By Diane VanDyke
For Matthew Chalal, CEO and owner of Banner Industries LLC, starting his own business was a longtime vision that is now a reality, as he settles into his new office space at Montgomery County Community College’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies’ business incubator.
When he was previously working full time as an operations manager, he spent his evenings and weekends researching, developing and creating his company and product. He launched Banner Industries LLC in 2007.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Chalal said. “Then, after my children were born, I knew I wanted to create something that would be entertaining and educational for children.”
To accomplish these two goals, Chalal created Flashcar—an educational math game that is fun and engaging for children ages 6 to 12 years.
“Flashcar takes the excitement of auto racing and combines it with answering math equations for a race like experience,” he said. “Players answer questions correctly to move around the game board. You must pay attention at all times as every question could potentially be yours if players ahead of you answer incorrectly. The racing theme is appealing to both boys and girls as they can enjoy the competitive nature of the game.”
While formulating the game, Chalal met with different educators to obtain their input to ensure the game would address key math concepts. Additionally, he contacted the Pa. Department of Education to verify that the skills reinforced in the game meet the state requirements for elementary math.
When children master these foundational skills, he said, they gain confidence in their abilities, which then allows them to successfully achieve higher concepts.
Initially, he created a board game version of Flashcar that can be enjoyed as a family activity while reinforcing adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Within the past year, Chalal developed the online platform, which allows teachers and families to subscribe on the website.
“The online version is a nice complement to the board game,” he said. “It provides an unlimited amount of questions and different levels of learning. You can also develop your own characters and customize the features.”
To purchase the online game, educators and parents can simply register on the website at www.playflashcar.com or www.kids-learninggames.com. Each registered user is issued a driver’s license with a username and password, which enables them to log on at school, home or anywhere.
In order to further promote his new product and take his business to the next level, Chalal decided to move his business to the CES incubator.
“This has been a good fit from the beginning,” he said. “Having my office here is affordable and gives me the ability to meet with clients and have support staff to assist me.”
Currently, Banner Industries is a one-person company, but Chalal eventually wants to hire staff to assist with advertising, marketing and distribution. Until he reaches that goal, the incubator environment provides the support staff he needs as well as the expertise of on-site consultants.
In addition to the business counseling and mentoring services provided by SCORE representatives, the CES offers free consulting services for its incubator tenants, MCCC students, and community entrepreneurs in the areas of marketing, accounting, legal, and technology.
“SCORE helped me to develop some meaningful marketing strategies and challenged me to create my next product,” he said.