Entrepreneurial Project Launches: To Boost, Attract Southeast Businesses

Devan Filchak, The Journal Gazette

For Immediate Release

May 15, 2021, Fort Wayne, Ind. An entrepreneurial pitch competition is coming to bring business to the southeast quadrant of Fort Wayne.

City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, unveiled Project Activate SouthEast Fort Wayne on Friday morning on one of the Southtown plots near Walmart that is still up for sale.

There are two components to the program, one of which is focused on workshops and training before the actual competition itself. After completing the education part, the participants will move on to a formal entrepreneurial pitch for a business.

The winner will receive an award of up to $150,000 in business wrap-around services. The services will be provided in-kind or at a deep discount by local businesses who want to help with economic development.

The only requirement for competitors is that the winner must locate their brick-and-mortar business in the southeast part of the city. The winner also has to commit to that location for three years.

The funding for the project has come from private sources, and Tucker said she hopes this competition can continue on an annual basis. The project has been in the works for about 18 months, and Tucker said she used to drive all over the southeast side, brainstorming what could help its development.

“The idea came to me is what is the challenge? What’s the struggle that we see? Most of the time, young entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs that are looking to change and move to new locations don’t have access,” Tucker said at the Friday news conference.

Tucker wants people to have everything they need to get a business started. One of the biggest issues on the southeast side is access, which Tucker said ranges from funding to even just getting started. That’s part of the reason the education piece is vital to her.

“I want you to have a strong application. I want you to make sure that when you go in, and if you don’t have a business plan right now, that’s not a barrier for you to be able to participate,” she said.

Andrea Robinson, the city’s economic development administrator, said the challenges facing a competition seemed insurmountable when Tucker first brought the idea to her. Now she’s happy to say it has all come together in 18 months since Tucker has gathered the right partnerships.

PASE has partnered with Ivy Tech and Northeast Indiana Institute, as well as others, for the required entrepreneurial programs. For the competition part, they have partnered with Crossroads at The Mill of Bloomington, which will customize a competition for PASE. The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne will serve as the fiscal agent for the award.

Robinson said she hopes this competition can be developed into a template that can be used across the city eventually. She added that there’s nowhere better to start this program than in the southeast quadrant of town.

“Small business is the largest economic driver in the city of Fort Wayne. Without small business, we would be at a loss,” Robinson said.

Small businesses tend to gain stability after the first couple of years, Tucker said, so she hopes giving one business at a time a lot of help through the first year is the way to lead to successful businesses.

“One of the challenges that we know takes place is that it is hard for small businesses to afford a lot of the costs that go along with having a business: marketing, CPA firms, legal firms. All of that stuff adds up,” she said. “Our goal is to be able to help alleviate that pain and also be able to help them throughout their first year to make it sustainable for them.”

Tucker pointed out that the competitors who do not win the prize will have the educational experience, a strong business plan and a platform to reach potential investors.

Applications will be accepted online through June 15. More information, including where to apply, can be found at fwcommunitydevelopment.org/PASE.

Tucker, who is seeking businesses to partner with the program, can be reached at sharon.tucker@cityoffortwayne.org.


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