Tim McCorry has become adept at getting seed grants to grow his company. The CEO and sole full-time employee of the McCorry Group, in Berwyn, Pa., which makes plastic "rebreakable" karate boards, really didn't have any choice.

McCorry, now in his second year of business, explains, "I came up with the idea for my product and got it patented. Then I stalled out dead in the water for about a year because I just didn't have the money to get a prototype made."

Why didn't he try bank financing? "I had nightmarish experiences approaching conventional bankers," he recalls. "All they wanted was to tie up my house and everything else they could get their hands on."

Fortunately, McCorry had seen brochures in business offices about nonprofits that provided seed money and other assistance. He decided to approach a nearby technology-oriented seed-capital fund in Montoursville, Pa. "I needed about $5,000 to produce my prototype," he says.

Instead of getting the runaround from junior loan officers, which is what had happened at local banks, McCorry gained access fairly easily to a top staffer, Larry Seibert, the regional manager of the Northeast Tier Ben Franklin Technology Center. Seibert liked McCorry and his company. "He had a unique product idea, a patent for the technology, and lots of energy, enthusiasm, and drive."

Seibert wasn't bothered that McCorry lacked a traditional business plan. "We worked on that together. One thing that impressed me about Tim was that he didn't get discouraged when I criticized his first draft and sent him back to do more work on it."

That work paid off. After about six months of fine-tuning his business plan and proposal, McCorry won a $5,000 grant, which covered 80% of his start-up manufacturing costs. (Nearby Bucknell University produced the prototype.)

The assistance didn't end there. Ben Franklin's staffers helped McCorry develop a top-quality marketing brochure and internal cash-flow controls that, as he puts it, "helped me reach profitability within just seven months of operation."

Best of all, last summer the nonprofit combined its own funds with a state grant that gave McCorry an additional $78,000. "We're going to use this money to investigate the use of recyclable plastics, as well as to help develop a second product," says McCorry. He adds, "Without seed capital, I wouldn't have a company -- let alone the growth prospects I've got now."

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Want to learn more about seed-money opportunities? Try Free Money for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs, by Laurie Blum (John Wiley & Sons, 1995, $14.95). It includes 281 pages of information on foundations and government agencies that provide grants to entrepreneurial ventures. Grant restrictions and deadlines are included.