Launching Point: Three entrepreneurs share how the Business Incubator helped position them for success

Published 12:27 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

Owning a small business is not for the faint of heart. National Small Business Week is the perfect opportunity to salute the men and women who drive the U.S. economy, employ nearly half of the entire American workforce and represent 43.5 percent of the nation’s GDP.

On Monday, David Minton, Cypress Group; Trey Vincent, Envirosharp and David Awyapetyam – three of the over 400,000 small business owners in the state – talked about how the Business Incubator of Southwest Louisiana helped position them for the next stage of growth by providing much more than space and access to office equipment.


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Minton, a civil engineer and general engineering consultant, said for him, it was a “meandering” path from employee to business owner. It began with an idea to fix a problem in the marshes of Cameron Parish. At the time, he was working for long-time parish engineer and mentor Lonnie Harper.     

“He told me to go home and figure out how to make it better,” Minton said. Six months later, he had his “eureka moment.”

Minton designed, developed and patented a system that is being used all along the coast. It works better and is more cost effective than the pounds of Kentucky rock that is blown up, shipped south and stacked on the shoreline. He has two other patents. A couple of side gigs. He has figured out a way to take some of the risk and plenty of speculation out of developing subdivisions.      

“We team up with builders on the front end to develop a project that we have a contract with the builder before even finishing,” Minton said.

Bread and butter come from engineering consulting for drainage studies, structural designs and utility designs necessary to site development.


David Awyapetyam, an electrical and chemical engineer, is representative of the lone wolves who make up about 80 percent of U.S. small business. He is creating a healthy snack for kids. He has a stationary line, and a ceramic, resin and wood container line.  He has only one business with a partner.    

“I have a skill to analyze the returns of different online products,” he said, “what customers like, what they don’t like, and then I get it manufactured and sold.”

One day, reading a contract he had to negotiate, he realized he no longer wanted to work to help someone else achieve his dream.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to step into the unknown,” he said.


Trey Vincent “fell into his business,” after moving to the east coast as a seven-state regional manager for a medical device start-up. His plan was to become a consultant, help startups sell products through a 1099 chain. His first client had a device that helped get rid of odors in cars and apartments. Vincent developed his own proprietary process and tweaked the model to increase its appeal to  auto dealerships. Envirosharp remediates water leak damage and gets rid of the ripest of odors.

When Vincent moved back to Lake Charles to operate the business remotely, hurricane damage limited commercial space. More than he needed commercial space, he needed the interaction of  like-minded entrepreneurs.      

Currently, he is “talking to a guy about becoming a fractional CEO” because he knows his strength is sales and marketing, not the day-to-day operations. Envirosharp could develop into a franchise. Or, private label and sell  every single product.

“He is established, but he wants to move his business to the next level,” said Eric Cormier, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and strategic initiatives for the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Cypress Group is at the growth stage that they’ve announced a move to a new location.


The Business Incubator of Southwest Louisiana was initially intended as a space for start-ups, Cormier said. Covid-19, the hurricanes and other disasters did more than level structures. It created challenges and opportunities for growth for the existing small business community. The Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development Center responded. Yes, it is space, but more importantly, it is an incubator, a think tank for sharing ideas, resources, networking and solidifying connections.

Awyapetyam shared the name of his business development consultant with Vincent. Cormier introduced Minton to three people he thought he needed to meet to take his idea for 3D building printing to the next level. Minton asked Cormier, who considers himself a facilitator in this endeavor, for help writing his business plan for the 3D building printing.

“The amount of organic, like talk, that goes on is really, really incredible,” Vincent said. “If you’re not taking advantage of that…”

Not every business is accepted into the incubator. There is an assessment.

“You have to be chosen to be in here,” Cormier said. You have to have a business plan, you have to be recommended then interviewed by a three-person panel.

Cormier said its stage of small business growth presents a new set of challenges or pain points. “At some point in time and growth, they’re going to move on like Cypress Group,” Cormier said. “We just want to try to make sure that when they do, they’re sustainable.”

Jessica Minton, David’s wife and Cypress Group business owner, said the incubator gave them a place to get on their feet. “We felt like we were not alone. We didn’t have to worry about infrastructure and miscellaneous expenses like, you know, a mini fridge for water, a scanner or a shredder. Listen to these guys. They have vision and you’re surrounded by that. That’s the culture they’ve really set up here.”