19Dec Local Entrepreneurs Compete for Start-up Money in the Forge by Wendy Weichenthal In an exciting night of competition, six potential new businesses competed in The Forge in front of a panel of judges to win $2,500 in start-up money for their ideas. Held at Marion Technical College this December, the Shark Tank-style competition brought local entrepreneurs and their business plans to our community. The contestants included: Joel Hedrick, Social Sip: a mission-driven coffee shop located in downtown Marion to employ local individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities Rachel McCall and Pia Douglas, The Art Center: a hands-on art creation studio for children and adults including pottery, painting and more Pia Douglas presents samples of the crafts for the Art Center. Rachel McCall presents the business idea for the Art Center Rafael Roscoe, Sweet Peach BBQ Sauce: a chef and military veteran who wants to bottle and sell his own proprietary sauce to individuals and businesses to end bad barbecue and dry meats Chef Rapheal presents his peach bbq sauce and business plan to the judges. Andy Russell, Booster Fundraising Partners: leveraging Amazon for school-branded merchandise and fan shops to support student groups without traditional fundraising Andy Russell offers a new alternative to traditional grade school fundraising. Dale Simpkins, Presidential Cleaning Service: A general cleaning service for commercial and residential customers focused on taking care of employees so customers get great results Dale Simpkins wants to provide a quality professional cleaning service for home and commercial clients. Terese Veroni, Dolce T. Beauty: A full-service cosmetics and fragrance store in the heart of Marion M. Terese Veroni proposes her plan for Dolce T. Beauty. There is no full service make-up counter in the Marion area. As a part of the competition, Marion Technical College provided six weeks of free evening business classes taught by Scott Hughes to help these budding entrepreneurs hone their business plans and analyze their finances. A total of 25 local entrepreneurs attended these classes. Judges Cindy Binns (left), Michael Fosnaugh, and Dr. Colleen Denton Julie Welch, member of the Forge; Scott Hughes, MTC faculty; and Michael Augenstein, MTC Workforce Development Coordinator, watch the competition. Each contestant presented to the audience and a panel of judges including Cindy Binns, founder of the Explore-It-Torium and winner of the first Forge competition; Dr. Colleen Denton, local health and wellness professional; and Michael Fosnaugh, local owner-operator of 3rd Generation Moving. The judges reviewed the business plans and asked questions. They judged the contestants in five different categories: innovation, value creation, feasibility, community impact and presentation. Todd Schneider with Marion City Schools hosted the evening. The Forge Business Plan Competition started as a product of Leadership Marion! 2017 at the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce. The competition is run by a committee of volunteers and supporters from that class including Lars Olson, Julie Welch, Pam Workman, Naomi Taniguchi, and James Lloyd. Lars Olson and James Lloyd of the Forge “One of the great drivers of local jobs and wealth is small businesses,” said Lars Olson. “The Forge is proud that our first year competitors have started several small businesses, including Attaboys, the Main Squeeze, and the Explore-It-Torium. A total of 21 jobs have already been created right here in Marion by our past participants.” Those past competitors came to support the new class as Attaboys Comfort Cuisine and the Main Squeeze provided refreshments, along with Ashley Kightlinger, a member of this year’s class. The new business owners encouraged budding entrepreneurs to jump into the Marion market. After much deliberation, the winners of the Forge second annual Business Plan Competition were announced: Rachel McCall and Pia Douglas with their plan for The Art Center. Douglas invited all of the attendees to come and create with them. From left to right: Pia Douglas, Lars Olson, and Rachel McCall “It was very surprising that we won! There were many great business ideas in this group,” McCall said. “Winning is exciting, but the most important part of this process has been the positive feedback and the connections we’ve made within the community.” McCall shared that The Forge helped gave her tools and a push to turn her dream into a reality. “I’d thought about opening a paint-your-own-pottery shop for several years. The Forge classes encouraged us to make a business plan and research our ideas thoroughly. I have no doubt that this would still be just an idea if it had not been for The Forge classes and the encouragement we received,” McCall shared. Rachel McCall is congratulated on her winning presentation. Rachel holds the trophy, a small anvil from the Forge. McCall found received a flood of positive community support after the win. While she and Douglas are working to offer schedule local mobile classes while they research locations. They recommend other entrepreneurs consider signing up for the Forge next year. “The Forge is well organized and the people involved are committed to helping participants succeed. I highly recommend these classes for anyone interested in starting a business.” All of these businesses are truly MarionMade! To stay up on the latest news from the Forge, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or visit the forge at MTC.