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“HCC’s academic counselors made the process easy for me from the beginning. I enjoyed all of my courses and all my professors genuinely cared about their students and the material they taught. It was also a great feeling to remain in Harford while getting a quality education.”

Harford Community College alumni Derell Lee and John Pace have been friends since elementary school. As far back as their teen years, the two always dreamed of going into business together. Their dream became a reality with the launch of Vegun Nutrition in December 2017.

Since both are passionate about health and wellness, they decided to start a business that bridges the gap in the market between natural plant-based nutrition and athletic performance. Before leaping in, they sought advice from the Northern Region Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Harford Community College on how to construct a business plan to enable them to secure the needed financing. Since then, they have hit the ground running, bringing their concept to life.

Their company, Vegun Nutrition, worked with world-renowned dietitians to develop VEGANMASS™, the first plant-based lean mass gainer formulated to tear down nutritional barriers and fill deficiencies that come with the vegan diet. A vegan mass gainer is a plant-based nutritional supplement that contains no animal products or by-products; no products are tested on animals. Their vision is to create innovative natural and plant-based supplements to aid their customers in eliminating nutritional and training barriers in pursuit of their personal health and fitness goals. Vegun Nutrition will be headquartered in Maryland.

Although they launched the business in 2017, they continued to develop and perfect their first product. It’s officially set to launch in September 2018 and will be available on their website and through various online platforms and vegan organizations. Their plan for Vegun Nutrition is to grow their product line and continue to be innovative in the natural/plant-based performance market.

Both men are U.S. military veterans and served in the Maryland Air National Guard; they say that the skills they learned in the service helped when starting their business. Derell ended his enlistment as a Senior Airman and John still works as a budget analyst, holding the rank of Senior Airman.

Their years at Harford Community College also helped to prepare them for their futures. While they were attending the College, John and Derell worked full time. The College’s flexible course schedule and wide variety of offerings gave them room to tailor their class schedule around their busy lives, and they felt Harford offered all the resources necessary for their success on a beautiful campus that was safe, comfortable, and close to home.

Derell said, “I was very happy with my experience at HCC. After getting back from Basic Military Training and Air Force Technical Training, I knew what I wanted to major in and HCC was my first choice. HCC’s academic counselors made the process easy for me from the beginning. I enjoyed all of my courses and all my professors genuinely cared about their students and the material they taught. It was also a great feeling to remain in Harford while getting a quality education.”

John added, “I had an overall great experience at HCC! My academic counselor was outstanding and truly cared about the path I wanted for my future and ensured I was in place to reach my goals. All of my professors cared about my success in their class and were always available when I needed them. I would definitely recommend HCC to any prospective student.”

Derell graduated HCC in 2015 with an associate degree in business administration; John earned his associate degree in business administration with a focus in entrepreneurship in 2014.

They also greatly value the advice they received from the SBDC through the College. They said they definitely recommend and strongly encourage anyone who is thinking about or in the process of starting a business to reach out to the SBDC. “I credit the SBDC for our success; our consultant Ryan Del Gallo helped us build the foundation of our business from concept to reality. Ryan gave us proper guidance on building the legal structure for our business and allowed us to be able to spend more time focusing on our product and actually building the business. The SBDC will help you to remain compliant with all state and federal business regulations and that alone alleviates a lot of stress. I credit Ryan Del Gallo and the SBDC for positioning us to receive the funding to start our business. Every business is built on a strong foundation; if you want to succeed, it is imperative that you work with the SBDC,” stated John.

About the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The SBDC offers free, individualized consulting to aspiring entrepreneurs or existing business owners in Maryland, from start-ups to established businesses. It also offers comprehensive training programs for those just thinking about starting a business to executive training, with most classes at low to no cost. The network provides Maryland small business owners with access to trusted business advisors with experience in starting and growing businesses. SBDC offers expertise and keen insights essential to helping you manage your concerns today, and designs solid, long-range plans to secure your vision for tomorrow.

More information is available at: Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC).


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