Five Questions with LeMonte Graham
LeMonte Graham graduated from the Startup Quest® program in 2014 and is co-founder of Flameout LLC, which is in the process of commercializing a NASA-patented flame retardant technology.
We caught up with him recently and learned about the program’s networking component and what he felt he gained the most from Startup Quest®.
SQ: What attracted you to the Startup Quest® program?
LeMonte: I was already active with my CareerSource Brevard, attending their events and working with them during my job search, when I learned about Startup Quest®. I received an email from CareerSource Brevard about the program, and it piqued my interest. The program connects teams of educated participants with affluent CEOs and entrepreneurs to learn how to commercialize an invention from one of the state’s premier universities or NASA into a practical product for today’s marketplace. Startup Quest® shifts the mindset from “find a job” to “create my job.” I already had a basic understanding of business that came from my years in the workforce. I needed real-life application and the guidance of mentors to round out my skill set. That’s exactly what Startup Quest® did – it took my career to the next level and opened doors I didn’t even know existed.
SQ: What were you doing before Startup Quest®?
LeMonte: Before Startup Quest®, I was unemployed. I had a variety of jobs under my belt – with the most recent being a psychotherapist for an Afrocentric counseling practice.
Prior to Startup Quest®, I had experience working for myself, but there were no aspects of risk, pursuing new business or utilizing my business intel to make informed decisions, like financial forecasting and market research, that I believe are inherent in calling yourself an entrepreneur. Startup Quest® provided this opportunity and enabled me to grow my potential.
SQ: What was the most important thing you learned from Startup Quest®?
LeMonte: Startup Quest® equips you with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in today’s competitive startup culture. The program’s latent value lies in the networking aspects, as you meet many different people from all walks of life that are in different points within their careers. Everyone is eager to help you, teach you and learn with you. With so many different backgrounds uniting for a common cause, the possibilities to collaborate are endless.
Besides my Startup Quest® teammates, with whom I formed a company after graduation, I gained a great deal from my relationship with my mentor. I signed up to work on the NASA patented flame retardant technology based on the mentor who selected the technology. She shared her business and community experience with us to guide us through the process and offered different perspectives for how we might pursue our company, Flameout, LLC. Furthermore, she continues to be our mentor even though the program has concluded.
SQ: How has the program impacted your career?
LeMonte: At the end of the 10-session Startup Quest® program, each team participates in an investor pitch competition. While Flameout, LLC didn’t win the competition, a representative from the NASA Technology Transfer Office was in attendance during our pitch. He was impressed with how my team proposed to commercialize the technology and offered us the opportunity to continue to pursue taking it to market beginning with a NASA research license. Along with three of my teammates, I am currently a co-founder of Flameout, LLC. I remain impressed with the level of commitment that the Startup Quest® staff and mentors have toward our success. They have provided us with an increased understanding of entrepreneurship and business startups, allowing us to hone in on our skills to achieve self-employment.
SQ: What advice would you give current and future Startup Quest® participants?
LeMonte: Startup Quest® is an opportunity to venture through new doors and open yourself to endless possibilities. The future is there for the taking – you just have to embrace the connections and education provided through the program and proactively take advantage of them.