MORRISVILLE — Twice a week, about half a dozen boys in the Minecraft Club get together to play the popular computer game that allows users to build with virtual blocks.
The club, which encourages teamwork, critical thinking and social skills, is a partnership between Morrisville’s parks and recreation department and ChAPPter1, a company that aims to teach kids how to create applications for mobile devices.
Six months ago, ChAPPter1 didn’t exist, and co-founder Samra Busic-Janisch can’t believe how far it’s come. The startup company has renamed itself, found teaching space and gained its first clients, she said.
ChAPPter1 is one of five companies selected for a business incubator program through the Morrisville Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit through the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce. HOTTovation, named for the town motto “Heart of the Triangle,” will graduate its first class on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
As part of HOTTovation, entrepreneurs got five months of free office space, access to mentors and memberships to business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the requirements was for us to attend a ‘Coffee and Conversations’ chamber event,” said Busic-Janisch, 46, of Cary. “We made a lot of connections. For us, that was very beneficial. At first we thought of it as something we had to do, but it was very worth it. We were able to network.”
The companies in the first round of the program spanned the business spectrum: Concert Telecommunications Inc. is a cloud-based Internet service. Dignify Therapeutics Inc. is part of Efflux Pharma, a drug development company. Finder411 is a social-media online directory. And FreeYourMemory.com is a Web-based social calendar and local-event announcement system.
Through the program, Busic-Janisch and her partner, Jennifer Surovy, inked a deal with the Morrisville parks and recreation department to not only host the Minecraft Club but also to put on some track-out camps that teach children about creating mobile device applications.
The company also found classroom space at the historic Christian Church.
Busic-Janisch said her mentors emphasized the importance of branding.
“One thing they told us was to give something extra, be exceptional,” she said. “There are so many track-out camps out there. We had to ask, ‘How do we differentiate ourselves?’”
The business incubator program was paid for through sponsorships from Duke Realty, Time Warner Business Class, PMC Commercial Interiors and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
It was all about helping young businesses get a start.
“Some of them walked in here literally with an idea,” said Carlotta Ungaro, president of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce. “I’d like to think all of these companies have gotten to the next step because of us.”
More businesses will have a chance to get some help. The Morrisville Innovation Foundation will start taking applications for the 2014 HOTTovation program in the spring.