Build Your Career HERE – Starting a New Business

Northeast Indiana is obviously a great place to live and work. In the past few weeks, we have talked to a variety of employers and experts that have given testimony to the opportunities and resources at your disposal here. While it may not be for everyone, our experts agree that sometimes it is okay to venture out on your own. No one knows your passions and work style better than yourself. Taking a bold step toward independently sharing your skills and expertise may just be what the career counselor ordered. If entrepreneurship is in your future, you need to know how to succeed and who is here to help.


Northeast Indiana Innovation Center


What are the best industries in northeast Indiana?

Whether you are going for a more traditional work path or venturing out on your own, you need to know what our region has to offer. According to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Logistics & E-Commerce, Specialty Insurance, Medical Device & Technology, Vehicles, Food & Beverage, Advanced Materials, and Design and Craftsmanship are the seven target industries in our region. What does that mean? It means that these industries are growing and producing quality jobs in our region. These industries are a result of our region’s culture and need for economic growth. Now that you know the fields, how do you pick which one to pursue? Is one better than another? According to Sonya Snellenberger-Holm, there isn’t really a best. “I’m a fan of all walks of life and all jobs.”  The Partnership is there to promote all fields that could potentially bring growth. On the other hand, Karl LaPan believes health care and financial services offer compelling opportunities as these industries transform and innovate. This translates to more potential opportunities.

I sat down and chatted with Rhonda Ladig of Start Fort Wayne, an entrepreneurial resource center in downtown Fort Wayne. She said that successful local entreprenuers are in just about every field. The common industry that most of these local entrepreneurs are connected to is e-commerce. It doesn’t matter if you are selling something physical or a service, it is all selling online. You can effectively run a business from the comfort of your laptop.

When you are looking for research on these industries, where exatly do you go? Jim Johnson said “a great resource to answer this question is the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. No one knows more about northeast Indiana more than this dedicated group of professionals. Their website is full of resources and information.” If you want to learn more about the specifics of target industries, you can download a report straight from the website. Theresa Steele added to Jim’s sentiment by recommending going to individual Local Economic Development Organization (LEDOs) to see what their initiatives are.  Another great source Theresa recommends is the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Atrium (Start Fort Wayne) workspace

What resources are out there for new businesses?

Starting a new business is not for the faint of heart, but it can be one of the most rewarding career moves you can make. Two major resources are available to entreprenuers in our region, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and Start Fort Wayne at the Atrium.

You have heard me mention the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) throughout this series. We were lucky to have Karl LaPan provide his insight to career changes and learning new skills. Now, we get to hear why the work he is doing at the NIIC is so important. “Our focus is on the four entrepreneurially success pillars any new business needs to be successful – access to capital, talent, workspaces and networks.” Jim Johnson also agrees that the NIIC is a great place to access entrepreneurial resources. If you are intereted in what they have to offer, check out the NIIC’s and the Women’s Entreprenurial Opportunity Center websites for a comprehensive look at available entrepreneurial resources. Be sure to ask your support providers about their coaching model, track record of success and talk to their past and present clients to make sure their approach to developing your business matches your expectations.

Large conference room at the Atrium

The Atrium in downtown Fort Wayne is a unique and relatively new place for new businesses. A person can “rent” space in their contemporary office environment which give them an official and professional address on a business card. While everyone was referring me to Start Fort Wayne, I took a little time and toured the facility with Rhonda Ladig and learned a little bit about coworking. Coworking is defined as style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. At Start Fort Wayne, it is not uncommon for someone in HR or graphic design to help someone in technology, or any other possible combination you can imagine.

Informal lounge area at the Atrium

The first thing you notice when you walk into the Atrium, the place that houses Start Fort Wayne, is the trendy, simplistic and clean style. Much like the aesthetics, Start Fort Wayne is about the basics of building a business and the tools you need to get started and succeed. The far left side of the room is a more established space for more permanent members that are using the space as their primary location. In the middle of the room, you see empty desks with individuals spotted throughout. This membership is for people that want to come and bring a laptop and just have a place to go on their own time. This is especially popular for remote workers that are looking for less distractions than a local coffee shop. To the far right, you see a line of offices rented out to various startups that either want more privacy or have more than one employee. The space is lined with local art because just like everyone else there, artists are entrepreneurs too. They provide multiple meeting spaces of various sizes and private phone booths that are great for business calls and webinars. In addition to the space, they offer quite a few services to their members including,  10 free hours of conference room usage, free coffee, a shared kitchen, coaching, opportunity for coworking, networking opportunities, and educational opportunities. Currently, Start Fort Wayne has around 130 members paying anywhere from $65 to $800 a month for space and services.


The goal for Start Fort Wayne in the past has been to teach and provide the essentials for making a business take off. Some of what they have done is teach members how to write a business plan, coaching, developing an elevator pitch, teaching how to get a small business loan and showing members how to engage with venture firms. As they move into yet another year of success, their goal is to be the place in northeast Indiana that that outside ventures want to locate to and they see this as a great place to launch. To do this, they need to have a space and be the space where more deal flow is happening.


What other resources are out there for entrepreneurs?

According to Jim Johnson, you need to check out some services that you may not even be aware you have, like your credit union! “If your credit union or bank has a business services group, ask to meet with one of them. They will have great advice for new businesses. At 3Rivers, our Retail Services team does this!” According to Theresa, another resource is the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. While they don’t have traditional services for this, you can review their content for information about local entrepreneurs.


Victoria Sarjeant

Author: Victoria Sarjeant

Victoria moved from to Fort Wayne from Greentown, IN in 2007. She received her BA in Political Science. She presented "Building Affinity Groups to Engage a New Generation of Alumni" at 2015 CASE V Conference and "Regional Talent Retention" at the 2017 CASE V Conference. She received the 2016 IPFW Distinguished Service Award, and was a director-at-large for IPFWAA Board of Directors. the secretary on the Emerging Leaders Alliance Executive Committee, vice chair of Living Fort Wayne Committee, a member of YLNI, a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and she runs her own business in her free time. She also owns I'm Not Wining, LLC and is an independent distributor for Young Living Essential Oils.

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