Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Narwhal and the Manatee  
Jul25

Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Narwhal and the Manatee  

It all started with a baby’s rash.   Megan Elizabeth Sutton was worried when her infant daughter broke out in red patches, soon realizing it was a bad case of eczema. When she began researching natural ways to make her own lotion to treat this skin condition, she didn’t realize that in a couple of years it would become a business.   Celebrating a year of business this past spring, the Narwhal and the Manatee has lined their shelves with handmade bath fizzies, soothing lotions and natural skincare products. Taking inspiration from her favorite hobby, baking, Sutton’s cupcake bath fizzies have become famous for looking so good, some have mistakenly tried to eat them!   Her team hasn’t gotten this far on their own. From the lard she sources out of Chesterton, to the beeswax and honey from New Haven, Sutton depends on regionally-sourced ingredients. Her goal this year is to focus and expand the number of small businesses that can produce the ingredients she needs.   Looking to grow her business, Sutton has also branched off into the world of private labeling. Working with many regional businesses, Sutton’s team works with a range of companies to create unique and custom skincare products that fit their customers’ needs.   Interested in visiting the Narwhal and the Manatee? Check out their shop located in the City Exchange.   Sutton spoke a little bit about entrepreneurship in Fort Wayne, here’s what she had to say.   What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? I have lived in Northeast Indiana for 13 years and I’ve watched this community truly believe in its potential. After going to school and participating in several volunteer organizations, I realized this is my opportunity to add to the culture of this area.   What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? My biggest challenge is in recognizing my own value. It’s easy to put a price tag on a product, but I have a hard time remembering that my time, talents and efforts are also valuable.   What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? I got my start with the NIIC (Northeast Indiana Innovation Center). Greater Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Enterprise Association have both been very supportive and helpful. And the City Exchange made what I do a possibility by providing space for new businesses downtown.   What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? Go for it. I found starting a business similar to having a baby: you’re never ready. But once you get going, you figure...

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Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Full Circle Wellness
Jun20

Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Full Circle Wellness

What is the one commonality we have in our daily lives? Stress. In 2007, Vicki Eber began her career in massage therapy; thus creating Full Circle Wellness. As a certified yoga instructor and receiving a Wellness Coach certification from Mayo Clinic, Eber works with individuals and corporations to build personal and professional stress-free lives. Creating specific wellness plans for her clients, Eber is helping people make small lifestyle changes to manage their stress and incorporate in any of the seven aspects of wellness they may be missing because stress has taken over. Though her journey has been long, she is now looking to digitize her business into podcasts and webinars to better reach a national audience. Eber spoke a little bit about entrepreneurship in Fort Wayne, here’s what she had to say.   What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? I opened Full Circle Wellness in 2007 after getting tired of making notes of what I would do to improve the places I worked for. I knew I was going to be staying here, and it wasn’t going to be easy, but I took the opportunity to make a leap when my place of work was closing. I know I’m meant to be an entrepreneur now that I’ve been doing it for a little over a decade!   What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? Always being a few years ahead of what my clientele may be prepared for, and trusting it will be a success. Fear and doubt is always a struggle of an entrepreneur and I’ve been putting faith in myself as a standard practice since the beginning, even when fear and doubt start creeping in.   What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? I am connected to a women’s entrepreneur group, Own Your Success. They are such a wonderful support system, give great advice, and inspire me every day with what all they do. Also, my clients and students. They inspire me each time I connect with them. They are why I do what I do, which helps me to continue thriving. I am constantly reminded why I do what I do. If I lost that, I wouldn’t be thriving.   What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? Scrape your knees, fall down, but get back up! Those are the best moments to learn and grow from. Never cave under doubt and fear! The scariest moments are going to be the best decisions you’ve ever made because you took a chance. Lastly, ask for help! Invest...

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Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Stonewares
Sep07

Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Stonewares

This entrepreneur spotlight features Laura Brandenburg of Stonewares! Laura makes absolutely amazing earthy, stoneware pottery and jewelry. While she has several stable items, she also does custom orders. I’m in love with her planters. I also have a thing for mugs, and she recently made some of the coolest Indiana  mugs I’ve ever seen! Laura has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics, and to add to her awesome-ness, she recently completed work that she was commissioned to create by internationally renowned interior designer, Kelly Wearstler. The bowls that she created are decorative elements that will outfit the furnished units of Hollywood Proper at Columbia Square—how cool is that?! Here’s what she had to say about doing business in the Fort. What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? In 2004, I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Ceramics from IPFW. My dream was always to have a home studio and start to sell my functional and decorative stonewares locally. I saved up and purchased my kiln and my wheel and the studio slowly came together. My work was selling and I decided to take a leap and dedicate more and more of my free time to creating my work and selling it. Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana has been so supportive of my work that I am happy to have this location as my roots. What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? The people in the community supporting their local artists and shopping locally has been one of the main reasons that my business has survived and thrived. There are so many resources in our community that have had a big impact on me being able to do what I love. YLNI’s Barr Street Market was where I began regularly selling my work in 2008. I have been a vendor there every year since and attribute the bulk of my business growth to that venue and community. Local juried Art Fairs such as the Covington Art Fair and Art at the Riverside have also helped me to share my work with a broader range of customers desiring fine art. The Downtown Improvement District in its creation of HolidayFest and the Holly Trolley has allowed me to continue my work as coordinator and participant of the “Foxy Ladies Art Posse”; an assembled group of local makers’ Holiday Pop-up Show at Artlink Contemporary Gallery. Artlink has hosted the Foxy Ladies Art Posse Holiday Pop-up show for the past 5 years and has been a solid supporter of local artists. Local entrepreneurs have also been a huge reason my work has...

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Rivers Relaxation: A New Way to De-Stress in Fort Wayne
Apr06

Rivers Relaxation: A New Way to De-Stress in Fort Wayne

If you’re anything like me, I’m always looking for two things on the weekend: a unique experience and a way to unwind and relax from another long workweek. With Rivers Relaxation, you can have both. Located on Dupont Road, Rivers Relaxation is Fort Wayne’s only floatation center. What is floating, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a massive float tank filled with 1000 gallons of heated water and a half ton of Epsom salt. Because of the precise solution of water to salt, the body natural floats without any physical effort.  This buoyancy has multiple benefits, including reduction in pain, increases the speed of physical recovery from physical training and injuries and a strengthened immune system. In addition, the floatation tank can be closed giving the user the opportunity to benefit from sensory deprivation or ‘Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique’. The benefits of sensory deprivation include reduction in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and lowering of blood pressure. In addition, you might experience increased creativity, calming, and relief from insomnia and jet lag. Rivers Relaxation is run by Andrew and Kelly Adams. Fort Wayne natives, they discovered floating from searching for a way to relax and unwind from the stress of their own day-to-day lives. Once they realized that there was not a floatation center in Northeast Indiana, they decided to pursue bringing this experience to the area. Once I checked out all of the information on their website, I had to try the experience out for myself—and bring a friend along, since they have two tanks for use.  After entering the center and filling out a few intake forms, Andrew led us back to show us the tanks and how to use them.  The tanks truly are massive and take up most of the room, along with a shower that you use both before and after your float (first to remove any oils from lotions and hair products and after to remove the Epsom salt). At first, getting in the tank is a bit terrifying, but you are truly buoyant. It takes no physical effort at all to stay afloat. There are ambient lights and meditative music in the pod, so relaxation begins right away. And the water is nearly the exact same temperature as the air around you, so it’s nearly impossible to tell which parts of your body are submerged and which is above water.  After spending a few minutes with the ambient light, I decided to turn it off and go full sensory deprivation. I was a bit concerned that being in pitch black darkness would cause some deeply hidden claustrophobia to manifest, but it was...

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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jack Ellsworth of Valontine
Dec22

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jack Ellsworth of Valontine

This week’s Start Fort Wayne Entrepreneur Spotlight features Jack Ellsworth, founder of Valontine, located in the City Exchange Shops downtown. Valontine offers “items that mirror what is in style today, while still holding on to their vintage heritage.” Beard Oil from Valontine was recently featured on our Christmas Top Picks, and I can honestly say you will never visit this shop and walk out disappointed. Never. Jack’s knack for thrifting and his eye for fashion has transformed from a hobby into an Etsy Shop, and now into a local brick and mortar location that’s a real gem in downtown Fort Wayne. What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? “It has always been a dream of mine to have my own company. My mother, father, sister, stepfather and a majority of my step brothers have had prosperous businesses or have dabbled in running their own companies in the past. So the idea of having my own business just seemed to be the norm. I have had a few businesses in the past but they were either freelance work or online only. When I saw the opportunity for a tangible store in the downtown area at a reasonable price, I decided it was the perfect time to take the leap.” What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? “Being a part of The City Exchange has helped me the most. The location and low overhead has made exposure more possible and has helped to keep me out of the red in regards to expenses. Also being a part of the cohesive tenant community — I’m not there by myself — I have the other tenants as support and we help bring each other customers.” What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? “Sporadic business traffic. Most would think weekends would be popular days of the week to shop, but I’ve had certain Mondays where I’ve done better than certain Fridays or Saturdays. Also opening during the holiday season has skewed numbers a bit (in a positive way) — so it’ll be interesting to see what traffic will be like outside of the holiday season.” What person has helped you the most in your journey? “I would say my friends and family. They are my biggest supporters. I would also say the people of City Exchange, without this location I doubt I would’ve been as successful. My mother has helped me a lot, she’s had her own business for 20+ years, and she’s had many ups and downs. I have learned from her issues and her triumphs and...

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