups to come to the region. 

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Behavioral Technology
  • Biotechnology / Bioengineering
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Imaging and Sensor Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications

Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?

The proposed program would serve a variety of populations including fellow-led startups, industry startups, regional and community startups recommended by investor groups. The primary focus is on helping individual startups strengthen themselves through resources and customer discovery recommendations.

enFocus strives to be diverse and inclusive across race, gender, ethnicity and nationality.  We bring people together with tremendously different backgrounds, skills, interests and experiences that make our model effective in inspiring multidimensional diversity and welcoming individuals to the South Bend-Elkhart region. As of our current Fellowship class, we are proud that we have the following distribution of staff (despite women and minorities being underrepresented in STEM and technical disciplines):

13% Minority

42% Women, and

42% International

Currently, the startups that we are incubating represent the following demographics:

Three of five (60%) are women and/or minority-owned 

Five of five (100%) have at least one Fellow on the startup team from a female or minority-background

enFocus primarily serves the community of Michiana, representing Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. Michiana has a population of 860,000, median age of 38.5, and median household income of $47.8K.

Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Problem: Small businesses and startups in the South Bend-Elkhart region lack talent capacity to drive innovations forward. 

Solution: enFocus matchestalent with meaningful projects  with small business and community organizations. Specifically, enFocus implements evidence-based practices within the entrepreneurial process to best deploy talent, thereby developing Fellows as young professionalsand providing value in the form of talent capacity to local companies. 

Population: enFocus Fellows. One of whom is Caitlin Sears, who launched a start-up during her Fellowship at enFocus. Caitlin launched Mimik Studio, and is implementing enFocus’s eShip solution to scale and develop her business. Mimik Studio is developing a technology solution itself to provide automated phonetic transcription to speech pathologists to improve the data collection process and improve patient outcomes and reduce therapy costs through time savings. 

Challenge dimensions:

  • Business development & procurement: enFocus connected Mimik Studio to Elevate Ventures, Startup South Bend, LIFT Internship Program, and Notre Dame’s McCloskey Competition
  • Support scaling: enFocus has provided a hiring pipeline through fellow time and interns, advisory support, and office space to Mimik Studio.

What is your theory of change?

Each Fellowship year, enFocus eShip will grow the annual number of Fellow-led and Fellow-placed startups from five to 20.  Overall, we expect the program to incubate 80 startups, generating 10 successful companies associated with >50 new regional jobs. The Truist Foundation will not support this general expansion, but rather one particular start-up within enFocus eShip Portfolio, Mimik Studio.

For Mimik, the corresponding and specific activities will be as follows:

  • 2023 - Expand relationships with key partners

  • Fall-Winter 2024 - Support Fellow’s 30% RDE Time to support Mimik’s product development

  • August 2024 - Utilize opportunity for full-time Fellow placements with startups

This will result in 2 Fellow-placed startups, and lead to 1 successful company in the region. Additionally, this will result in up to 5 additional regional jobs within 3 years. 

To date, enFocus eShip has launched 50 startups with approximately 50% success rate. To-date, Mimik has provided 6 internships and 2 Fellow-supported start-up opportunities

This program is based in research, with references including the following sources:

  • Brown, T. and Wyatt, J.. Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Winter 2010.

  • Dee, N., Minshall, T., and Livesey F. A review of the role and effectiveness of business incubation for high-growth startups. Center for Technology Management Working Paper Series. January 2012.

  • Sohail, K., Belitski M., and Christiansen, L. Developing business incubation process frameworks: A systematic literature review. Journal of Business Research. March 2023.

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: an established product, service, or business model that is sustainable through proven effectiveness and is poised for further growth into additional communities.

What is your organization’s stage of development?

Scale: A sustainable organization actively working in several communities that is capable of continuous scaling and has a proven track record, earns revenue, and is focused on increased efficiency within its operations.
More About Your Solution

How many small businesses does your solution currently serve?

Mimik is currently employing 2 interns and 4 PhD level faculty.

How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?

enFocus eShip: 

  • Community Served: South Bend-Elkhart Region 
  • Stakeholders: Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and Partners, Regional Economic Development Corporations, Financial Supporters, Organizations Served, Community Members,Entrepreneurs 
  • Decision Makers: Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors, including Gillian Shaw - Project Lead and Director of Projects; Andrew Wiand - Key Personnel and Executive Director; Melissa Fruscione - Key Personnel and Director of Programs. Board of Directors, which consists of 17 members and 4 committees, including the most aligned board committee which is the Projects Committee.

Mimik (Target Startup):

  • Community Served: Nation-wide Speech Pathologists
  • Stakeholders: Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs), Hospitals, Schools, Universities, Patients with communication disorders or speech goals.
  • Decision Makers: Caitlin Sears - CEO; Advisory Committee of 3

How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?

enFocus eShip has built trust within the community through a 10-year record of delivering quality project work, and demonstrated commitment to their mission. enFocus’s Fellowship program has a 65% retention rate of retaining talent in the region after leaving the fellowship. In addition to quality work, enFocus has built trust through collaboration. enFocus’s leadership team is actively involved in various community organizations.

Mimik Studio is gaining trust within the speech pathology community through transparent communication, and adherence to implementation of evidence-based practice principles

What are your impact goals for the current year and the next five years and how will you achieve them?

enFocus eShip: Each Fellowship year, enFocus eShip will grow the annual number of Fellow-led and Fellow-placed startups from five to 20.  Overall, we expect the program to incubate 80 startups, generating 10 successful companies associated with >50 new regional jobs.

Mimik Studio: Mimik will launch their product in 2025 for use by speech language pathologists. This technology is conservatively estimated to save SLPs time and allow for an additional 8500 evaluations in the first year of launch. In the next year clinical trials will determine transcription accuracy improvements, diagnostic accuracy increases, and potential for improved patient outcomes.

Partnership & Award Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?

enFocus eShip is applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards to demonstrate impact and in support of Mimik Studio. Although enFocus eShip’s Project Team would participate in many of the opportunities, the primary intent is to support Mimik’s start-up and product development. Therefore Mimik would benefit from access to consultants and subject matter experts, and stands to gain from participation in workshops.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and national media)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Solution Team

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