Network Helps Local Entrepreneurs Grow Businesses, Serve Community Needs

Local entrepreneurs gathered at Eastern Kentucky University on March 27 to network and discuss ways to expand their businesses.

Kristel Smith, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network office at Richmond/EKU, initiated a new network for professionals looking to grow their business.

The entrepreneurs included Kim Gardener for Class 101, Jacob Gahn for Sweetgrass Granola, Robin Mason for Pumpkin Vine Creek LLC, Christina Newman for Mad Marketplace, Cassandra Gray for Creative Spirit Ministries, Anne King for Nurses Aid Training School, and Raechelle Gray for Greater Works Design Studio.

“Creating a support group of professionals helps bring various businesses together allowing them to collaborate in innovative ways,” Smith said. “By utilizing the skills of each individual, the CEOs extend their resources to expand their reach. Common goals and the drive for success enable the leaders of local companies to seek ways to grow their businesses.”

The CEOs were encouraged to consider the positive impact they could create for their company and Kentucky through networking. Each representative shared how his or her company had found ways to give back to local residents.

For example:

Gardener from Class 101 helps Kentucky parents educate their children for ACT and college preparation. King launched a school for adult learners to obtain certification as nurse’s aides and now has 10 offices across Kentucky. Gray’s company, Creative Spirits, with several offices, including one in Danville, is involved with the rehabilitation of individuals affected by domestic violence, addiction and substance abuse. Mason and Gahn both have companies that provide environmentally friendly alternatives – Kentucky’s agricultural economy benefits from their work by providing natural food choices or farm and landscape products. Through Mad Marketplace, Newman is seeking to make a difference through a direct selling model that allows stay-at-home moms and others to make money through the selling of products that have a giveback mission. Finally, Gray, a recent EKU MBA graduate, has a full design firm helping small businesses create a strong brand image.

“These CEOs are pioneers by finding solutions to problems and providing the service or product to improve communities,” Smith said. “As one of the CEOs said, ‘We will be known for the problems we solve.’ Providing these altruistic leaders the opportunity to network allows a wider platform of support and growth to evolve, which Kentucky can benefit from, while supporting local businesses.” 

Published on April 01, 2015

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