The 10 Commandments of Tony Shipley

1. Ensure that you are truly passionate about your chosen endeavor.

2. Gain experience about the internal workings of a business before you embark on your own journey.

3. Become the chief sales person for your company (developing sales skills if you don't already have them).

4. Develop a hiring system that enables you to hire the most talented people possible.

5. Develop methods to keep all of your stakeholders timely informed about your progress.

6. Obtain CEO training to develop appropriate skills to manage the business as it grows.

7. Mentor and develop your associates to allow them to handle the growth of your business.

8. Be prepared to invest all of your assets and then some to get your enterprise up and running.

9. Ensure that you REALLY want to be an entrepreneur before you quit your day job.

10. Become the head cheerleader for your enterprise. No one else will do it. 

Tony Shipley is motioning to an article in the day's Cincinnati Enquirer. It's lunchtime at the posh Trio restaurant in Kenwood, and Shipley is making his point: "If you truly want to see more local businesses succeed, somebody needs to help them. We need infrastructures in place to help them."

Shipley is one of the driving forces "” some say the force "” behind just such an infrastructure: the Queen City Angels, a group of two dozen business leaders who selectively serve as mentors and money trees to aid struggling businesses "” many located in the urban core "” that are short on funds and experience.

Shipley recalls when the group quietly formed a few years ago. It was originally "five or six guys getting together for lunch," says Shipley. "All of us had worked together at some point in our history, and most had cashed out of the companies we'd been in. We started looking at it as an opportunity to be involved in the business community.

"For people or companies that have business plans that needed north of $100,000 and something south of $1 million, there was a funding void. So it seemed like an obvious thing for us to do this, to bring enough capital to the table to make the investments," explains Shipley, who is the retired president and CEO of Entek IRD International Corp., a supplier of software and hardware to the industrial plant maintenance market. Shipley founded Entek in 1981, and guided the company from its meager beginning of zero sales and two employees to more than $50 million in annual sales and 400 employees.

Shipley stresses the importance of mentoring in his endeavors. "It's about more than just writing a check. You really need to marry mentoring with writing the checks and supply of capital. [Entrepreneurs] need more than just the money. They need the experience from people that have been there and done it. It gives them a better chance of hitting the milestones they've set up as a company."

One person wh'™s worked closely with Shipley over the years is Jim Cunningham, executive director of C-Cap (short for Cincinnati's Angel Capital Hub): "The thing that distinguishes Tony is his willingness to put in a tremendous amount of free time to support the community "” it's second to none."

Shipley is one of those who helps recruit new Angels. The requirements for becoming an angel are basic, but not something everyone is capable of meeting. "You must be an accredited investor, and have so much in net worth, make so much every year," Shipley says. "There's an expectation that you're going to continue to make that kind of money on a regular basis."

He adds that there is the possibility of losing all of your money. "You must have a passion to do this kind of investing activity, just like anything else in life," he says. "And it is work. It's fun work, but you have be committed to making this happen."

The Queen City Angels lays claim as the first group of experienced, accredited investors in Greater Cincinnati that are committed to accelerating the growth of early-stage businesses they deem capable of producing a substantial return. Operating with administrative assistance from C-Cap, the Angels provide guidance on business development, strategic planning and management team building, in addition to raising any necessary capital.

The members review summaries of business plans received via C-Cap, and look for local entrepreneurs "open to mentoring and coaching," a need for capital of $100,000 and up, and the possession of proprietary technology, an early market lead or some other strong barrier to potential competition.

The Queen City Angels have funded five business plans in the past year, including Spine Form LLC (producing a HemiBridge product for treating scoliosis that is minimally invasive), Cambiatta LLC (developing electronics that enhance the performance of serious athletes), and SealPak Innovations Ltd. (producing a device to improve traction for pickup trucks in bad weather).

Besides his C-Cap and Angel adventures, Shipley also is one of the creators of The Grid, an organization that works with groups such as Main Street Ventures and The Circuit. "In The Grid, we want to create more opportunities and make the companies out there even more successful," Shipley explains. "We believe we need a common goal to make this take off." Shipley's background is varied. He began his career in 1969 as an industrial engineer at Monsanto Co. in Pensacola, Fla. In 1972, he joined Structural Dynamics Research Corp. in Milford as marketing manager, and in 1977, was the founder and vice president of sales at Anatrol Corp., a consulting company in Cincinnati.

He served as both president and chairperson of the Greater Cincinnati Software Association, now known as The Circuit. In 1994, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce chose Shipley as the recipient of the Small Business Person of the Year Award; in 1996, he received an Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst & Young; and in 2001 received the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award from The Center for Entrepreneurship Research and Education at the University of Cincinnati College of Business. At last year's Cincinnati Business Achievement Awards, University of Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher honored Shipley with the Carl H. Lindner Award for Outstanding Business Achievement.

Shipley takes a moment to segue into another one of his groups, the Ohio Information Technology Alliance (OITA), of which he is chairman of the board of trustees. The alliance helps provide state funding, and it works with angels throughout the state. "Our group is generally viewed as the benchmark group in the state, as we've been around the longest, and we're the most organized." The former president of OITA, Brandon Cohen, puts it plainly when asked about Shipley: "He's just great. He's a tireless worker trying to help the public sector in economic development, as well as the private sector by bringing angel capital to businesses." Echoing Cunningham's statements, he says, "He does all this work out of personal time and good will, and he doesn't have to do it, but he does it anyway."