top of page
Limestone closeup surface vintage light

JUNE 12, 2015


The Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs (BCE) and Bluffton University have created the position of assistant director of BCE for a graduate assistant in the university’s Master of Business Administration program.

The person in the half-time position will work with BCE for nine months for each of two academic years while taking evening classes in Bluffton’s MBA program. The graduate assistant will receive full tuition and an annual stipend plus an adjustment for living expenses.

Bluffton Pediatrics owner wins 2015 Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition

MARCH 18, 2015

Beth Bish, owner of Bluffton Pediatrics, LLC, is the first-place winner in the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs 2015 Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition, according to Brendon Matthews, BCE board president. This is the sixth year for the competition named in honor of former Bluffton entrepreneur, Ropp Triplett.

First place receives $4,000 in business-start up costs that may be spent over the next 18 months.

Alice Essinger, owner of Fresh Modern Fabric, Bluffton, is second place winner and recipient of $1,500 in business start-up costs.

Melinda Bowden, owner of 315 Walnut, Bluffton, is third place winner and recipient of $500 in business start-up costs.

Other start-up businesses in the competition were Alexandria Gratz-Collier, owner of Little Gold Kitty, Findlay; Levi Probst of Probst Family Farm, Bluffton; and Ramona Hauenstein, owner of Done on Demand Virtual Assistant, Lima.

Each contestant receives a free BCE “think tank” session, a $200 value. The think tank enables persons to meet for two hours with business professionals to discuss specific issues in their business start up.

Each contestant also receives a one-year membership in the Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce, an $80 value.

Judging took place on March 11 and 12 following eight weeks of business plan classes. Kathy Keller, director, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Rhodes State College, Lima, instructed the course.

Each year’s contest is open to start-up businesses and emerging businesses in Allen, Putnam, Hancock and Hardin counties.


Major sponsors of the 2015 competition are: Allen Economic Development Group, Bluffton University and First National Bank. Additional sponsors are Citizens National Bank, Mustard Seed Café, Reichenbach and Steiner CPAs, Sielschott, Walsh, Keifer and Regula CPAs, Edward Jones (Bluffton), Bluffton-Ada Icons and Superior Energy Solutions.

 “The competition teaches entrepreneurs to write a business plan that will help them improve their existing business or to successfully start a new one,” said Brendon Matthews, BCE board president.

Contest judges

Competition judges were Dan Sheaffer, coordinator, Small Business Resource Center Findlay-Hancock County; Vanessa Greer, assistant vice president/branch manager, First National Bank; Robert Inniger, vice president/business banking officer, Citizens National Bank; and Dr. George Lehman, Howard Raid professor of business; business studies division chair; director of graduate programs in business, Bluffton University.

Dress rehearsal judges were: Kathy Burris, Kendra Nickel, Mary P. Steiner, Mark Alliman, Marlena Ballinger and Beth Boehr.

OCTOBER 22, 2014


How many business owners – large or small, established or start-up – might like to discuss ideas for growth in a confidential setting with their peers?

The “think tank” idea, a project of Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs, offers that option to businesses in Bluffton and surrounding communities. Earlier this week, BCE held its fifth think tank.

Todd Larson of Larson Barbecue, one of the 2014 BCE Business Plan Competition winners, took advantage of the option. The think tank, customized to each business requesting the session, provides experts from several business backgrounds to provide feedback.

OCTOBER 10, 2014


Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs today (Oct. 10) announced prize money and seminar dates its 2015 Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition.

First place prize is $4,000 in business start-up costs. Second place is $1,500 in start-up. Third place is $500 in start-up costs.

This is BCE’s sixth business plan competition and it recognizes the late Ropp Triplett, long-time Bluffton industrial leader and entrepreneur.

“The contest is open to start-up businesses and emerging businesses that are less than three years old. The competition teaches entrepreneurs to write a business plan that will help them improve their existing business or to successfully start a new one,” said Brendon Matthews, BCE board president.

The competition’s initial free session is Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. 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 and those class dates and themes follow:

Jan. 14:  “Launch Your Business Right (free session)

Jan. 21:  “So You Want to be an Entrepreneur” (fees and applications are due)

Jan. 28:  “Planning to Start a Business” 

Feb. 4:  “Developing Your Business Idea”

Feb. 11:  “Testing Your Business Idea and Getting it to Market”  

Feb. 18:  “Accounting for Your Business” 

Feb. 25:  “Financing Your Business”

March 4:  “Final Pitch Dress Rehearsal (business plan due)

March 11:  Final pitches

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. 21.

For a copy of the entry form and additional information contact BCE at 419-369-2985 or open the attachment at the bottom of the story for a printer-friendly copy of the application.

Todd Larson turned his passion for barbecuing into a full-time business

JUNE 24, 2014


This is the third of a three-part series on winners of the 2014 Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs Ropp Triplett Business Plan Competition. Todd Larson is the third place winner. For more information about the annual competition

You don’t have to ask Todd Larson to tell you about his passion for barbecuing.

He’ll volunteer it.

For example: He has a signature barbecue rub that he spent three to four months developing before he decided it was the “right flavor.” Then, just for fun, as he puts it, he started experimenting with a barbecue sauce.

His life-long passion for food got the best of him after completing the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneur business plan competition this winter. In early May he took a giant leap and is now following his dream full time.

In addition to the BCE contest, helping make his dream come true, Larson took a 30-hour barbecue cooking class in Centerville, Ga. He also purchased a trailer, as his business is mobile.

What was the most difficult part in the entire process of launching Larson Barbecue? “The hardest part is believing in yourself,” he says.

After a spring of selling his barbecue in various local venues he’s beyond the doubting stage. He’s so busy now that he’s trying to figure out how to find the time to manage the business.

Here’s where you’ll find him this summer. You’ll probably stand in line to purchase his product because it’s now available until sold out. It’s almost always sold out.

“We’re selling about 45 pounds of meat at each farmers’ market,” says Larson. “Our menu includes pulled pork sandwiches, briskets and ribs. The briskets seem to be the biggest seller.”

He starts cooking 12 hours prior to each event. Assisting him in the sales of his products are his daughters, Mattison and Maci.

Larson’s Barbecue schedule:
Tuesdays from 11 to 1 p.m. – Bluffton Community Market
Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. – Lima Farmers’ Market
Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. – Ada Farmers’ Market
Friday’s from 4 to 6 p.m. – Arlington Farmers’ Market
Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon – Bluffton Farmers’ Market
Sundays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Bluffton Dairi Freeze

His business mission statement accurately sums up what he’s all about: “To provide customers the best barbecue they can experience. This is done with dedication to quality, great customer service and a friendly fun environment.”

With no pun intended, Larson said that he’s also looking for additional sales at a Findlay site. When if finds it, “that should fill the plate,” concerning his summer schedule.

News 2014 - 2015
square logo transparent BCE.png
bottom of page