Innovation Connector to Host the 6th Annual BIG Idea Pitch Competition for Local Entrepreneurs

By: Alexis Dishman—

Photo provided by: The Innovation Connector

Muncie, IN – The Innovation Connector of Muncie, Indiana is hosting the sixth annual BIG Idea Pitch competition for local entrepreneurs and innovators to “pitch” their business, business concepts, product or invention to a panel of judges from the business and investment community. There are many very creative and interesting concepts from people in our region, and this competition will showcase those ideas and offer what it takes to advance them. This event is for individuals in all phases of business, including startup or pre-startup. Jr High and High School students, as well as college students, are also encouraged to apply.


The BIG Idea Pitch competition is your chance to prove the potential of your business idea, meet people who can help you succeed, and maybe even win a cash prize! Competitors will have just three minutes to pitch before a panel of judges.


The schedule of events is as follows:


Each Training Camp will be held at the Innovation Connector from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. The BIG Idea Pitch Competition Application Forms will be available on-line Monday, October 21st.



Training Camp #1 – Monday, October 21st

What is the BIG Idea Pitch Competition? How do ideas happen? Forming an idea as a business

or product. What is the problem being solved? What is the opportunity being seized? From ideas to solutions – how to solve problems. Does your solution fully solve the problem/opportunity?


Training Camp #2 – Monday, October 28th

Are there revenue streams and profit potential for this solution? Who else is currently solving the problem? How are others solving this problem? Why is your solution better or different? What value does your solution provide? How do I present and pitch? What is the judging criteria?


SEMI-FINALS COMPETITION – Monday, November 4th  

All competitors will pitch to a panel of judges. Five finalists will be selected to compete in the Finals to claim the place of The BIG Idea Pitch Winner 2019.




The BIG Idea Pitch Finals & Excellence in Innovation Awards – Wednesday, November 13th  

The Final Competition will take place at the Excellence in Innovation Awards Event held at the Horizon Convention Center.  Attendees will be able to see and hear the five finalists from The BIG Idea Pitch competition – three minutes to pitch business ideas to a panel of distinguished judges. The final results will be revealed that night with prize packages of nearly $30,000 in cash and services awarded.


All competitors will receive invaluable feedback, a fun experience, and valuable exposure to business leaders & potential mentors.  For more details or to make a submission, go to and click The BIG Idea Pitch link or contact Alexis Dishman at 765-285-4900.


The BIG Idea Pitch 2019 and the Excellence in Innovation Awards are presented by the Innovation Connector and made possible by our partners: First Merchant’s Bank, Ball State University, Ontario Systems, Ivy Tech Community College, Mutual Bank, Whitinger Strategic Services, Whitinger & Company, and The Thompson Group.

Introducing the Capstone Connector

A BSU bus driver is pictured utilizing a new digital tracking system developed by a Capstone Connector team of students. On the left, the driver is holding a blue tablet that utilized an older manual paper entry method. Photo courtesy of Huseyin Ergin

A BSU bus driver is pictured utilizing a new digital tracking system developed by a Capstone Connector team of students. On the left, the driver is holding a blue tablet that utilized an older manual paper entry method. Photo courtesy of Huseyin Ergin

By: Ted Baker—

Muncie, IN—The Innovation Connector is pleased to announce the formation of the new Capstone Connector initiative. While serving as the start-up technology hub for the greater Muncie community, the Innovation Connector recognized the opportunity to connect college students to local businesses and organizations to match technology talent with existing business software technology needs. For most college majors, students must complete a final course that is a culmination of their course work called a capstone course. “There has been a disconnect with local university and college computer science talent and the Muncie community,” states Ted Baker, Executive Director of the Innovation Connector.  “I have had numerous area businesses ask me about connecting with student talent, but that path is not always easy. By partnering with Dr. Huseyin Ergin, a Ball State University computer science instructor, we will help bridge this gap.”

The Capstone Connector exists for one reason: to connect local community partners with university/college student capstone teams to solve partners’ technological problems by building custom software. It is open to any company, startup, a non-profit organization, faculty member, or individual. The Capstone Connector is industry-agnostic and will serve any industry as long as a computer application is needed.

Capstone Connector aims for the collaboration to be beneficial for all stakeholders. Benefits include:

  • The capstone teams benefit from working with a real partner.
  • The community partners benefit from having their technological ideas turning into software products.
  • The community has a chance to keep its bright talents to itself.
  • The students have a chance to be hired immediately – keeping talent local.

How does Capstone Connector work?

  1. Community partners propose a project to the center.
  2. Director of Capstone Connector analyzes the project. The Director will work with the client to determine fit for the program and if changes are necessary.
  3. Capstone Connector assigns a student development team to the community partner.
  4. Community partner and student development teams work together by meeting at least once a month. At every meeting, student teams are responsible for creating and demonstrating a running software to their community partners.

“Capstone Connector doesn’t have strict requirements for the proposed projects,” said Dr. Huseyin ErginDirector of Capstone Connector. “The only thing you need to be aware of is that we don’t build business card-like static web pages. There are hundreds of online services that do this for no or low cost. We are developing custom software for your custom needs. It might be a full-stack application, a library, a mobile application, a web application, or any other software development. The community partner is free to select its technology stack for the projects. If not, the director and the team will choose the most suitable stack for the partner.”

A Success Story:

An example of a recent project was for the BSU Bus Shuttle system. The capstone team built a web application software to replace the paper-based bus statistics collection of the Transportation Services. The supervisor can now track how many people get on the bus or left at the stop more accurately, easily, and with fewer errors. The application is designed to work with inconsistent internet connections and not lose any data. (See photo above.)

Cost of the projects:

The accepted projects do not have any development costs billed to the partner. However, there may be some fees for the expenses of the student teams used to cover the partner-student team meeting expenses (such as traveling) and any software licensing or cloud costs throughout the development.

Contact Capstone Connector:

The Capstone Connector also can provide a solution for keeping the projects running after the student development team graduates. Capstone Connector also respects your intellectual property. Just contact us to discuss your specific situation or to propose a project.

Dr. Huseyin ErginDirector of Capstone
Ted BakerExecutive Director of Innovation,

Direct Office Contact Number: 765-285-4902

Innovation Connector and TechWise Academy Announce New STEM Classes for Fall 2019

By: Brandon Coppernoll, Co-Founder, TechWise Academy—

Muncie, IN—The Innovation Connector is partnering with TechWise Academy to host a new lineup of STEM classes through the Coding Connector starting on August 16. These classes help K-12 students learn computational thinking and computer science through coding and robotics.

Ryan Hunter, co-founder of TechWise Academy, leads a Minecraft Party in which students get to learn about command blocks and play online in a safe environment. Photo provided

Ryan Hunter, co-founder of TechWise Academy, leads a Minecraft Party in which students get to learn about command blocks and play online in a safe environment. Photo provided

New classes this Fall feature Sphero robots for elementary students and new coding classes for middle and high school students. Younger students from kindergarten through second grade will have more opportunities to build and learn with LEGO WeDo robots than before.

“What is being taught at the Coding Connector is truly the language of the next generation. We are thrilled to be offering such fun learning experiences for the youth of our community,” says Ted Baker, Executive Director at the Innovation Connector.

The Coding Connector combines a state-of-the-art facility with fiber-based internet access, computer resources, an active marketing and business center, and instructors from TechWise Academy to provide youth opportunities to learn and have fun. Students will get hands-on experience building and programming LEGO robots and use online tools such as Scratch.

TechWise Academy, co-founded by Ryan Hunter and Brandon Coppernoll, provides a custom curriculum to build on what students are learning in schools and creates an environment for students to gain access to caring instructors and the technology they want to use.

Ryan added, “Our classes are designed to challenge students and provide them frameworks for solving problems. The best part, though, is that they’re having so much fun they typically don’t realize how much they’re learning.”

Parents and students will be able to find the class schedule and register at With a class nearly every week, there are many opportunities to learn more about computer science with friends.


TechWise Academy teaches children to love coding and technology through fun, innovative and educational courses in East Central Indiana. Visit  for more information.

What Can Muncie’s Innovation Connector Do For Business Ideators?

*Original story posted on the Muncie Journal

By: Mike Rhodes—

Outside View – From White River Blvd.

Muncie, IN—Are you an innovator? An idea generator? Do you think BIG? Are you a dreamer?

If so, then you probably have a little bit of entrepreneur in you— natural skills and abilities that make you a person that thinks “Why not?” instead of “Why?” Some people can answer those “Why not?” questions all on their own and simply start blazing their own trail with great success. For others, the road to fully realizing an entrepreneurial idea/venture can be fraught with uncertainty, fear, and a lack of focus. And that’s OK, because it’s fairly commonplace to “wander around in a mud puddle” for a while in any new venture.

Muncie’s Innovation Connector is here to help you. They’re here to provide you with FOCUS. They’re here to help reduce or eliminate your FEARS. And they’re here to provide you with a sound PATH, GUIDANCE, and RESOURCES to support you.

Some Innovation Connector Statistics You May Not Know…

The Innovation Connector/clients currently has 31 resident clients, 22 non-resident affiliate clients, and 95 full-time equivalent employees.

Total payroll for Innovation Connector members in 2017: $3,897,520
Average payroll per Innovation Connector member employee in 2017: $41,026
Invested Capital: $167,580
Average wages in 2017: $50,762
Average wages in 2015: $41,721


Startup Tools and Education

From an initial assessment utilizing Growth Wheel® tools to an intensive business startup FastTrac® course or utilization of the Purdue University Foundry Firestarter® program, the Innovation Connector is equipped with a fully certified staff to assist you. If you want to start or grow a business in East Central Indiana, the Innovation Connector is the place to plug into a network of business support.

“Muncie is so fortunate to have such a quality economic support organization like the Innovation Connector. It is very rewarding to see businesses start and grow right here in our community.”—Ted Baker, Executive Director

Dreamers often walk through the doors of the Innovation Connector to participate in one of the many programs hosted at the facility. One of the signature events the Innovation Connector hosts is their annual Big Idea Pitch competition.

Big Idea Pitch Participants For Each Year: 2014-2018

One of the Innovation Connector’s Big Idea Pitch participants was Ashley Runkle. With the help of the Innovation Connector, Runkle launched Kiddo Keepsakes. Runkle says, “The Innovation Connector and all the great people there were instrumental in launching Kiddo Keepsakes. By connecting us with other business professionals in the community whose services we needed, the Innovation Connector helped us reach our goal of creating this new company.”

In addition to the Big Idea Pitch competition, the Innovation Connector offers a variety of events such as:

Signature Events—
The Big Idea Pitch
Excellence in Innovation Awards

Sponsored Events—
One Million Cups™
Kauffman FastTrac™
Small Business Seminars and Specialized Workshops

Partnered Events & Groups
Shafer Leadership Academy
Coding Connector, Techwise Academy
East Central Indiana Social Media Group
East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center
Website Through the Nite
Venture Club of Indiana Innovation Showcase Regional Pitch Competition
Ball State University Student CEO Hack-a-thons
Charge ECI

Additional services offered at the Innovation Connector include:

Business Planning

The word planning is a verb. Planning is an action. A continual ongoing process. Business planning is not something you do once and then quit. Far from it. It’s a process that should continue throughout the life-cycle of a business. But, how do you do business planning? What is involved? What does business planning mean? Ted Baker, executive director of the Innovation Connector provides business planning services to entrepreneurs. The planning process is achieved by one-on-one coaching with Ted and a variety of tools he uses to help get you started.

Marketing/ Product/ Company Branding Services

In the startup phase, a new company is the expert in what they do. However, new entrepreneurs may not be an expert on how to “tell others” what they do.  The Innovation Connector provides marketing services to their clients in order to help them introduce, refine or redefine their client’s marketing messages so the company can reach out to their customer base in a proper way. In addition, through a needs analysis with a legal consultant, the Innovation Connector can help you with patent, trademark and copyright issues.

Sales Analysis, Coaching and Financial Services

Sales analysis is the process of looking at your sales and analyze where sales are coming from. And possibly where they are lacking.  Ted makes sure the coaching offered by the Innovation Connector helps businesses understand their individual financials.  “We look at your sales, cash flow, your costs of goods sold, and other key business indicators,” says Ted.  “We analyze what’s working and what might need adjusted. We can identify where more emphasis is needed.” In addition, In the Innovation Connector offers entrepreneurs a wide variety of specific financial services such as: Capital Identification Assistance, Securing of Loans, QuickBooks setup and training, bookkeeping and accounting services and cash flow analysis.

Networking and Training Opportunities

The Innovation Connector realizes the importance of connecting with others through their various training and development seminars held throughout the year.

Ron Fauquher, IC board chair is pictured presenting the "Excellence in Mentorship" award to Delaina Boyd.

Ron Fauquher, IC board chair is pictured presenting the “Excellence in Mentorship” award to Delaina Boyd.


“Creating jobs is tough work and takes the support of the entire community. Fortunately, the Innovation Connector has partnerships that support this vital economic development work here in our community. Without that support, the ‘tough work’ would be immeasurably more difficult.” —Ron Fauquher, IC board chair

Partners Make It Possible

The work achieved at the Innovation Connector benefits our entire community through a healthy ecosystem of vibrant entrepreneurship. The IC is always looking for NEW partnerships that feed the local ecosystem, educate our people, and cultivate job growth in an organic way.  Please give the Innovation Connector a call and ask them how YOU and YOUR BUSINESS can partner with the Innovation Connector.

Innovation Showcase Regional Pitch Competition Coming to Muncie

*Original Story posted on the Muncie Journal.*

By: Ted Baker—

Muncie, IN—The Venture Club of Indiana, in partnership with the Muncie Innovation Connector, will be hosting the 3rd annual Road to the Showcase Regional Pitch Competition on July 23, 2019, at the Innovation Connector, 1208 West White River Blvd., Muncie.  This event, one of several throughout Indiana, is a qualifier for the Statewide Innovation Showcase to be held in Indianapolis on August 22, 2019.  This contest will showcase winners from all regional competitions around the state. Venture capitalists from around the US will be in attendance and will be looking for investment opportunities.  Significant prizes will also be awarded to the winners.

This competition is open to any investment-ready companies looking for the opportunity to raise capital for growth and to advance their products or services. Anyone with an idea ready for growth or existing business on a scalable growth path is invited to participate in this event. Participation is free but is limited to ten participants.  The maximum time for each pitch is five minutes with possible Q & A from the judges.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

  • $500 in cash – sponsored by Elevate Ventures for the winner as well as entry into the State Innovation Showcase Pitch Competition. The winner will also receive, from the Innovation Connector, direct assistance for preparing for the Innovation Showcase including pitch deck assistance, pitch delivery and follow up coaching for their business.
  • All entrants may be awarded the opportunity to receive FREE software/application development based on the need and scope of the project.

To register to pitch or if you need additional information about pitching, please contact Ted Baker, Executive Director of the Innovation Connector, at 765-285-4902. The deadline to enter is Friday, July 19that noon.

The public is encouraged to attend this event.  This event is free to attend but RSVP to Alexis Dishman at the Innovation Connector at 765-285-4900.

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

This article originally ran on

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. 

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.

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. 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 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 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 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.