The concept of striking out on your own, putting up your proverbial shingle and betting on yourself is often the thing of dreams. But your entrepreneurial spirit need not be crushed if you call the nine-county Indy region home. The Indy Chamber and its programs can help entrepreneurs at any stage craft their business ownership future.
Filling an Essential Infrastructure Gap Through High-Quality Early Learning
Access to high-quality, accredited childcare is at the top of most parents’ lists when it comes to essential infrastructure for their family’s well-being. That’s why entrepreneurs like Cynthia Randolph-Vaughn are critical contributors to their community’s economic system. By supporting families through her growing early learning network Cindy’s Center for Young Learners and, opening in mid-April 2023, Sprout Early Learning Academy, she’s doing more than pursuing her dreams—she’s making others’ dreams come true, too.
That’s why, after developing and operating several early learning centers, Cynthia took what she’d learned through experience, her education, her understanding of the market and her commitment to program excellence into her first location.
When it was time to grow, she collaborated with Business Ownership Initiative (BOI) to take the next steps to ensure her business was poised to support Indy’s growing early learning needs.
“I used my savings to start my business,” shares Cynthia. “But because I focused on providing high-quality programming in an enriched environment, we were recognized in the market and were able to compete for grants. The grants not only helped with cash flow. With them, we were able to greatly improve the quality of our program, which paid off through increased enrollments.”
As she grows her business, Cynthia makes time to support others in her industry, advancing the field through mentoring and advocacy. As Vice President of the Central Region of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, she has the pulse on what’s relevant to peers in her field. And despite her years of experience, Cynthia remains energized at what’s ahead for her and others in her industry.
“One trait that has played heavily in my journey is tenacity,” she says. “Stay focused on your goals, despite the naysayers and obstacles. Protect your mindset, regroup, tweak your plan, be open to possibilities and keep moving forward.”
Bringing Brand Clarity to the Forefront and Paving the Way for Future Creatives
It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to blend talent with purpose. But Von Watts, the founder and marketing and creative strategist behind 8393 Creative is one who can call that dream her reality.
Founding her company in 2015 and transitioning into a full-time entrepreneur in 2016, Von knows that it takes a vision, hard work and a commitment to excellence to stay the course. And her client list is proof that she, and her growing team, can deliver. Major brands like Volkswagen, Catchings Enterprises, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Racing for Cancer have entrusted Vonn with their brand vision and creative strategy.
With this high demand for creative work, Von knew that she had to grow her business capacity to continue to accept the work her clients needed from 8393. As a digital marketing and creative studio focused on supporting the needs of small to mid-sized businesses, she and her team focus on high return-on-investment strategies and tactics. This in-depth brand activation requires specialized time and attention. Translation: Von needed people to be able to support her clients. But getting there wasn’t always easy.
“I had just been turned down by 2 banks for a loan, and while on LinkedIn, BOI had a post about securing funds for small businesses that can’t get traditional bank loans. I went to their website to ensure it was real and filled out the application,” Von remembers.
Her story, sadly, isn’t unique. Small business owners can face mounting challenges on their path to growth, and access to capital is one roadblock that’s hard to hurdle. That’s why the Chamber’s BOI focuses on supporting this segment of entrepreneurs, helping them through microloans, coaching and support to bring them to the next level.
“I’m a solopreneur, and it’s hard trying to wear all of the hats. BOI helped me with a small micro-loan, which enabled me to hire two part-time contractors to alleviate some of my digital marketing, graphic and admin tasks.”
Support from the Chamber isn’t the only secret to Von and 8393’s success: it’s also her commitment to passing the torch to others. Along with her primary enterprise, Von’s also founded Yep We Design Foundation, Inc., a creative nonprofit organization empowering youth through creativity, character building and entrepreneurship.
Investing in entrepreneurs like Von and Cynthia does more than create opportunities for founders and their teams. Well-supported entrepreneurs share their success and opportunities with others, meaning the community at large stands to benefit from their journey to successful entrepreneurship.
“One thing I love about Indy is that it fosters an entrepreneurship environment,” says Von. “There are so many workshops for small businesses and entrepreneurs, accelerated programs that are free to grow and scale, Pitchfeast opportunities to get free grant money to fund your start-up, and the Indy Chamber alone has so many resources for you to tap into. BOI provides micro-loans. They also provide business coaching and workshops for entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
Entrepreneurs may be initially wary about pursuing funding, especially when the odds may seem stacked against them. But Von’s advice to potential borrowers and BOI clients? Don’t hesitate to reach out and inquire. You may be surprised at the partnership, coaching and opportunities available.
“I’m in my 8th year, and I was always resistant to getting business loans because I thought it would put my business in the red. After getting educated by Keia and her team before securing the loan, my mind was put at ease. They were quick to respond and answered all of my questions. I also love that it comes with business coaching, which is the best part! You don’t know what you don’t know until you reach out and ask. I’m now very open-minded to business capital, more aware of my financials and ready to grow and scale.”
How Central Indiana Takes the Advantage
The Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services team exists to support businesses at every stage of growth. Inspired by the future that’s possible for Indy’s communities and economies through well-supported entrepreneurs, the team offers free coaching, lending and business education in both English and Spanish.
With centralized efforts, the Chamber is able to support the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem while doubling down on high-priority initiatives. One such effort is the Business Ownership Initiative (BOI), the lending arm of the Indy Chamber’s entrepreneur services division. Along with the Chamber’s coaching and tools, BOI helps ensure small businesses have a holistic set of resources and access to capital to help them succeed at every stage of their entrepreneurship journey.
Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams a Reality
On April 25, Indy Maven is kicking off a quarterly event series with the Indy Chamber that any aspiring entrepreneurs should mark on their calendars. At this first event, moderated by Keia Walker, the Chamber’s Senior Director of Lending, attendees will hear from two of the BOI’s clients whose journeys to success were supported by the Chamber’s services.
Guests of the event will also have the opportunity to engage with the Chamber team, get information about BOI and other initiatives and network with attendees. Register on Eventbrite to secure your spot at this must-attend event for Indy entrepreneurs.
Natalie Derrickson is a writer and communication strategist who’s wrangling her own holiday to-do list in hopes of helping her family be one of the hap-hap-happiest this side of the nuthouse. You can connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.
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