Start small…think big… and act fast.
That’s the approach five local women took when going into business for themselves. All of them come from different backgrounds with different strengths and skills, and all of them were looking for advice and direction from experts.
They turned to the WEOC Women’s Business Center (WBC), a program hosted at The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne, better known as The NIIC.
There, they worked with the WEOC Director Leslee Hill, and learned how to tweak their maneuvers and strategize for success. Here are their stories.
Owner of A Divine Encounter Café
Q: What was your journey to becoming a business owner?
A: It was not easy. I grew up in a life of dysfunction and poverty without my mom, which lead me to working at a very young age. I realized early on that hard work and determination could make my life a little easier. In the 80s, I worked in the world of corporate America and enjoyed making good money, traveling and meeting people from all walks of life. But because of my background, I suffered from depression and feelings of unworthiness, which lead to a downward spiral involving drugs and alcohol. Putting God at the center of my life changed everything and left me clean of my past addictions.
I opened the café last October, and employ people I can mentor. A lot of people tried to talk me out of opening a café in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It turned out to be the best thing I have ever done, and we are getting more customers every day.
Q: How did the WEOC WBC help to bring your dream to fruition?
A: Almost two years ago, I stood in the corridor of the WEOC and shared my story with Leslee Hill and two other women. They did not judge me. Instead, they encouraged me. That was the day my networking journey began. I was able to attend many events at the center that covered topics like financing your business, coaching and mentoring support. I cannot thank Leslee and everyone at The NIIC enough for their support. My advice to anyone reading this is: Be bold, be courageous and fight for your dream!
Owner of Bee Well Nutrition
Q: How did your personal weight loss journey morph into a business?
A: You would be surprised by how many people really want to be healthy, but just need a little guidance. For a long time, I was a victim of yo-yo diets and I’m still in the process of keeping the weight off. I began using protein shakes as meal replacements and it helped me to build a healthy relationship with good food choices. It has become a lifestyle and people started noticing my results.
That’s where Bee Well Nutrition came into play. I love people. I love cooking, and I love to inspire others. I get to do all three through our services. We offer over 50 high protein shakes, high energy teas and complimentary wellness evaluations. We want to cultivate and sow the seed of nutrition, one customer at a time.
Q: You’ve taken advantage of numerous workshops at the WEOC WBC. How has that helped you?
A: I’ve learned and gained so much knowledge, structure and support from the WEOC and Leslee Hill. The workshops were very affordable, which is especially helpful when you’re on a budget with a new business. There are constant opportunities for business exposure and the group’s Facebook community is informative and engaged in maintaining active feeds to grow our social media marketing.
I am deeply grateful to the wonderful staff at the WEOC.
Founder and CEO of Hicks Monuments & More
Q: You had not planned on starting your own business, yet you did. What happened?
A: Hicks Monuments & More dropped into my lap! I was working for various funeral homes and cemeteries as a Pre-need Counselor and Community Service Counselor when one of my contacts in the industry told me he was moving out of town and asked if I wanted to take over his business. I told him I needed to think about it, pray about it and talk to my husband. Just three weeks later, I was in business offering everything from headstones and caskets to life insurance and burial plans. I really believe God caused things to happen and fall into place very quickly and smoothly so that I wouldn’t have time to think or reason myself out of it.
Q: What was your experience with the WEOC WBC like?
A: Over the years, they have been an incredible source of entrepreneurial education, motivation and encouragement. Leslee Hill has been amazing. She’s coached and helped me with various areas of my business, including goal setting and staying focused on the priorities.
Founder and Owner of High Point Ready
Q: How did you merge your love of horses, helping people and shopping into a business venture?
A: I wanted to find something that allowed me to be in charge of my hours and, ultimately, my own success. I went to an entrepreneurship convention three years ago and heard about the idea of subscription boxes. Since horses are my passion, I decided to go with a horse box. High Point Ready is a subscription box for the all-around horse show rider. We give our subscribers more time in the saddle and more confidence in the show ring by providing quality products that won’t waste their money.
Q: How did the WEOC WBC help you build your business?
A: I was part of the year-long Cohort program last year with Leslee Hill and a group of great women. I made some wonderful accountability partners, had the ability to bounce ideas off of other like-minded entrepreneurs and gained some great skills to help get my message across to my target audience. Being able to take time each week to be around other female business owners provides a sigh of relief when they all have an understanding of what you’re going through.
Owner and Founder of Flourish & Flounce
Q: What inspired you to start your own business and how did the WEOC WBC help you?
A: I have always had a love for event planning and working as an event coordinator; I was always drawn to table design. Flourish & Flounce officially opened in 2019. We curate luxury tablescapes and centerpieces with high quality, seasonal home accents and deliver them directly to our customers. We also offer interior decorating consultations. We had such a fantastic first year that we are opening up a storefront this month in Roanoke. The WEOC Women’s Business Center has been an incredible resource in many ways. The Launch Women Business Builders Program gave me the tools and accountability I needed to officially begin my business. Our weekly meetings helped me create achievable goals and had fantastic networking. I have had the pleasure of meeting and bouncing ideas off of other amazing female founders. The support we all give each other, even after the program is over, is immeasurable. I also took advantage of a convertible note from The NIIC to help fund my expansion.
Q: What advice would you give to other women interested in starting their businesses?
A: Just do it! There will always be obstacles. I don’t know if there truly is a right time to begin, so just go with it and go with your gut. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. The WEOC can be your lifeline.
Address: 3201 Stellhorn Road Fort Wayne, Indiana 46815
Phone: (260) 407-6442