Recap of the 2023 Entrepreneur Showcase Week

From the Kickoff Celebration and Awards to the Big Idea Pitch Competition and a spectrum of enriching workshops, the 2023 Entrepreneur Showcase Week at the Innovation Connector stands as a testament to the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit in the Muncie community. 

The 2023 Entrepreneur Showcase Week kicked off in style with a lively celebration at the Innovation Connector on Monday, November 13. Several awards were presented at the event including:

  • The 2023 Technology Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Travis Street from CTS Multifamily IT Solutions; 
  • The 2023 Life-Style Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Jeff and Debra Williams, from the Williams Carpet Shop; 
  • The 2023 Food and Beverage Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Mike Robinson and Chad Massoth from Amazing Joe’s; 
  • The 2023 Business Supporters of the Year, Bill Walters (ECI Regional Planning District) and Brad Bookout (Augusta Consulting, LLC); 
  • The 2023 Community Impact Entrepreneur of the Year, Mike Martin from The Common Market; 
  • The 2023 Champion Entrepreneur of the Year, Frank Scott II from K & B Car Wash-Detail; and 
  • The 2023 Champion Entrepreneurs of the Year, Jennifer and Tom Sheridan from Gibson Arena. 

These remarkable individuals and businesses deserve to be celebrated as they exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurship, inspiring others with their passion, perseverance, and dedication. Owning a business is no easy career path. Therefore, we commend them for their incredible achievements and wish them nothing but success in their future endeavors. 

As this Entrepreneur Showcase Week was the second annual event of its kind, the Innovation Connector meticulously curated a series of events and engaging speakers, keenly attuned to the diverse needs of Muncie’s entrepreneurs and business owners. Throughout the week, a wide array of workshops delved into pivotal topics essential for budding and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. 

The workshop sessions covered a spectrum of themes, ranging from foundational aspects such as ‘How to Start Your Own Business’ and ‘The Fundamentals of Business’ encompassing Marketing, Finance, HR & Employee Management, to more nuanced subjects like ‘The Art of the Side Hustle’ and ‘Building Resilient People and Teams’. These sessions also addressed critical challenges, including ‘Managing Your Business During Tough Times’ and empowering discussions on ‘Overcoming Challenges for Women and Minorities in Business’. Plus a variety of other topics and discussions. 

This year also marked the resurgence of The Big Idea Pitch Competition, after a year hiatus. On November 16, entrepreneurs and innovators pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. There were two divisions this year: Lifestyle and Technology. The top achievers in the Lifestyle Division were Molly McGuire, securing the first-place position, followed by Andy Markelz in second place. In the Technology Division, two talented Ball State Entrepreneurship students triumphed: Will Pancake claimed the first-place spot, while Reid Glassen secured second place. Each first-place winner was awarded a prize of $5,000, while those achieving second place won a prize of $2,500 each. As the Big Idea Pitch ran for 8 years previously, the Innovation Connector was pleased to see it return better than ever. We would like to extend a congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to all the participants for taking the leap to pitch their innovative ideas. 

Collaboration played a pivotal role in the success of this showcase. The Innovation Connector extends its gratitude to Ball State University’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute for hosting several events at their premises. This collaborative effort exemplifies the shared mission of empowering and celebrating local entrepreneurs.

A vibrant atmosphere pervaded the showcase, not only through insightful discussions but also with moments of refreshment. F45 Training treated attendees to Jack’s Donuts during the Kickoff Celebration and Awards, while Pizza King, Café at the Crossing, and Chick-Fil-A provided food items throughout the week! This ensured that everyone stayed fueled and engaged during the events.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of sponsors. The Innovation Connector extends its sincere appreciation to the title sponsor, First Merchants Bank, for their continuous support. Additionally, immense gratitude goes out to all the sponsors whose invaluable contributions made Entrepreneur Showcase Week a resounding success.

The 2023 Entrepreneur Showcase Week encapsulated a week of innovation, collaboration, and celebration! It served as a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs, fostering a community of support and learning and setting the stage for continued growth and success in Muncie’s entrepreneurial landscape. 

Big Idea Pitch 2023 Recap

The Big Idea Pitch Competition returned this year as part of Entrepreneur Showcase Week at the Innovation Connector.  On the evening of November 16, 2023, entrepreneurs and innovators pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. There were two divisions this year: Lifestyle and Technology. Adding to the ambiance of a baseball game, attendees enjoyed classic hot dogs and chips, evoking the nostalgic charm of a day at the ballpark. 

Two winners from each category rose victoriously, winning a cash prize for their innovative ideas. The first-place winners were presented with $5,000, while second-place achievers rejoiced with $2,500 each.  The winners of the Lifestyle Division in first place, Molly McGuire, and in second place, Andy Markelz.  The winners of the Technology Division were two Ball State Entrepreneurship students. Winning first place was Will Pancake, and in second place was Reid Glassen. Congratulations to all winners and participants.

The competition wasn’t just about who won. It was a chance for pitchers to get exposure, make connections, and further the opportunity for education and investment.  When people come together with their great ideas, amazing things can happen. Here’s to a future filled with even more innovation and success for the Muncie community. 

A big thank you to the sponsors as it would not have been possible without your support.  

Entrepreneur Showcase Week: Kick-Off Celebration and Awards

MUNCIE, Ind.— The 2023 Entrepreneur Showcase Week commenced with a vibrant Kick-Off Celebration held at the Innovation Connector on Monday, November 13, 2023. The event featured notable speakers such as Executive Director and CEO, Ted Baker; Program and Events Coordinator, Natalie Smith; Jeff Parsons, Market President of First Merchants Bank; Morgan Allen from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation; Muncie’s Mayor, Dan Ridenour; Ron Fauquher, Board Chairperson of the Innovation Connector; and Bernisa Elliot, Owner of BE’s Beauty. Together, they underscored the pivotal role of entrepreneurs and small businesses within the Muncie Community. 

Not only did attendees spend the morning networking with fellow community members while enjoying coffee and donuts, but Ted Baker also presented Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for several different categories. We would like to extend congratulations to: The 2023 Technology Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Travis Street from CTS Multifamily IT Solutions; The 2023 Life-Style Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Jeff and Debra Williams, from the Williams Carpet Shop; The 2023 Food and Beverage Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Mike Robinson and Chad Massoth from Amazing Joe’s; The 2023 Business Supporters of the Year, Bill Walters (ECI Regional Planning District) and Brad Bookout (Augusta Consulting, LLC); The 2023 Community Impact Entrepreneur of the Year, Mike Martin from The Common Market; The 2023 Champion Entrepreneur of the Year, Frank Scott II from K & B Car Wash-Detail; and the 2023 Champion Entrepreneurs of the Year, Jennifer and Tom Sheridan from Gibson Arena. 

The second annual Entrepreneur Showcase Week Kick-Off Celebration served as an inspiring testament to the ingenuity, dedication, and impact of entrepreneurs and small businesses within the Muncie Community. As we honor the recipients of the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards across various categories, we look forward to many more years to come of celebrating, empowering, and connecting entrepreneurs in the Muncie area. 

Innovation Connector Announces Acquisition of TechWise Academy, LLC

Innovation Connector 1208 W. White River Blvd. Muncie, IN 47303




Innovation Connector Announces Acquisition of TechWise Academy, LLC

Muncie, IN – Innovation Connector, Inc., a full-service entrepreneurial resource center and part of the Ontario Place Certified Technology Park, proudly announces its acquisition of TechWise Academy, LLC, a STEM education business known for its innovative approach to technology education.

This strategic merger represents a significant step forward in fulfilling the missions of both the Innovation Connector and TechWise Academy to bridge the digital divide and provide opportunities for individuals to acquire essential coding skills. By officially combining forces with TechWise Academy, the Innovation Connector’s goal is to leverage the expertise of TechWise Academy and its experience in the STEM education domain to expand the impact in the Muncie community.

“We are thrilled about this merger and the opportunities it presents to fulfill our shared mission of empowering our community with STEM knowledge and skills,” said Ted Baker, CEO at Innovation Connector. “Together, we are committed to providing accessible and inclusive technology education, fostering innovation, and inspiring the next generation of tech leaders.”

With this merger, Innovation Connector will now assume the responsibilities of TechWise Academy while maintaining its familiar name.

Effective October 1, 2023, the current name, Coding Connector, will be known as TechWise Academy, powered by the Innovation Connector. Baker explains,  “This collaboration will enable our organization to offer a broader range of educational programs, workshops, and online courses designed to equip individuals with the skills needed to thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.”

“We have always had a great partnership with the Innovation Connector,” says Ryan Hunter, Co-Founder of TechWise Academy. “The physical space is top-notch, and the support from their team has been great. We’ve been aligned from day one on our mission to expand computer science education in our area. This official merger will combine resources to synergistic effect to our impact.”

For more information about Innovation Connector and the services offered, please visit If you have any inquiries regarding the merger or related matters, please contact Natalie Smith at

About Innovation Connector, Inc.: Innovation Connector, Inc. is a full-service entrepreneurial resource center and part of the Ontario Place Certified Technology Park. Our mission is to see job creation by providing guidance and entrepreneurial resources for individuals seeking to start or grow businesses in East Central Indiana.

About TechWise Academy, LLC: TechWise Academy, LLC has been a leading coding instructional business known for its comprehensive approach to computer science education. Its mission is to teach coding and computer science to children, K-12, and adults, introducing them to new ways to solve problems and explore curiosity and creativity

Providing Excellent Client Experience

Join us on Thursday, September 7, 2023 for an insightful workshop on providing excellent client experiences. THIS WORKSHOP IS FREE!

It is the goal of most businesses to provide excellent customer service. While this sounds great, most businesses do not have a plan to make that happen. And even more concerning is that they have no processes or initiatives to empower employees and customer-facing team members with adequate tools to deal with customer service issues.

This session will be a practical session for all business owners and entrepreneurs discussing various aspects of Providing Excellent Customer Experiences and ways to implement them into their daily business. While customers are the core component of a business, dealing with them can be difficult and tiring. This workshop will be instructed by Ted Baker, CEO/Executive Director of the Innovation Connector, who has been trained at Disney’s Institute of Customer Experience. By participating in this session, you will receive tools and resources utilized by Disney to help turn customer complaints into happy and returning customers.

It is suggested to bring a note-taking object as much of this information can apply to your business and daily lives.

Please register for this event so that we can plan accordingly. Thank you!

If you have any questions, please reach out to Natalie Smith, Program and Events Coordinator, by emailing or by calling 765-285-4900. We look forward to seeing you!

Spotlight – State Collection Service

State Collection Service understands that receivables management in healthcare means more than just account recovery. Your reputation in the community is one of your most valuable assets. Their service reflects directly upon your organization, so they take great care in training their staff to treat your patients with respect and dignity by using a personalized, consultative approach in their communication practices. They provide you with peace of mind while enabling you to maintain your organization’s mission. At State, they recognize that the relationship between a healthcare provider seeking account resolution and an agency like theirs is crucial. They work hard to establish and maintain trust, which is evident in the fact that the majority of their clients have been with them for years, sometimes even decades. Learn more about State Collection Service here 

The BIG Idea Pitch – Why this Contest is Important

Muncie Journal Article – July 2023

By: Ted A. Baker, CEO/Executive Director

Muncie Innovation Connector, Inc.

The BIG Idea Pitch – Why this Contest is Important

During my thirteen years as Executive Director of the Muncie Innovation Connector, I have met with, coached, advised, counseled, and encouraged many individuals who have thought about starting or owning a business.  This continues to happen several times each week.  In addition, the Small Business Development Center, located in the Innovation Connector, meets with clients in Muncie and East-Central Indiana, hoping for the same. With the availability of resources found on the internet, getting information about how to start a business is easier today than ever before. And with this vast amount of information, people sometimes deal with what I call “information overload.” More data, information, and resources are available than most can navigate.  Then the question is asked, “Is this good information?” “Have I received the best advice for my ideas and ventures?”

In 2014, in response to the need for business startup information, the Innovation Connector formed a program known as The BIG Idea Pitch.  Our initial thoughts were to provide educational and business idea-sharing opportunities in a safe and fun environment. We wanted one evening dedicated to individuals pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges.  And because of our wonderful sponsors, we offered prize money for winning pitches. Keeping with the baseball theme, we hosted three Training Camps leading to the pitch competition.  Guest presenters shared their perspectives on topics, including idea generation, problem and solution identification, business modeling, and presentation pitch skills. Year one of The BIG Idea Pitch competition was a BIG success!

From 2014 – 2021, The BIG Idea Pitch became a very popular event and one of the “signature events” of the Innovation Connector. Each year, at least fifty Muncie-area ideators participated in The BIG Idea Pitch competition by attending the Training Camps and pitching business ideas.  We even hosted this competition in November of 2020 – the pandemic year.  Each year as part of the event, pitch nights were streamed via several social media platforms, with viewers reporting from many states outside Indiana – even California.  Due to scheduling and funding issues, The BIG Idea Pitch did not occur in 2022.  However, I am pleased to announce that The BIG Idea Pitch returns on November 16. as part of Entrepreneur Showcase Week 2023.

Why does the Innovation Connector invest so much staff time, energy, and money into this initiative? Here are three reasons why we value The BIG Idea Pitch.

1.) The BIG Idea Pitch provides an opportunity, unlike any other in our community, to collaborate with other ideators and to learn the art and science of launching a business from an idea. Most people with a business startup idea tend to daydream about their ideas, plans, and how to get started.  Having the opportunity to talk with other people “like” them can provide tremendous benefits.  Those who have walked this journey before can share their experiences and things to do and what not to do. This kind of support cannot be gained by reading a book or watching a video.  These connections and relationships are difference-makers for a startup entrepreneur.

Starting a business takes work! A person must go through the process to understand the depths of commitment and learning needed.  The BIG Idea Pitch initiative provides a place that offers educational opportunities for entrepreneurs to gain critical knowledge, advice, and feedback from experienced entrepreneurs. This is why this program has been so successful.

2.) The BIG Idea Pitch is a community-wide event that brings together businesses, funders, people with ideas, educators, and local government officials for a common cause.  Everyone loves a business startup success story! When a person starts a new business, the impact can be felt community-wide. Lending institutions and funders can finance deals, community members love to support new businesses, and government officials celebrate because they understand that healthy communities need new businesses.  And new startup owners can start their journeys and dreams of owning a business. Pitch night is such a fun and inspiring evening.  We learn each year that the Muncie community has a vast array of creative business talent. The ideas pitched during past competitions have been amazing.  Those participating ranged from very young ( 8 years old) to baby boomers (60+ years old,) high-tech inventors to pizza makers, and dreamers wanting to start a business to send deceased loved ones’ ashes into space to a simple invention that makes buttoning the top button of a hanging shirt easier. And the list goes on and on.

3.) The BIG Idea Pitch is all about people. The Innovation Connector staff has made the application and participation process simple and easy.   The goal has been to remove as many barriers to entry as possible. First, it is free and open to everyone in Muncie and Delaware County. The BIG Idea Pitch provides educational opportunities and access to available resources to participants if they hope to start a business.  Our team, supporters, and presenters will help anyone who requests help – from refining an idea to structuring their pitch.  Applying to participate on pitch night could not be any easier. All that is required is to go online to, provide your name, home address, contact email address, and phone number and, with three sentences maximum, explain your idea. You will then be contacted, and our team will guide you through the rest of the process.  In addition, the prize money awarded to the winning pitches can be used for any purpose – no strings or rules attached.  While we hope the winning dollars will be used to start a business, sometimes in life, more pressing needs may hinder a person from moving forward.  One pitcher used the winning funds to repay a school loan, hindering this person’s monthly cash flow. After paying off the student loan, this person could afford to move forward with the business startup idea.

Mark your calendars now for the following dates:

The BIG Idea Training Camps: October 23, October 30, and November 6- each date from 6:00 – 7:30 pm

The BIG Idea Pitch Competition Pitch Night: November 16 – Starting at 6:00 pm

All events will take place at the Innovation Connector.

Please consider joining the Innovation Connector to be part of The BIG Idea Pitch 2023.  Applications will be accepted starting on August 1, 2023, at, and click on the “The BIG Idea Pitch” icon. For more information, please log on to, or call our office at 765-285-4900.

Empowering Entrepreneurs: Introducing the Women’s Peer Collective

The Innovation Connector’s theme for 2023, “Empowering Entrepreneurs,” is an exciting endeavor that aims to support and uplift the entrepreneurial community. As part of this mission, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the “Women’s Peer Collective,” a unique 8-session program specifically designed to bring together twelve women who own businesses or serve as non-profit Executive Directors/CEOs. The primary objective of this collective is to foster an environment of mutual learning and growth, where members can draw from each other’s experiences and help one another thrive in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Running and maintaining a business can be an incredibly rewarding but challenging experience. While friends and family are undoubtedly supportive, sometimes they may not fully grasp the unique hardships and pressures. That’s why having a group of like-minded women who truly understand this lifestyle is essential. Our vision is for the Women’s Peer Collective to evolve into a tight-knit team that remains devoted to each other’s growth and success.

The Women’s Peer Collective will hold sessions every other Thursday from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, commencing on September 7th. Understanding the busy lives of entrepreneurs, we have deliberately scheduled these meetings during the workday. Participants are welcome to bring their lunch to the sessions for convenience.

The dynamic of the group will be collaborative, with members leading the meetings after the initial session. To ensure productive discussions, an Innovation Connector team member will facilitate the first gathering. During this introductory meeting, the group will collectively decide on the topics of interest and how the sessions will function each week. In subsequent sessions, one or two members will lead the discussion on a topic of their choice, encouraging engaging group conversations.

Rest assured, the Women’s Peer Collective is a safe space where confidentiality, openness, honesty, and vulnerability are respected. To maintain this trusted environment, each member will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The Sessions:

Mark your calendars for the following Women’s Peer Collective sessions from 11:30 am – 1 pm, all to be held at the Innovation Connector:

– September 7th

– September 21st

– October 5th

– October 19th

– November 2nd

– November 16th

– November 30th

– December 14th

Join us as we embark on this exciting journey of empowerment, growth, and support for women entrepreneurs and leaders. Together, we will build a thriving community that uplifts each other to reach new heights in our business ventures. The Women’s Peer Collective looks forward to welcoming you into our circle of empowerment and inspiration. Let’s create a brighter future together!

For more information and to apply, click here.

Spotlight- Techwise Academy

Techwise Academy provides educational courses teaching coding and computer science to students in grades K-12. Techwise is creating a generation of problem solvers and innovators through its classes providing a safe space to learn new technologies. Their mission is to teach coding and computer science to children and introduce them to new ways to problem solve and explore curiosity and creativity. They offer both online and in-person courses and have frequently held classes at the Innovation Connector.

4th of July Holiday Hours

The Innovation Connector will be closed on Monday, July 3rd, and Tuesday, July 4th for Independence Day. As always, residents of the Innovation Connector can access the building 24/7. We will resume normal hours Wednesday, July 5th.
Happy 4th!