Entrepreneurs network at expo



More than 100 entrepreneurs and small business owners had the opportunity to network with each other and several service representatives that can provide them with the help they need to get established during the second annual Entrepreneur Expo in the Bioscience and Health Science Building on the campus of Iowa Central Community College Tuesday.

Attendees had the opportunity to speak with several banks, attorneys, accountants and representatives from the city of Fort Dodge, Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Small Business Development Centers and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and attend informational seminars on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

Cheryl O’Hern, with Spin Markket, led a session on how to market a small business and its products in the auditorium during the event.

“No two marketing plans are the same,” O’Hern told a group of around 50 entrepreneurs attending the seminar.

O’Hern said one of the biggest keys to success is to know who your customers are when establishing a market.

“Learn about your customers,” she said. “Decide what your product is and who the customer is. Know what is out there and set up that niche. Find a smaller group first and then grow.”

O’Hern encouraged entrepreneurs to conduct their own market research to help with their success.

“Create your business plan, pick a new product or service; you need to make yourself accountable and have a timeline in there. Put your plan into action. You don’t have to sell everything dirt cheap, that product is your baby, don’t undersell yourself.”

Telling your business’ story can also help sell products, O’Hern said.

“Don’t be afraid to tell your story,” she said. “And find demographics for specific things.”

Although it can be a challenge at times, O’Hern said there is nothing wrong with a little competition in a business owner’s specific market.

“Competition is good,” she said. It makes you better, it makes them better.”

In the lobby, several local companies set up displays to market their services to business owners and potential entrepreneurs.

Mike Meyer and Jacob Schmit are in the early planning stages of a business they hope to open in the future. They stopped by the Heartland Bank booth to discuss financing for a start-up company.

“We’re looking to open up a bike shop,” said Meyer. “Maybe somewhere down in the southern states. We want to do something we can have open and keep busy all year. This has been pretty helpful.”

Lynelle Powers had a unique product in mind for her potential market.

“I’d like to re-design the old sticker books,” she said. “You don’t see them like you used to and there are so many stickers out there being used for scrapbooking. They’re just fun to go through and see all the memories they bring back. It could be fun for the creative type.”

Cindy Schieber, assistant director of the Iowa Small Business Development Center in Fort Dodge said she was pleased with the outcome.

“We’ve just been talking to people letting them know we are here,” said Schieber. “It’s been very steady. It’s been fun to talk to people and hear their ideas.”

The event, sponsored by the city of Fort Dodge, Iowa Central, Iowa Small Business Development Center, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Midas Council of Governments, Mid Iowa Growth Partnership and Spin Markket, was designed to help promote small business services at no cost to the vendors and entrepreneurs.

“There are so many services out there available to small business starters, but they don’t always find it easy to make contacts,” said Cliff Weldon, director of the Midas Council of Governments. “We thought this would be a great way to bring everyone together under one roof. We’ve had a very successful day?”