Executive Director of the Innovation Connector comes to Blackford County

By KAREN CORMIER, News-Times Editorial Associate

Mar 6, 2019

Studies show that 89% of the American business landscape is made up of small businesses employing less than 20 workers. Blackford County is no different. Recently the Blackford County community was invited to an informational roundtable discussion with Ted Baker, the Executive Director of the Innovation Connector located in Muncie.

During the hour-long discussion, held in Montpelier, about the importance of Small Business and Business Startups, Baker went through “the emotional journey of creating anything great.” He spoke about the ups and downs, the dark swamp of despair, and the importance of persistence. He explained how some business owners “get lost working in their business, instead of working on their business.” He went through some of the mistakes to avoid when starting a new business and/or continuing to grow an already existing small business. Three essential skills were discussed: complex problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. He spoke with passion about wanting to “strengthen rural businesses” and reaching out to help people of the community reach their goal of becoming a potential business owner.

Baker shared his childhood entrepreneurship with him starting at just eight years old with the mindset that he was all about business. At that time, he had no realization of the big impact he would be giving those who he’s been able to help all these years later. Baker has a very open and honest personality. His realistic and practical thinking allows for those he’s helping, whether it’s coaching or lecturing, to feel connected. It also gives them hope that their dreams of owning or running a business can happen as long as the passion and persistence is there.

At the end of the discussion, those in attendance were offered the opportunity to grow their knowledge of starting up not only a business but a viable business by joining Baker in a six week online training course through the Kauffman FastTrac program. The Kauffman FastTrac program is a flexible course with a solid framework that supports you as you start a business and begin that new journey to success. The immersive course is designed to provide information, tips, exercises and tools to help you think about your business idea. Baker was certified in the fall for this virtual training of the Kauffman FastTrac program. He states “this is the most comprehensive training brought to rural communities.”

Listening to Baker speak one thing became very clear, he has a big heart for what he does. After graduating from Ball State University in 1980, Baker’s has had a multi faceted career including management of small businesses, the starting, growing, buying and selling of businesses, as well as assisting with the establishment of several area not-for-profit organizations. He has also had experience in successfully exiting a company, franchisee/franchisor relations, and workshop and training facilitation. Baker is a Certified Incubator Manager with the International Business Innovation Association as well as a Certified Growth Wheel and a Certified Wendy Kennedy International Business Coach. Baker serves on several boards as well as an instructor in Entrepreneurship at Ball State all while being heavily involved in the community.

In 2002, The Innovation Connector became a reality by locating in a residential space adjacent to Ball State University and within two years expanded. With continued success, they moved to an interim facility in downtown Muncie. In 2007, the board of directors approved construction of a 15,000 sq. ft facility to be located at the Ontario Place Certified Technology Park completed in 2009.

The past several years have been an exciting time of change and growth for IC. In 2010, they welcomed Baker as the new Executive Director. During this time, the IC number of businesses that call the IC home has increased to over twenty businesses.

The IC provides direct connections to services, resources, experienced business men and women, and supporting agencies right within the building. It also connects them to business professionals in the community. These are connections that individuals might not make on their own. With these connections, their staff has seen the growth of businesses and success of clients, both internal and external. The IC exists for one purpose: to help new entrepreneurs with truly unique business ideas turn their dreams into a reality.

Currently in order to address the needs of transient professionals and home based businesses, the “Landing Zone” opened in, 2013. The Landing Zone is a place for non-traditional entrepreneurs to not only work, but network and grow. Benefits include one desk in a shared workspace, high-speed internet, 24/7 access, use of IC conference rooms, a USPS mailbox, access to a printer/copier, bookkeeping, and business coaching.

In 2014, the IC joined the City of Muncie in a collaborative project sharing in the creation and management of the Downtown Business Connector located on the floor level of The Lofts of Roberts in Downtown Muncie. This collaborative, open concept co-working space allows the Innovation Connector to extend its ever encompassing services to entrepreneurs, independent professionals, freelancers, and startup businesses seeking an affordable alternative to dedicated office space or coffee shop housing.

For more information on the Kauffman FastTrac six week course or on the Innovation Connector please contact Ted Baker via email at tbaker@innovationconnector.com

This article originally ran on hartfordcitynewstimes.com.

2018 Excellence in Innovation Award Winner Highlight – HeidiJHale Designs

On Wednesday November 14th, The Innovation Connector celebrated innovation within our community at our Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner. Five businesses were recognized for showcasing innovation in their day to day business activity. One of those five businesses are highlighted below.

HeidiJHale Designs

Heidi Hale is the innovator behind it all. What started as a gift of an ankle bracelet for her mother spread into a hobby of making gifts for family and quickly turned into a full-time passion for Heidi!  In 2002, without formal training, Heidi just went for it. She started local by selling to friends and family. Then she set out to sell on E-Bay. The first piece sold and immediately emails poured in asking for more items. Heidi has sold thousands and thousands of items all over the world and her pieces have even been spotted on celebrities like Eva Longoria and Hilary Duff. The great thing about it all – everything is made in Muncie, Indiana.

Every piece of jewelry offered is designed and handcrafted by skilled metal-smiths and local artisans in downtown Muncie, Indiana. Because everything sold is something created right here, HeidiJHale is proud to say that all jewelry is made uniquely and of the highest quality.

The HeidiJHale online store features the most popular items that are shipped to customers anywhere on the globe. In 2015, HeidiJHale Designs & Details opened their very first retail store in the heart of downtown Muncie at 301 S. Walnut Street. It is also the home of the studio where every piece of jewelry is created! There you can find our most exclusive and one-of-a-kind pieces not sold online.

You can learn more about HeidiJHale by going to their website. https://shop.heidijhale.com/ 

2018 Excellence in Innovation Award Winner Highlight – Mid-West Metal Products

On Wednesday November 14th, The Innovation Connector celebrated innovation within our community at our Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner. Five businesses were recognized for showcasing innovation in their day to day business activity. One of those five businesses are highlighted below.

Mid-West Metal Products

Steve is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Mid-West Metal Products Co., Inc. located here in Muncie.  Steve received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Indiana University.


Since he began his career with Mid-West Metal in 1975, Steve has witnessed many changes in the steel and metal industry including the emergence of foreign outsourcing and the entry of big box stores and online sales to the retail marketplace.  As most of you might know, Mid-West Metal Products is the leading provider of PET HOMES in the United States.  Although Mid-west Metal Products had implemented robots into their manufacturing processes, they were still forced by their main customers to open manufacturing operations in the Far East.  This was a very difficult time for Steve and the Mid-West Metal team.  The thought of moving their production operations overseas with the potential loss of employment in the Muncie community was hard for them to swallow.  However, with the future of their business on the line, they had no other choice than to follow their customers’ demands.


So Steve and his team continued their focus on utilizing their highly experienced and talented team to innovate what could be done next. As stated on their website, “All our products are distinguished by innovative design and construction. Equally innovative is how our Dog Crates, Small Animal Modular Habitat Systems, Birdcages, Pet Enclosure Furniture, Pet Bedding, and Accessories fulfill very specific needs regarding pet comfort, health, and well-being. And the innovation doesn’t stop there. By also innovating our processes, we’re able to pass the cost savings made possible by production efficiencies on to our customers in the form of lower prices.”

You can learn more about Mid-West Metal Products by going to their website. https://midwestmetal.com/

2018 Excellence in Innovation Award Winner Highlight – Muncie Journal

On Wednesday November 14th, The Innovation Connector celebrated innovation within our community at our Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner. Five businesses were recognized for showcasing innovation in their day to day business activity. One of those five businesses are highlighted below.

Muncie Journal

Mike Rhodes (left) was awarded a 2018 Excellence in Innovation Award for showcasing innovation in his business.

MuncieJournal.com has become a source for positive news about Muncie and Delaware County and launched on July 1, 2015 as a product of Woof Boom Radio, LLC.

Even though MuncieJournal.com only publishes stories about Muncie and Delaware County, viewership is continually growing (up 30% last year) and vast. The Top 10 cities with the most consistent viewing activity of MuncieJournal.com include: Muncie, Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Chicago, Anderson, Yorktown, Louisville, Fort Wayne, and NYC.

Muncie Journal’s primary focus is to highlight positive news in the areas of education, economic development and quality of life in Muncie and Delaware County, IN.

Mike Rhodes is the publisher and managing editor of MuncieJournal.com. Rhodes is a Ball State graduate with degree in journalism and has lived in Muncie since attending Ball State.  Rhodes has also played a key role in kicking off other community website initiatives in the community, including the very first website and corporate intranet launch for Ball Memorial Hospital.

Rhodes is currently putting the final touches on a project that will enable Muncie Journal stories to be read out loud by Amazon’s Alexa enabled devices.

You can learn more about the Muncie Journal by visiting their website. http://www.munciejournal.com/ 

2018 Excellence in Innovation Award Winner Highlight – Accutech Systems Corporation

On Wednesday November 14th, The Innovation Connector celebrated innovation within our community at our Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner. Five businesses were recognized for showcasing innovation in their day to day business activity. One of those five businesses are highlighted below.

Accutech Systems Corporation (ASC)

Adam Unger (left) was awarded a 2018 Excellence in Innovation Award for showcasing innovation in his business.

Adam Unger is President of Accutech Systems Corporation (ASC), and has been working with ASC since 1999.  Prior to becoming President, his roles included:  Inside Sales, Director of Marketing and COO.  Adam is responsible for setting the vision for the company and developing long-term strategic initiatives.  Adam leads the internal executive team and outside board of advisors.

Accutech Systems Corporation is a software solutions company serving the wealth management industry.  With their team serving over 250 clients, they believe that wealth management is more than just tracking numbers, it is about relationships and they believe relationships are about service. ASC was founded in 1987 and currently has 75 employees with twenty of those employees hired on in 2018.

Accutech takes the bureaucracy out of doing business and brings trust back into the equation.  They partner with their clients by providing technology and services focused on making great things happen for other people.

You can learn more about Accutech Systems Corporation by visiting their website. https://www.trustasc.com/

2018 Excellence in Innovation Award Winner Highlight – Amber’s Beauty School

On Wednesday November 14th, The Innovation Connector celebrated innovation within our community at our Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner. Five businesses were recognized for showcasing innovation in their day to day business activity. One of those five businesses are highlighted below.

Amber’s Beauty School

Brooke and Brian Shrieve were awarded a 2018 Excellence in Innovation Award for showcasing innovation in their business.

Amber’s Beauty School has served the community both as a cosmetology school and a destination for people in search of great salon services since 1936. The school is proud of its heritage and family ownership that spans several generations. When you visit either as a student or a customer, you’ll feel that family feeling that is so valuable to all.

In May of 2008 Brian, a third generation Shrieve, and his wife Brooke, purchased the school. Being a young couple they have made many great changes. It has a contemporary new look with innovative training and services.

“We’ve seen a great deal of change over the years. And while we stay up to date on the very latest styles and trends, we’ve never changed our commitment to providing a high-quality, hands-on education to our students, and excellent products and services to our customers”.

You can learn more about Amber’s Beauty school by visiting their website. https://www.ambersbeautyschool.com/

Meet Peggy Cenova, Regional Director Of The ECI Small Business Development Center

If you’ve been involved in the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” around Muncie and East Central Indiana, then you’ve probably had the opportunity to hear or meet Peggy Cenova, regional director of the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (ECI-SBDC). Because she’s seemingly everywhere!

The Innovation Connector: Home To Mark Slusher’s ‘Endpoint Creative’ Business

As you know, the Innovation Connector has been the home to many startup businesses and organizations in the Muncie community. Mark Slusher’s company, Endpoint Creative, is one of them. The company specializes in digital video production, visual marketing, and high-end live video streaming.

Anti-Fraud Workshop for Small Businesses 10 No-Cost Ways to Reduce Financial Fraud Risk

Anti-Fraud Workshop for Small Businesses
10 No-Cost Ways to Reduce Financial Fraud Risk

June 11, 2018, Fort Wayne and Muncie, Ind.—Each year United States businesses lose over
$1 Trillion of revenue due to fraudulent accounting practices and embezzlement. Small business
owners are invited to attend an anti-fraud workshop to learn 10 No-Cost Ways to Reduce
Financial Fraud Risk. “Financial fraud closes companies, eliminates jobs, and damages the
perceived integrity of the U.S. market. If we can prevent one company from experiencing this,
our workshop will be a huge success,” said Abigail Grenfell, MBA, CFE, CIA, CPA, President,
Internal Control and Anti-Fraud Experts, LLC.

Grenfell, a forensic accountant with a proven track record of felony convictions and guilty pleas,
developed this small business workshop specifically for The NIIC and The Innovation Connector
to help raise business owner fraud risk awareness. The workshop will be offered twice on
Thursday, June 21, first at The NIIC, 7:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. (7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. open breakfast, 8
a.m. to 10 a.m. workshop), and then at The Innovation Connector, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
(11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. open lunch, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. workshop). There is no charge to
attend the workshop, and registration is required. Seating is limited. Click here to register for the Fort Wayne Workshop.
Click here to register for the Muncie workshop.

“So many different professionals, including those in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, may
benefit from attending this workshop. CEOs, CFOs, business leaders, finance professionals,
non-profit leaders, senior leadership at churches, etc. are all welcome to attend. We are offering
this workshop as part of our moral obligation to our community. We want them to succeed and
not be part of that annual statistic of U.S., annual revenue lost due to fraud,” said Leslee Hill,
Director, Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC).

“Fraud begins small. By the time it’s discovered, it has grown substantially. Small businesses
are at greatest risk. They can lack segregation of duties or staff qualifications to monitor for
fraud and the abnormal activities that enable it—which may appear normal on the surface. This
workshop will help business owners recognize warning signals of fraud. We’re happy to see the
NIIC present this as a topic and excited to help underwrite it,” said David O. Cole, CPA, CRFAC,
CVA, CDFA, CGMA, Haines, Isenbarger & Skiba, LLC, workshop sponsor.

This workshop is powered by WEOC, The NIIC, Innovation Connector, Internal Control and
Anti-Fraud Experts, LLC, and Fort Wayne SCORE. It is sponsored by Gibson; Haines,
Isenbarger & Skiba, LLC; PNC Bank, and The Thompson Group.

About WEOC
The Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) serves Northeast Indiana women at
all stages of their business ventures. WEOC responds to the unique needs of women
entrepreneurs through business growth coaching, training and entrepreneurial education,
connectivity and access to capital. In October 2017, the name changed to Women’s
Entrepreneurial (instead of Economic) Opportunity Center to more accurately reflect what
WEOC does. WEOC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small
Business Administration. As the Host organization, The NIIC also provides funding and
supplemental and complementary resources for WEOC, an SBA designated Women’s Business
Center—one of two in Indiana. For more information, visit www.inweoc.com.

About The NIIC
The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community. We help business builders and
entrepreneurs launch and grow successful business ventures. We are located in a designated
U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. Formed in 1999 by a consortium of community
and government leaders and organizations in 2013, The NIIC was recognized by Entrepreneur
magazine as one of the top four under-the-radar incubators in the country. This basically means
Entrepreneur magazine, with the help of International Business Incubation Association, picked
four U.S. incubators to highlight, and we were one of them. In their words, we “stand out in a
state not always perceived as small business friendly.” The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:
2008 registered business incubation and acceleration program. https://theniic.org/.

About Innovation Connector

The Innovation Connector exists for one purpose: to help new entrepreneurs with truly
unique business ideas turn their dreams into a reality. Our mission, vision, and guiding
principles explain exactly what we do and why we do it. Our mission is to support and
accelerate the creation of successful technology based and emerging companies in order to
improve the economy of Muncie and east central Indiana. Our vision is to be a dynamic
business incubation center which is recognized as a major contributor to the economic vitality of
our area.

About Internal Control and Anti-Fraud Experts, LLC
Internal Control and Anti-Fraud Experts was formed over 10 years ago with the specific intent to
assist public reporting companies with their required internal control compliance and reporting
requirements in a cost-effective manner. The company quickly expanded to offer internal control
assistance to privately held companies and developed a full range of forensic accounting and
litigation support services for all companies. With an emphasis on business process efficiency,
ICAFE-MN has enabled numerous small and medium-sized companies to reduce their fraud
risks, comply with reporting requirements, and improve efficiencies while decreasing overall
operating expenses.

About Fort Wayne SCORE
Fort Wayne SCORE provides Northeast Indiana with the professional advice and tools to help
businesses thrive. This includes offering free business mentoring, business workshops, and
numerous templates and tools to help individuals start or grow a business. SCORE Fort Wayne
is one of 10 Indiana chapters. Fort Wayne is our main location, and we have branches in
Warsaw, Kendallville, and Angola to serve Northeastern Indiana. The organization recently
relocated the downtown Fort Wayne brand to The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The
NIIC), 3201 Stellhorn Road. For more information about SCORE,
visit https://fortwayne.score.org/ or call 260-422-2601.