“We were pretty obsessed with coffee before starting Dagger Mountain Roastery. Now we are more obsessed,” said Ashton Whitley who runs the business along with partners Dan Evans, who was also on hand, and Andy Urschel.
“Like they are obsessed with coffee, I am obsessed with beer,” said Barb Kehe, owner of Ironwood Brewery. “I have been brewing for a long time at home and this is what I have wanted to do for a long time.”
The entrepreneurs joined Scott Ott, of Maple City Roasters, Kim Oswald of Four Fathers Brewery and SCORE volunteer Jim Hubbard, who represented Dan Lehnerer of New Oberfalz Brewery , on the panel that offered insights and advice based on their paths.
The inaugural networking and tasting event was a way to highlight the journeys small business owners have taken to get where they are today.
“This is about exploring the relationships required to start a business,” said Susan Sheahan, chair of the Northwest Indiana SCORE chapter, which hosted the event along with the Northwest ISBDC.
Beyond the entrepreneurs, business experts provided their insights during the question-and-answer format facilitated by Rex Richards, Greater Valparaiso Chamber president.
The panel included: Jim Anton of Anton Insurance, Chris Campbell of Centier Bank, Joe Laciak of Laciak Accountancy, Todd Leeth, Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans, Laurie Franke-Polz of First Trust Credit Union, David Stephenson of LaPorte Savings Bank and Bob Macmahon of RE/MAX Commercial.
“In today’s business economy with so much competition out there, you have to have a passion for your business,” Franke-Polz said. “We feel the 25 employees and fewer businesses are underserved. We try to be that counselor, financier and partner.”
Rex Richards posed questions to the panel on a range of topics. Here is an excerpt of insight from the panel members.
Did you have a business plan?
“Friends and family helped us with our business plan, gave us advice and direction.” – Kim Oswald
“You learn a lot when you put your business plan together. I had a spiral notebook that I followed. It worked.” Barb Kehe
“I had a business plan but did I stick to it? It was a learning experience. You can’t be afraid to venture from the business plan.” Scott Ott
“We didn’t have a business plan. We kept it as simple as possible. We only serve coffee. There is no food or choices.” Dan Evans
How did you finance your business?
“I was told ‘Don’t get so far into debt that you can’t pay it off within a year.’ I bought equipment along the way while working a regular job and I had most of the stuff I needed before I started.” Barb Kehe
“We have four owners and we have done it all on our own. Our husbands still work their day jobs. As a start-up, all of our costs have been out-of-pocket. As we are looking to expand, we know we need to take the plunge and get a loan. It’s pretty amazing that we have done it all on our own.” Kim Oswald