Pam Brown, Josh Brinkman and Vallace Hunt speak to hopeful entrepreneurs during the 9th annual Entrepreneurship Fair. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)
Pam Brown, Josh Brinkman and Vallace Hunt speak to hopeful entrepreneurs during the 9th annual Entrepreneurship Fair. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)

VAN WERT — People hoping to start their own businesses came to the Community Room at Vantage Career Center on Saturday to attend the 9th annual Entrepreneurship Fair. This event is designed to provide useful information for anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur.

Stacy Adam, the director of Van Wert Area Economic Development, explained the importance of entrepreneurs to the local economy.

“Small business really helps the local economy,” said Adam. “When you spend $100 locally, about $68 of that $100 remains in the city because that money is spent over and over again. If you spent your $100 at a big box store then only about $43 is going to remain in the city. So it’s good for Van Wert to support Van Wert business.”

Three entrepreneurs attended and spoke on their own experiences. One was Vallace Hunt, the owner of Shine Auto Detail. He told the audience that he started his business in 2012 out of desperation.

“I was in a day to day job in sales,” said Hunt. “I loved my job for a few years. But then I didn’t want to get up and go to work anymore.”

Hunt said he decided he wanted to work for himself and tried to figure out what he was good at and what he liked to do.

“I wrote a goal for myself,” said Hunt. “That was my first form of a business plan. That evolved into a real business plan. I took my sales experience and my love of vehicles and cars and merged them all together into starting my own detail shop. It was not glamorous by any means. I had very minimal product to work with and very few tools, and I would even say very little education as far as cleaning a car.”

He said that he tried to be resourceful and operated his new business as economically as possible. He said he continued his education through online study. However, he said, “Nothing taught me as much as just jumping into my business and going right at it.”

The other entrepreneurs, Josh Brinkman, president of American Paint Recyclers, and Pam Brown, owner of Sisters Bridal Boutique, spoke on their work history, reasons for starting a business, and some of the challenges they faced.

A panel of experts, including Bob Gamble with BeeGee Realty and Auction Company, Shaun Putman of Putman Law Offices, local CPA Rick Sealscott, Ty Shingledecker with Citizens National Bank, Tisha Fast with State Farm and Marie Miller with Brand It Marketing in Rockford, spoke on some of the things anyone wishing to start a business must consider.

Last year’s winner of the Business Plan Challenge, Sabrina Niagu, told hopeful entrepreneurs, “Writing a business plan is not fun. It’s a lot of work but all that work you put into it you will see the benefit in the end. Even if I hadn’t been the winner, doing this business plan would have changed how I ran my business no matter what.”

“A business plan is not a document that you put on a shelf and dust it off once a year,” said Jennifer Rigdon who organizes the business plan challenge. “It’s a living document to revisit because the business is always going to be evolving, the climate is always going to be changing. It won’t be as much work as the first draft, I can promise, but it’s something that needs to be revisited and kept up with so you can continue growing.”

There were a number of people who worked together to make this event possible including Adam; Krista Somerton, the Revolving Loan Fund program manager; Dan Baisden of Main Street Van Wert; and Rigdon, Wright State University Business Enterprise Center business counselor for people in this area.

Anyone in the community can attend classes which provide assistance in developing a business plan. The classes will be held at the Van Wert Economic Development Building, 145 E. Main St. in Van Wert on Thursday nights. The plans are judged at the end of April and the winner will receive $2,000 to help start a business.