Small Business Center Helps Launch Entrepreneurs

By Nicole Hernandez
TheStatehouseFile.com

Editor’s note: This story is a part of series tracking how money and resources in the state’s $32.3 billion two-year budget and other programs are spent.

INDIANAPOLIS — Growing up in a family of business owners from Seattle, it was inevitable that Adam Perry would go on to do the same.

Around 2010, Perry decided to get into the food truck industry. Taco Lassi, which specialized in Indian inspired tacos, was one of 12 food trucks that were running when the city hosted the Super Bowl. Taco Lassi isn’t in business anymore but that introduction into the food industry inspired Perry to continue in the business.

Now, he owns a quaint doughnut shop called General American Donut Co., which opened its doors in July 2014 just south of downtown across from Eli Lilly.

“We were going up to Chicago quite a bit, and we became a fan of the doughnut scene up there,” Perry said. “I always remembered lines around the block and people really into the craft doughnut thing and Indiana didn’t have a craft doughnut shop.”

Like many entrepreneurs, starting out was a challenge. Perry didn’t know how much went into making doughnuts from scratch or the management side of running a business.

“We literally just jumped into it not knowing how to make doughnuts,” Perry said.

After roughly six months of developing the right doughnut recipe and then another year and a half learning how to be consistent, Perry finally felt comfortable with the baking process.

“If you want to do it and you’re passionate about something, no matter what time it is, you just do it,” Perry said. “Because there’s never going to be a perfect time, and there’s always going to be a risk.”

This is where the Indiana Small Business Development Center comes in.As Perry was developing his doughnut business, he later realized that he had a learning curve. He and his wife worked hard to overcome the challenges they faced, such as developing their product, making it from scratch, hiring and managing their employees, and keeping a handle on their finances.

For people who may be hesitant to start a business because of the risk, the Indiana Small Business Development Center, founded in 1985, is a resource for small business owners. The center helps new business owners create a business plan, secure funding, understand their business demographics, match with banks, and develop a strategic plan – the kind of resources that would have helped Perry had he known of the organization.

In addition, the center offers other specific resources to help minorities and veterans. All services are free.

Indiana Small Business Development Center’s goal is to have businesses return to them for help and engage with long-term clients as well as finding new businesses to help. The development center is also partnered with other consulting organizations in the state to help business owners connect with the people and resources to meet their individual needs.

In 2016 alone, 248 businesses got their start in Indiana and created 949 new jobs, which added almost $81 million to the economy, according to the development center.

Troy Phelps, associate state director for the Indiana Small Business Development Center, said the number of annual business startups has remained consistent over the last five years.

“The fact that Indiana is able to keep that fairly consistent, I think, speaks to the things that Indiana has in place,” Phelps said. “You look at the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, and we’ve got the $1 billion Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative that is specifically designed to make more of these programs available to small businesses. And that’s spread over the next 10 years.”

The Regional Cities Initiative, led by former Gov. Mike Pence in 2015, was created to help communities across the state with strategic regional development plans. Currently, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to invest $1 billion in innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana will focus on collaboration and strategic partnerships.

What also makes the center so beneficial to would-be business owners is that the organization has a very close relationship with the state government.

General American Donut Co. is a small locally owned donut shop located at 827 S. East St. in Indianapolis.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

“In a nutshell, we are taxpayer money at work,” Phelps said.

The organization gets 50 percent of its funding from the federal government’s Small Business Administration. The other half is funded by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and a local host match. These local host matches are typically universities or local Chambers of Commerce.

Freedom Healthworks, a business partner that helps physicians start their own practices, launched in 2014 and two years later connected with Indiana Small Business Development Center.

By reaching out to the center, which also worked closely with Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Freedom Healthworks received performance incentives, grants for training programs and funding to expand beyond its team of six employees. It also received help with start-up strategies and processes to run the business.

“Having these types of incentives out there definitely spurs us to go out there and hit those milestones,” Chris Habig, co-founder of Freedom Healthworks, said. “The training side of it opens up a lot of doors that we just didn’t have the cash or resources to be able to go pursue.”

Habig credits the Indiana Small Business Development Center with connecting him to successful business owners who want to help others launch their own companies as well.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but being able to pick up a phone and call somebody who has achieved in the business world is hugely valuable,” Habig said. “And that is one of the great things about being in Indianapolis, people are very giving of their time to try to help you out.”

“We were lucky to grow up and see that it is possible, and normal people do it all the time,” Perry said. “We didn’t question it; we just did it. We saw how hard they worked, and you realize that when you want something, it’s not going to be a nine-to-five job.”  Although many local businesses around the city have their initial challenges, for Perry, owning his own business is just what he felt he was meant to do after growing up in a family of small business entrepreneurs. His General American Donut Co. is holding its own.