MC supporting startup business on campus

MC supporting startup business on campus

Dec. 5, 2018



Sitting amongst a montage of technical laboratory equipment on the second floor of Maryville College’s Sutton Science Center, one can find Mike Goodrich ’92, owner and president of the start-up business Cornerstone Analytical Laboratories (CAL).

Since August of 2016, CAL has operated as a contract-testing and method-development facility that performs unique yet necessary tests for pharmaceutical, dietary, manufacturing, academic and chemical research industries.

If it were not for the College’s Division of Natural Sciences, Goodrich’s company may not exist today. Goodrich said it definitely would not be as successful. 

“Cornerstone Analytical has doubled in sales volume in both of the last two years, and we also have expanded our technical capabilities, adding to the list of services we are able to offer,” Goodrich said.

With a recommendation from Dr. Nathan Duncan, assistant professor of chemistry, the College offered Goodrich a share of unused chemistry lab space and the opportunity for CAL to develop into a viable and fruitful company.

“I acted as a liaison and helped to define and describe the agreement between Cornerstone Analytical and Maryville College,” Duncan said. “[Goodrich] gets space in Sutton, we get access to his equipment, he works as a part-time employee for the purpose of helping students, and he can use some of our instruments for commercial use.”

For Goodrich, CAL’s beginning also included a return to a building in which he spent countless hours as a chemistry major.

“I had a great experience at Maryville and have leveraged the skills I developed here to be in a place where I can launch and operate my own lab,” he said. “I thought I was finished with late nights in Sutton, but I really enjoy being back on campus. I get to assist with Senior Studies, and I don’t have to worry about deadlines and letter grades.”

Innovative approaches

Since its inception, CAL has tested an array of products that include sandpaper for the presence of phthalates, organic contaminants in fire retardants, essential oils for purity and even Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, for alcohol content. Goodrich’s innovative Kombucha testing procedure is the first of its kind.

“The methods they currently use in the [tea] industry don’t provide an accurate result, so we’ve developed a method validated for the AOAC [Association of Analytical Communities] to make sure they’re in compliance of local and standard regulations,” he explained. “That was one we uniquely developed the method for.”

Not only is the company distinctive in its testing methodology, but also in its community-driven systematic development. Goodrich believes his company thrives through entrepreneurial relationships fostered with other businesses, companies, small operations and Maryville College students.

Much of the equipment Goodrich uses in his lab-testing business would not be available if it were not for the surrounding entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“The LC-MS [liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry] was actually donated by one of my clients who asked me to do some work for them, even though I didn’t have the equipment,” Goodrich said. “I get to use it for method developments for them, so we’ve also increased the capabilities [at the College].

“We have acquired two new instruments for the College through client contacts. Both of these instruments are not commonly seen on undergraduate campuses,” he continued. “Cornerstone has also acquired a new instrument with technology that only one other contract lab and only 16 university and researchers have in the country. With that instrument, I have made a deal with the manufacturer to have their newest equipment here as demo equipment.”

Another business among the many groups connected with CAL is Lab Procurement Services in Knoxville.

“[Lab Procurement Services] is the company we’re using and that Maryville College is also starting to use for the chemistry department for the procurement of chemicals and reagents, supplies and such,” Goodrich explained. “The first year I worked with them, we were able to get some substantial savings on upgrading equipment in the organic lab and were able to save Maryville College a few thousand dollars.”

Goodrich also works with the Sky City Initiative, a group of Blount County entrepreneurs, representatives from the Blount Partnership and a number of other start-up companies that are interested in Maryville College and Blount County. According to Goodrich, the web of interrelationships stringing together this business community encourages innovative success and growth for all parties on all levels.

Students benefit

Students at the College fill an essential niche within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Since launching, Goodrich has overseen five internships in his lab. The interns have provided chemical analysis, of course, but also accounting and marketing assistance, which are critical to the business’s survival.

Nearly one dozen Senior Studies now cite research conducted through CAL.

“I have had several of my Senior Studies that relied on [Goodrich’s] help and instrumentation,” Duncan explained. “He has also contributed to theses that have led to publication in undergraduate research journals.”

Last year, engineering major Nicholas Spurlock ’20 used Cornerstone’s Ion Chromatography instrument for his Senior Study, in which he compared the pollutant concentration value of industrial fertilizer runoff with organic fertilizer. This year, senior biochemistry major Abria Jefferson ’19 has used the Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) equipment to support her research on the curing process of various log home chinking mixtures.

“I enjoy working with [Goodrich] because he gives me free range on my research and has taught me so much about material science,” Jefferson said. “Cornerstone Analytical has helped me realize how much I enjoy material science and made me more interested in pursuing it after graduation.”

A model to replicate

If its current growth pattern continues, CAL may soon have to look for larger space outside Sutton Science Center. But even if he relocates, Goodrich foresees continuing his mutualistic relationship with students and the Maryville College community.

“I’m appreciative of what Maryville’s allowed me to come in and help do,” Goodrich explained. “I think I’m meeting a need. I bring a lot of entrepreneurial and chemical experience, industrial experience and method development techniques, and so we’re hoping to see that grow and find better fits as we work with more students.”

Goodrich said he believes the Maryville College-CAL model can be replicated in other areas of campus, but he sees it making particular sense for the natural sciences, where overhead costs tend to be prohibitive for scientists and researchers. As the College discusses the need to renovate Sutton and build a new building for the life sciences, he is supportive of suggestions that the College routinely allocate space for companies like his.

“I believe that Maryville College, working with local small business, helps create an ecosystem that benefits everyone,” he said. “The students’ exposure to small business and their connections provide incredible insights to the emerging markets and career opportunities.  Students are also exposed to procedures and equipment that may not otherwise have available to them.

“The small businesses are able to invest in newer equipment and grow in a community of other small  businesses,” he continued. “And the College will be able to grow the Natural Science programs by providing top-notch, cutting-edge education with an excellent student experience.” 

Written by Jared Crain for Maryville College.

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”