How to Use Community Resources to Advance Your Business

One question we receive often here at The Robert C. Byrd Institute at Marshall University, known to most people simply as  RCBI, is how to best manufacture a product while properly receiving the funding to continue developing your company. RCBI has multiple locations spread around West Virginia, all with teams focused on helping entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Our team consists of entrepreneurs, engineers, and other staff members that work to personally view your project and see how the technology, printing, and general business knowledge available here can help.

In this article, we’ll follow the journey of a project developed for Huntington, WV native Greg Null. Greg operates Null’s Machine Shop and specializes in production of  sand-cast metal products, as well as the machining it takes to turn cast items into a final prduct

Resources and Methods: 

For entrepreneurs, RCBI’s services can be a valuable resource to advance your business while still staying integrated in the community. To manufacture more efficiently, we often use rapid prototyping when creating products for clients, and this method can transfer over to countless other types of businesses. This method can also inspire a maker/entrepreneur to be more creative and think of various alternative solutions that had not been previously considered. By using rapid prototyping, you are able to work more effectively with your colleagues and become a stronger entrepreneur in the process. At RCBI specifically, we use this system along with our career skills training to make products that will better serve the community. Any prototype will go through multiple iterations and design fixes before it is taken to the user, so that the product delivered is of the best quality possible.

Greg Null’s journey through rapid prototyping at RCBI centered upon creation of a 3d model and set of drawings for a new brake caliper. Beautiful, old-world sand casting techniques and skill were combined with 3d printing to produce the molds needed to cast the parts. This workflow allowed design engineers at RCBI, and technicians at Null’s Machine Shop to collaborate, and rapidly iterate designs at the beginning of the project, and to do so digitally in a cost-effective manner.


As a business owner, sometimes it can seem daunting to search for and apply for funding. However, the grant process and Early Stage Funding Opportunity application makes it easier to gain access to grant funding to help you complete your goals. Having a clear picture of the problem you are trying to solve for your customers and a basic timeline you hope to complete can help prepare you for the grant process as well. Through our different programs, you can also receive custom training to gain knowledge of different machining technologies or related softwares that would help in production of your product. Aside from direct grants, our Maker Vault can also be helpful to those that are looking to create smaller 3D printed prototypes of their idea.


By taking advantage of the resources at RCBI, you will also be receiving help from a networking standpoint. By collaborating with the team here, grant writers, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and more, you are gaining contacts and a network that can help you farther down the road.

Deacon Stone is Director of Innovation & STEM Education Coordinator at RCBI. Deacon studied engineering at Ohio University, and is an alumni of Marshall University and Cranbrook Academy of Art. With a background in engineering and a foreground in the arts, he brings a unique vantage point to problem solving, rapid prototyping, and approaches to making. More than ten years of experience in nonprofit enterprise development and administration, and contributions to startup and growth companies in West Virginia, has instilled an entrepreneurial mindset, along with a commitment to sustainable practices. He believes that entrepreneurship and growth are always within reach, as advanced technology gives us unprecedented access to scale. While advanced technology is more affordable and available than ever; it should be more accessible. Deacon enjoys bringing advanced approaches to the service of kids from eight to eighty, from arts to industry, and from corporation to community, taking projects to the next level, no matter the level.


Bella Schrader is currently a sophomore at Marshall University, double majoring in Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Management/Technology, with minors in Engineering Sciences and Marketing. She currently serves as an Entrepreneurship Immersion Fellow at the Robert C. Byrd Institute in Huntington, WV, and as an intern for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation at the Lewis College of Business. Bella’s passion is to ultimately better the lives of others by working with both the biotech industry as well as addressing environmental and sustainability concerns using business and design thinking.