Bravas – Entrepreneurship Spotlight
Nov29

Bravas – Entrepreneurship Spotlight

From a food cart to a food truck to a brick and mortar location serving up hot dogs, burgers and more, Bo Gonzalez and Bravas has experienced impressive growth in the Fort Wayne community since 2011. We caught up with one of the city’s most successful young restaurateurs in today’s entrepreneurship spotlight. What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne? I think being born and raised here has a lot to do with it. When I started Bravas back in 2011 there was a lack of local food trucks/restaurants ran by local entrepreneurs so that was also a big part of the motivation to open in Fort Wayne – tons of opportunity. What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? I would have to say the other small business owners in the city. There’s a great community of local entrepreneurs that have been super helpful. Getting to talk to another person about real life business challenges/successes has been huge for my own success. What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? Growth. We have grown pretty quickly over the last five-six years and that brings about so many challenges like staffing, sourcing more ingredients, investing company capital, training, etc. What person has helped you the most in your journey? This is hard because so many people have helped myself and Bravas get to where we are. If I have to pick it’s gotta be Mom and Dad. They were on board from the beginning and have continued to support us in so many ways. My mom even named the company. What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? Do work that makes you feel good everyday. You’re going to work insane hours so love what you do. Take breaks when needed and take care of yourself mentally and physically. Great work demands a lot. What would be the best thing Fort Wayne could do for entrepreneurs in your opinion? This is hard because I feel Fort Wayne is actually pretty great for entrepreneurs. Maybe some sort of incentive for local options as opposed to chain, out of state options. For example if a grocery store wanted to open downtown, open it up to a local entrepreneur first before getting bids from larger chains.   For more information on Bravas, go to their website. Browse our website for a complete listing of past “Entrepreneurship Spotlights.” If you are an entrepreneur in the area who would like to share your story like today’s spotlight did, connect with us...

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Desiree Wiercyski – Entrepreneurship Spotlight
Nov07

Desiree Wiercyski – Entrepreneurship Spotlight

In this week’s “Entrepreneurship Spotlight,” we are highlighting a new resident to our area who recently relocated from Oregon. Desiree Wiercyski is a life and business coach, a digital course creator and a podcaster. She describes her audience as “creative, driven and restless quarter-life women who are ready to own their future.” What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? My business is primarily digital, but the growing start-up culture and arts scene in Fort Wayne allowed me to be confident in knowing that I’d be able to connect with other like-minded individuals outside of the Internet. In-person connections are essential for all business owners, even if you run a digital business. What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? I just moved here a few months ago from Portland, Oregon so am just starting to really get connected with the community here. That said, Fort Wayne has made it really easy! 1 Million Cups is a great opportunity to get outside of my own business-bubble, connect with other entrepreneurs, and see things in a different light. I also love the work that YLNI is doing and am excited to start getting involved. What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? Balance! The idea of work-life balance generally doesn’t resonate with me, I prefer the idea of work-life integration. But now, my office is in my home and it’s easy to just get sucked into 20 hour work days or realizing I haven’t left the house in days, because I’ve been so involved with building my business. I have to consistently remind myself to take a break and do something else. What person has helped you the most in your journey? Right when I knew I was going to start my own business, I tapped my husband to do all things related to graphic design. He’s also my editor and tech guy for the times I need another set of eyes. He’s always in the trenches with me, staying up to help until 2 or 3 am to make sure things get done. There’s no way I could do what I do without his help! What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? Get really clear so you know without any hesitation what you want, and why you want it. That is what will keep you going when you just want to walk away. Also, know that fear is normal, and that it’s okay. A lot of times in entrepreneurship, if you’re not scared or if you don’t feel a little crazy, you’re...

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Lauren Caggiano – Entrepreneurship Spotlight
Oct31

Lauren Caggiano – Entrepreneurship Spotlight

In this week’s “Entrepreneurship Spotlight,” we profile Lauren Caggiano, a Fort Wayne-based writer, editor and French translator with more than a decade of experience. Caggiano is chief wordsmith and founder of WriteOn, LLC and offers a broad spectrum of services from copywriting to brand audits to tutoring. What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne? Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. In 2007, I was working a low-wage job right out of college and needed a way to supplement my income. I met someone on the job who encouraged me to freelance and one thing led to another. Over time I had built up a significant portfolio and made some key connections that helped me take my business to the next level. Also, my late father, Chris Cage, was an entrepreneur and he really inspired that initial drive in me. I helped with the family business and saw how fulfilling entrepreneurship can be. What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community? We have a pretty strong network of people locally who either freelance full-time or pursue side gigs. Either way, there is a mentality of “we’re in this together.” I don’t feel like there’s an attitude of competition but collaboration. Everyone wins that way! What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? No doubt all things money! I have bootstrapped my business since day one. The first few years I operated on a loss and depended on my full-time job to sustain me. Also, it has been an eye-opening experience to navigate the tax code. It’s both an art and a science really. What person has helped you the most in your journey? My husband has always been very supportive of my endeavors. He’s very analytical, so he helps me think of things from that standpoint. I am very much a creative, so it can be a struggle to think outside of that box. What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? It’s all about connections. Buy someone a cup of coffee and don’t have an agenda other than getting to know them. It’s amazing how much relationships I’ve made from those efforts alone. What would be the best thing Fort Wayne could do for entrepreneurs in your opinion? I wish there were some of grant program (not a loan) that helped people start a business after a job loss. It was fortuituous that my business really took off after I was laid off, but I was in a predicament because I didn’t make enough to live on. I still needed...

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Crossroads Kombucha – Entrepreneurship Spotlight
Oct24

Crossroads Kombucha – Entrepreneurship Spotlight

  It started with a creative spark after trying kombucha tea. Robert Johnson has always been creative with a few Amazon best-selling books already under his belt. After trying to shake a soda habit, Johnson found this bubbly drink and decided to start-up something new in northeast Indiana. We caught up with Johnson to ask him all about this beverage and his growing business, Crossroads Kombucha, which is expanding in the coming months into a new space in Fort Wayne. So…what exactly is kombucha? Kombucha is non-alcoholic, fermented tea. That fermentation process makes it a health beverage. Within each bottle is about two billion probiotics, so a lot of people drink it for health reasons. What made you decide to open a business in northeast Indiana? Back when I was just a consumer of kombucha, I’d go to the store to find new brands and flavors I hadn’t tried yet. It didn’t take long for me to realize almost every brand was imported from either California or Oregon. I thought it was a shame, as Fort Wayne has such a great appreciation for local products, farmers and businesses. The idea to create Crossroads Kombucha – a great tasting, locally produced fermented tea company – hit me in early 2016, and I tried really hard to get it up and running before anyone else latched onto the idea, which would have happened sooner or later. If someone is trying kombucha for the first time, what flavors do you recommend? Newcomers tend to gravitate towards the fruity flavors – mango + strawberry is a good one – strawberry + basil is another good first choice. What would you say is the most unique flavor Crossroads Kombucha offers? We do cinnamon peach, which really literally tastes like peach pie. It has that very unique flavor for a drink. That’s one of my favorites. We’re about to launch lavender grape, which is also a unique combination of two flavors in one. Could you describe who is on your team? There’s really three of us – myself, my wife Yvonne and then our operations manager, Tom Brookshire. He’s really the business mind behind Crossroads. I’m the functional mind behind it. What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? The greatest challenge by far has been meeting demand. We bypassed the standard farmers market route and went straight to retail in April 2016. Demand was so strong that we added 6 locations within the first two months as a business. Then, as word of mouth began to spread, we realized we had bitten off a bit more than we...

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Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Fort Wayne Comedy Club
Aug08

Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Fort Wayne Comedy Club

After performing at his first open mic night years ago, Micheal Moses fell in love with comedy. For the past 12 years, he has performed at comedy clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada. Now Moses is back in Fort Wayne with the mission to make the city laugh.   Wanting to challenge the naysayers who constantly say there is nothing to do in Fort Wayne, Moses officially opened the Fort Wayne Comedy Club in June 2017. Located at 2104 South Calhoun Street, shows play every Saturday night. Tickets for the events can be bought in advance for $15 on their website, or $20 at the door. And in case you work up an appetite while laughing, the comedy club also provides southern style dinner options.   Looking down the road, Moses’ goal is to continue to make his business a world class comedy club that brings in headline performers that compete with larger markets.   Moses spoke a little bit about entrepreneurship in Fort Wayne, here’s what he had to say.   What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana? For several years I have utilized several venues around town to promote the brand Mike Moses Presents under labels like Art & Soul of the City, Notes & Words, Link Up!, & Pro Amateur Comedy Showcase.  An opportunity opened up where I could add professional stand-up comedy to this repertoire.   What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community?  The people! Like Randi Lincoln with her networking groups, Allen Helms, Jomare and Elizabeth Mizzell, as well as the folks at Anthony Wayne Medical Associates and Summit pharmacy, just to name a few. They have, and continue to lend their time, talent and knowledge not to mention access to their resources.   What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business? In a word, the naysayers. What person has helped you the most in your journey?  The owners of 2104 better known as @2104 Fort Wayne   What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs? Before Columbus discovered the New World, Leonardo Da Vinci drew up the concept of a flying machine that could carry a person, his contemporaries labeled the idea as crazy. Some 500 years later people are actually flying. My point is this, never let a naysayer tell you it can’t be done, or that’s a crazy idea.   What would be the best thing Fort Wayne could do for entrepreneurs in your opinion? As we as a city move forward with the redevelopment of the downtown area, there needs to be a better...

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Good Neighbors – Steve Franks in Fort Wayne
Aug08

Good Neighbors – Steve Franks in Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne area community good neighbor Steve Franks “Fort Wayne, a league of its own.” For over a decade, Steve Franks has been helping small businesses take their first step. He works with Start Fort Wayne coaching entrepreneurs through their LevelUP program and serves on the board for the nonprofit Believe in a Dream, working with their Believe in Your Business program that focuses on high school age entrepreneurs. He sees youth-centered entrepreneurship as vibrant and world changers. When encouraged, they will find the way. I asked how one would encourage these young entrepreneurs. “Not every venture needs to be a home run, but a lot of singles will get a lot of runs,“ Steve replied. He went on to explain that not every first venture will be your best.   I find myself continually amazed and inspired by people living in the Fort Wayne area, Steve Franks being one of them. We had an opportunity to ask Steve about who he is and what he does. How long have you been helping small businesses? I left the world of innovation consulting 13 years ago and started coaching entrepreneurs at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center. NIIC was fairly new at the time. I sought it out since it had the word “innovation” in its name – it turned out to be more about entrepreneurship than what I had come to know as innovation. Fortunately, discovering I loved working with startup entrepreneur, I started helping them think through their new ventures. Most everything I’ve done for the past three decades or so has been with smaller entrepreneurial companies.  I’ve co-founded two ventures and have been working around and developing new things.   What was the first job or one of the first jobs you had? The job that made the biggest difference in the trajectory of my life was when I resigned from the cushy office job at North American Van Lines (where I worked since high school) to go sell microcomputers on commission. Not the most fiscally prudent move, perhaps, but it worked out and gave me a foothold into something I love–which was why I took the plunge. It started me down the path of working with things I was passionate about, rather than just some financially comfortable salary job. It allowed me to hone skills that help me be a good entrepreneur coach today.   You are helping with things all over. How do you keep your energy up and prioritize to prevent burn out? What is this “prioritize” thing you speak of?  One way to not burn out is to be busy. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you only really burn...

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