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Risking Business

This story appears in the January 1998 issue of

Somehow the image of Martha Egges, a homebased business owner from Middleton, Wisconsin, knocking on the padlocked, riveted, ironclad door of big government seemed ludicrous. Which is why Egges was skeptical about her chances of Uncle Sam actually handing her any money to develop her idea for virtual reality software that would allow researchers to collaborate electronically. When her sister, an engineer in Boulder, Colorado, told her about an associate who'd gotten a government grant to develop his product, Egges says her first reaction was, "That can't be right."

Shortly after that, she attended a meeting describing the government's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and Egges was on her way down the red-tape carpet leading to the government grant gala. She started networking with other small-business owners who had successfully received SBIR grants, attended regional programs explaining government opportunities, got on the mailing lists of government agencies looking for SBIR partners and attended national SBIR conferences for small businesses.

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