State services, agencies drive entrepreneurs toward success
State Small Business Ombudsman Erik Scheub strives to steer entrepreneurs in the right direction.
“My job is to help entrepreneurs save time and money when interacting with state government agencies,” he said during the Launch NWI event at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza. “When you need an answer, you need it now. I work to answer your questions in the most expedited manner whether it’s the best way to contact a particular agency or directing you to available online resources.”
Scheub joined other agency representatives to spotlight what state resources are available to assist small business owners. Additional panel members included: Jacob Schpok, state director of the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Lorri Feldt, regional director of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, and Shane Springer, state director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
The event, hosted by the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce, was sparked by State Rep. Julie Olthoff’s aspiration to showcase government contract opportunities and consulting services available to region entrepreneurs.
“Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the heart of our local chambers and an important part of economic development,” she said. “When you think about government contracts: How much is my time worth? Many felt it was not worth it … years go by and apathy sets in.
“We have a brand new (PTAC) counselor in this corner of the state … it’s a whole new team, whole new day and whole new hope for us.”
Diana Hunter recently joined the state’s PTAC team to help region companies identify, compete for and win government contracts – both state and national – as well as assist with registration and certifications, such as a Women Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise.
“Our core service is education. We help companies work through the certification process and help them find a way to craft their message,” Springer said. “If you are new to government contracting, it can be hard to break into, but that doesn’t mean there is not the potential to put your foot in the door.
“You have to target and not go after everything and spin your wheels. Marketing, marketing, marketing … become a PTAC client. We can help find companies buying what you are selling and walk you through the process. It’s what we do.”
Beyond contracting assistance, no-cost consulting services are available under the OSBE umbrella, including the SBDC network.
“We serve two avenues: the start-up entrepreneur, who is developing an idea into a business, and the small business owner, who is engaged and looking for opportunities to grow,” Feldt said. “We worked with about 400 entrepreneurs in 2015 and also helped them make connections to resources.”
In the future, Launch Indiana will serve as a statewide catalyst to start-ups and innovation, Schpok said.
The program’s efforts will be landing in Northwest Indiana, he said.
“We seek to target high schoolers by connecting with educators to start to engage young entrepreneurs and strive to unearth serial entrepreneurs who can contribute through mentorship,” he said. “We will look at who’s doing what to support innovation for entrepreneurs across the state and help them become more accessible.
“We will take those connections and economic development strategies and lessons learned from other communities and spotlight their best practices. You will be hearing more about it.”
For more information on OSBE, visit www.in.gov/osbe.
To connect with Small Business Ombudsman Erik Scheub, call (317) 232-5679 or toll-free at (888) 472-3244 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions on government contracting and certifications, contact Diana Hunter at (219) 644-3516 or via email at email@example.com.