Building a big business out of nanoscopic molecules

Margaret Kocherga describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.” 

Kocherga’s background is in academic scientific research, and it was her PhD advisor who first brought up an idea of a startup. She wasn’t familiar with the entrepreneurial world at that time.

“Maybe if I knew, I wouldn’t have done it,” she jokes. 

She must have done something right. Kocherga launched Light and Charge Solutions LLC in November 2019 after receiving a grant from the NC IDEA Foundation, and this winter, it was named among Charlotte Inno’s Startups to Watch in 2021

The company is working to develop materials for electronics that are better for the environment and take less time to manufacture. It is currently in a pilot stage and is working with potential customers to develop the technology. Kocherga’s ultimate goal is to be able to look at her phone or her car and say, “Hey, I make stuff for this.”

Kocherga is also participating in Chain Reaction Innovations through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and splits her time between Chicago and Charlotte. As a result of the funding she received through that program, she was able to make the switch to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.

“You feel permanently unqualified to do everything that you’re doing,” Kocherga says of entrepreneurship. ”There’s always something that comes up. As soon as you learn one thing, you need to be learning the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. That’s the biggest thing: adjusting to not knowing what’s going to come next and learning to quickly act.”

She has also built a tough skin. Working in a male-dominated field, Kocherga often found herself as the sole woman in a room of 200 people. She says having female mentors to help guide her through those situations was one of the most helpful resources thus far. She also learned that standing out can be a good thing.

“I would see people two years after meeting them, and they would remember me. I would think, ‘How do you remember me? Oh, well, I’m the only one in the room. Of course they’re going to remember me. I’m the oddball of the party,’” she said.  

Kocherga has also learned that having the right network of people around you is an important piece of successful entrepreneurship. INCLT’s mentorship program has proven to be a unique way to create those relationships and to learn more about what she doesn’t know. 

“Maybe you have the right talent in your company, but you don’t really know how to utilize it. That’s the next level. That’s something you can’t just learn by taking a class,” she said.

Stories like Margaret’s are what make Charlotte’s entrepreneurial community so diverse. “I am very excited to see people from the Russian speaking community tapping into the mentorship networks of Charlotte.” said Olga Muller, CEO at Kepler Team