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News 2016 - 2017
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NEWS: 2017 Business Plan Competition Winners


BLUFFTON — Five businesses were winners in this year’s Bluffton Center for Entrepreneur’s Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition. Each business received a cash prize.

Emerging Business Division winners include:

• First place — Cutting Edge Woodcraft, Bluffton; owned by Nicholas Recker and Luke Keuneke; $4,000

• Second place — Art Me!, Ottawa; owned by Kirstene Adkins; $1,000

• Third place — SturdyBed LLC, Lima; owned by Barry McCullough; $500

Established Bluffton Business Division winners include:

• First place – The Food Store; Jonah Agner and Nancy Corle, who plan to take over the business this spring; $1,000

• Second place – The Sports Warehouse; Natalie Mueller; $500 in gift-in-kind support

With 12 contestants, this was the largest-ever field in the annual BCE event. BCE has awarded more than $60,000 in cash prize money since the competition’s inception.

What would you do with an extra $1,000 (or $4,000)?

November 18, 2016


Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs asks local business owners this: “What would you do with an extra $1,000?”

One business in the 45817 zip code area will win $1,000 to be used to improve its business or to assist in adding a new product, thanks to BCE’s Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition.

The competition has two divisions:
• Small Business Improvement Division (for an established business located in the 45817 zip code area). The first place winner receives $1,000. Second place winner receives $500 in gift-in-kind support.

Last year’s winner was The Dough Hook.

• Start-up Division (for an emerging business in business for three years or less, or for someone thinking about opening a new business). The first place winner receives $4,000, second place $1,000, and third place $500.

Last year’s winner was Easter House Bed and Breakfast, Ada. The Start-up Division is open to persons in Allen, Hardin, Hancock and Putnam counties.

“Entrants will focus on ways to add, grow or develop enterprises, which contribute to increases in sales, traffic and jobs to their business and to the Bluffton area,” said Brendon Matthews, BCE board president.

The competition’s initial free session is Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. It takes place, as all session, in the Bluffton town hall third floor meeting room. All sessions are from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kathy Keller, director, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lima, instructs all sessions with class dates and themes following:

Jan. 11: “Launch Your Business Right (free session)

Jan. 18: “So You Want to be an Entrepreneur” (fees and applications due)

Jan. 25: “Planning to Start a Business”

Feb. 1: “Developing Your Business Idea”

Feb. 8: “Testing Your Business Idea and Getting it to Market”

Feb. 15: “Accounting for Your Business”

Feb. 22: “Financing Your Business”

March 8-9: Business plan dress rehearsal

March 15-16: Business plan presentation to judges

March 23: Bluffton Oscars Mix and Mingle – winners announced

To enter the competition, contestants must complete an entry form and submit a $150 application fee. The fee for college student to enter is $75. The deadline to enter the contest is Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. Early bird registration by Dec. 31, 2016, is $125.

Persons wanting more information about the contest may contact Fred Steiner, BCE director at 419-889-3065.

Have a business problem? There could be a BCE "think tank" in your future

September 9, 2016


How can Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs best serve established Bluffton businesses and start-up Bluffton businesses?


BCE posed the question to Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce members during the first chamber breakfast of the 2016-17 season on Friday morning, Sept. 9, 2016.


The question launched small group discussions from chamber members, who offered several suggestions.

“The idea behind Friday’s program is that BCE offers think tanks to any business – established or start-up – to assist the business in problem solving,” said Brendon Matthews, BCE board president. “We wanted chamber members to see how our think tanks work. Only this time, BCE was the client. Chamber members were our problem solvers.”

BCE offers a think when a business identifies a “problem.” BCE assembles six or more professionals to help solve it.

BCE gathers Bluffton businesspersons to help in a 90-minute roundtable discussion. The discussion is confidential. Notes, offering business solutions and ideas, are taken and provided to the business owner. Think tanks cost $200.


Some of BCE’s past think tanks tackled local business problems such as:
•  My business needs a marketing plan. What do I do?
•  My business wants to attract more customers. Here’s what I’m doing now. What can do to increase traffic?
•  My business is very busy in the spring and summer, but business slows in the winter. Help me!
•  My start-up business needs to form an LLC and get some accounting help. What do I do?
•  How do I reach Bluffton University students with my business? I have products and services that could attract them, but I’ve not succeeded.


Depending upon the needs of the business owner, BCE think tanks have include persons with backgrounds in law, accounting, marketing, retail, public relations, banking and village government. Bluffton University students also participate, depending upon the discussion topic.


Although notes are not yet compiled from Friday’s BCE session, some of the ideas floated by chamber members to help BCE included:

“Create testimonies from businesses that BCE has helped. Make a video of these testimonies and post it on your website.”

“Offer a workshop on business plans and explain why these are necessary.”
“Create a small-town, small-business one-day conference that focuses on small business.”

“See if you can assist businesses in Bluffton to collaborate with one another to increase customer traffic.”

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