The COVID-19 pandemic has put libraries nationwide in uncharted territory. We miss our customers, we miss interacting with them, and we miss hosting programs that educate and inspire.
We've created this blog series, Stories from Before, chronicling the stories of customers who ♥ all the Library offers, be it Storytime or Summer Reading, Books By Mail, English Language Classes, and much more. We hope these uplifting stories can help us all get through these challenging times and think about a brighter future.
Pursue it with all you’ve got: The Library and driving determination help entrepreneur launch successful business
Delta Development Chief Operating Officer Chris Bridgewater says he’s had an entrepreneurial mindset since adolescence. “Whenever I saw something that needed to be done—fixing bikes, mowing grass—I’d do it.” The mindset stuck with him into adulthood. “I started an online retail store for refrigeration products for remote areas and underprivileged communities.”
The online store was successful, but it didn’t match his dreams.
Chris, a 10-year Army veteran, had become interested in cooling and heating systems for extreme environments during a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2014. “I was an engineer. I did everything from carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, masonry, and operating heavy equipment. When the refrigeration unit behind the mess hall wouldn’t start, I was trained in HVAC repair.
“I started noticing inefficiencies that made our job more challenging than it needed to be,” he says. “The air conditioning would stop working in command centers, living quarters. I’d wake up to the sound of sweat dripping on my floor.”
It was then that he realized there was a tremendous need for cooling and refrigeration innovation. “There’s evidence,” he says “that blood loss on the battlefield is one of the leading causes of death. If blood can’t be cooled properly and delivered in time, that’s a life that you’ve lost. I understand this from first-hand experience.”
Back at home, Chris learned about SCORE Southern Arizona, the local branch of a national organization that offers free business consulting and mentoring. He attended a SCORE Boost the Business workshop at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, where he met SCORE volunteer, Nancy Hessney. It was through her he learned about their partnership with Pima County Public Library. He went to workshops at the Library, including Simple Steps for Starting Your Business.
With the help of SCORE and the Library, and a driving determination, Chris launched Delta Development in July 2018. With only 10 employees, Delta Development is one of only three American companies working to create, build, and distribute blood heating and cooling units, ventilation adaptors, and autonomous refrigeration units.
In a little over one year, their customers include multiple agencies within the US Air Force, US Army NATICK Soldier RD&E Center, and the Marine Corps Systems Command. Other stakeholders include First Responders, UNICEF, STEM cell research units, the Northwest Fire District, and the University of Arizona Emergency Medicine research team.
“The road to starting a small business, especially on your own, can be very challenging. But it’s important to pursue it with all you’ve got,” Chris says.
Beyond providing essential and innovative products, Delta Development is having an impact on economic development in Pima County. “We’re building a micro-economy, creating a strong workforce by training and advancing employees, paying taxes, and spending money with local contractors. We also occupy a newly-renovated building.”
“Plus,” he jokes, “we like to visit the brewery next door.”
Asked about his drive to achieve his dream, Chris compares his experience with John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. “You’re riding on a bumpy road, and you’ve got stuff falling off the roof. You get to where you’re going and, what’s left? The things you need.”
“In business,” he continues, “you can’t dwell on what’s lost—time, investments, money, ideas that failed. Let those things fall off the roof. You’ll be left with what will make you successful.”
“You will never get this second back. Time is your most valuable resource, and my advice for anyone wanting to start their own business is don’t wait; now’s the time.” – Chris Bridgewater