Markevis Gideon joined the current Leadership Delaware cohort with his mind open to advice on how to manage his rapidly-growing IT services and repair company NERDiT Now.
He got more than that: Through the organization’s mentoring and networking, he connected with recent alum Roger Chaufournier, a former chief financial officer for a land developer. Now, Chaufornier is CFO for NERDiT Now.
“One of Leadership Delaware’s mottos is about not only collecting the dots, but then connecting the dots,” said Gideon. The “dots” are a metaphor for network connections, which, through the organization, members gain access to. Connecting them is up to the individual leaders.
NERDiT Now has gone through a lot of changes since the concept of a more accessible and reliable version of Geek Squad won the University of Delaware’s Hen Hatch pitch competition in 2016, including plenty over the past year. The company, which has a storefront in First State Plaza in Newport, was hit hard by the pandemic. It left Gideon wondering how he was going to pay the rent in the summer of 2020, after being denied funding through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).
Then things picked up.
By the summer of 2021, NERDiT Now had received enough in corporate grants and assistance to expand into several vacant storefronts in First State Plaza, utilizing the space for its branded workplace development program, an IT recycling program and the company’s nonprofit, The NERDiT Foundation, which refurbishes and distributes laptops and desktops for free to people who need them. All of that is on top of the repair shop and system of branded kiosks that were seen when the company appeared on Shark Tank.
And all of this was picking up after the departure of former managing director Jake Voorhees.
Gideon had support. He’d hired more than a dozen people since things had picked up, including a personal assistant, employees for the store and nonprofit, and IT instructors. What he really needed was another executive-level leader.
“Two months ago or so, a Leadership Delaware fellow asked me to consider joining,” said Gideon. “That same person became a mentor and told me it would be best for NERDiT Now to get a CFO to help us make our next big jump.”
Chaufournier officially started as NERDiT Now CFO on November 1.
“I was looking to make a move, but my picture of ‘the entrepreneur’ was somebody who wants total control and would be difficult to work with,” he said. “I went in with that expectation, and then, Markevis was like, ‘I want you to come run this with me, and I want you to help me.’ And it was in that moment that it just switched. I could just see the vision.”
Financial skills and a long list of contacts aren’t all Chaufournier brings to the table.
“My major in college was philosophy — my favorite thing to do is read philosophy. I’d like to think of myself as the philosopher CFO, where I’m helping the employees see the value of improving themselves, that it’s not just the job. That helps the company, too.”
One of the goals is to add new structure and focus to the business. One of the mentors in the leaders’ arsenal is Mike Meoli of the Meoli Companies, which owns all of the McDonald’s restaurants in the state of Delaware. That’s an extremely valuable connection for a company that is looking into franchising.
“If you are going to franchise, you need to build it to the point that it’s working like a well-oiled machine,” Chaufournier said. “[Meloni] is filling me in on the model, what should I look for as I’m going in, and that’s the best part — I get this advice from day one. That’s just one example of many of these influential people throughout the state that have generously given their time to us. It’s one of the things about Delaware, everyone here I’ve met is wiling to help — I’m originally from DC, where if you pick up the phone [to ask for help] you get laughed out of the room.”
Gideon also has a team of mentors through Mentor Connect, a partnership of Ben Franklin Technology Partners and PACT, the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies, which serves all of Greater Philadelphia, including northern Delaware.
“Markevis has a team of unbiased and conflict-free mentors that helps him every six to eight weeks or so,” said Jennifer Cohen, the
director of mentorship for PACT.
Gideon sees the new leadership structure at NERDiT Now, and the way it came together, as a small case study of sorts of what organizations like Leadership Delaware and PACT can do for growing companies.
“This is just a small subset of what this really could mean for our state,” he said. “We’re going to build this together. I know I cannot do this on my own.”-30-