Vince Edwards worked for Procter & Gamble and IBM before catching the entrepreneur bug. He founded his Lexington-based consulting firm, Empire Builders, to help startups raise money to launch and grow. We spoke with Edwards about what he does and why he chooses to do it in between the coasts.
When and how did Empire Builders form?
Edwards: I’ve been a business consultant since 2011. I was working with a lot of startups and entrepreneurs, and I realized that I really liked the culture and the environment. I liked working with people who were getting started on a journey of starting and running a business. I liked the energy. As I was raising capital for other companies, I realized that there were a lot of gaps in what’s needed. So that’s when I really got the bug for that.
I was in loans and commercial finance before I got into business consulting. So, as they say in The Godfather, ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’ My customers pulled me back in and now I’m able, through Empire Builders, to find them business loans, debt financing, and help them secure investors and raise capital through private equity.
What kinds of verticals do you work within?
Edwards: We’re industry agnostic. The only thing we don’t do is biomedical or health care, mainly because it’s just a niche that you really have to be focused on. But we work with almost all others: logistics, manufacturing, tech, consumer packaged goods, retail, and anything to do with sales and marketing.
You support businesses in other ways as well.
Edwards: We help companies reach the pinnacle in their business ventures. We do this through analysis, strategic planning, execution, management consulting, project management, and executive coaching. We have designed and executed successful strategies for all types of clients in every industry and business stage.
What kinds of programs do you offer clients?
Edwards: We prefer our clients do 12-month programs. We found that a lot of accelerators or incubators offer three- or four-month programs that tend to be very intense but have a cookie-cutter approach. We like to do more of a customized approach. We meet with a client and we structure the program based on their needs.
What happens during a program?
Edwards: We optimize planning, we help them with development, you name it. We help them find the capital they need to run a business, we help them with sales and marketing. Pretty much anything that involves making them sustainable and helping them grow.
What is your fee structure?
Edwards: We have feasible consulting fees. We want to be a true partner so we might take equity instead of a payment because we want them to succeed and build and partner with them.
What’s coming up for Empire Builders?
Edwards: We’re starting to raise money for a nonprofit, which is a sister entity in Empire Builders. The mission is to allow us to offer, at a nominal rate, our services to women and other minorities who don’t have the access to the same resources as other people. We not only help them raise capital, but we help them overcome barriers that have historically been out there. We’re really excited about that.
Do you have an example of a success story in the tech space?
Edwards: One of my early clients is Xooker. Xooker developed an app that makes it fun and easy to save money. It began in Lexington, expanded to Louisville, and now Cincinnati. It will soon be expanding to Florida. I helped them raise $10 million for that company, along with approximately $2 million to help them expand.
What are the advantages of being located in Lexington?
Edwards: I have traveled a lot to raise capital for my clients. I’ve been to Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, all the places where there’s a lot more activity in the entrepreneur communities. I gained knowledge by going to all those places and brought the knowledge back to Kentucky. We need better resources for folks as we move more into an entrepreneurial economy. We don’t have all the big companies that keep employees for 30 years. I wanted to help spark our communities. We have to help get them stronger. Plus, I just like living here.