By Nicholette Carlson
WARSAW — Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation continues to work to provide opportunities, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
For entrepreneurs looking to get started or those already with small businesses, the Circuit entrepreneur meet up offers connections, resources and opportunities all in one place. While entrepreneurship can sound quite exciting, these meet ups help to show those aspiring to start small businesses what it is like as well as provide them with information to assist them. As Alan Tio, KEDCo CEO, explained, it helps to fulfill their mission by bringing people together and helping people grow. The meet ups are held by three entrepreneurs who offer insight into starting a business in the community.
Lyle Schrock, small business owner of The Lab and co-chair for the Circuit meet ups, is one of these entrepreneurs. He believes the connection is one of the most important aspects of the Circuit meet ups. Fellow business owners and those looking to get started can share ideas and resources while also connecting with and encouraging the younger generations.
These meet ups also teach KEDCo what resources small business owners are looking for they are missing and the opportunities available for economic development and small businesses alike. While there have typically been approximately 20 people at the Circuit meet ups, Tio is hoping eventually there will be 25, 35, even 50.
These Circuit meet ups will provide book topics, discussion and quarterly presentations from experts. Schrock wants to ensure the group is providing good content and continue to build on that, discovering what resources the community needs in order to help it continue to grow as more entrepreneurs become involved in the Circuit. While the meet ups are currently digital via Zoom, once they are able to meet in person, the group will typically meet at Port Winona and have a base there. Eventually the plan is to travel throughout the county in order to experience what various towns throughout the county have to offer entrepreneurs.
“If you’re afraid of change, don’t become an entrepreneur,” Schrock recommended. He has been in business just over three years now and utilizing the resources provided by both the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce and the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, which introduced him to KEDCo, have been incredibly helpful to him on his journey. Becoming involved with Young Adult Professionals was also helpful in getting him more involved in networking.
Knowing the value of having a place to turn when starting a business is what led Schrock to become involved in reworking the meet up program with a new format. This Circuit group will help to provide similar resources and opportunities to entrepreneurs throughout Kosciusko County. For those starting out, it will help to connect them with helpful organizations or a mentor who is “in the trenches, actually doing it,” as described by Schrock.
Using their revolving loan program as a model, KEDCo recently created a small business loan program to promote job retention and business recovery. Applications for the loan are available online and are reviewed weekly. These loans are two-year, 0% interest loans up to $10,000. So far they’ve had nearly 20 applications come in and they have $375,000 ready to loan out to help businesses.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs are “really what will help shape our future, not just locally but overall,” Schrock described. He encourages those interested in becoming entrepreneurs to “embrace the journey and wind your way through it,” even during the difficult times. He emphasized that KEDCo helps to provide hope and optimism in building insight and inspiration for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Kosciusko County.
For more information on either of these programs, visit www.kosciuskoedc.com.