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A crowd of about 50 people visited the Historic State Theater on Wednesday to learn about local investors and the experiences they have gathered.
Investing Angels of the Heartland featured several local business-minded men and women speaking about their successes and sharing tips with potential entrepreneurs and investors.
The event was sponsored by the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Trail Innovation Center and the Lincoln Trail Venture Group to promote the venture group and draw members.
The venture group is made up of local entrepreneurs and investors who assist startup businesses.
The term “angel investing” refers to investors who help launch a potential business, which is a large part of the group’s mission.
Mo Miller, a board member of the group, talked about what the group does, including investing money in businesses while allowing entrepreneurs to remain owners of the company. Investment returns can come from a portion of revenue up to an agreed-upon amount or time.
Individual investors sometimes decide to support a business venture, even when the group does not, Miller said.
“We don’t deny that broad spectrum of opportunity to participate,” he said.
Miller said it’s good to see the ideas coming from area residents and the relative financial success of the area, including three local Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winners.
“We are in a very strongly structured economic market,” he said. “We have lots of things going on.”
The event also was meant to feature local success stories in business to inspire and offer advice to those in the community who want to become entrepreneurs and investors.
One Ernst & Young honoree, Jim Fugitte, told audience members it is difficult with even the best infrastructure to attract businesses that can make an immediate difference in the area’s employment.
Most new jobs come from small businesses that eventually grow, so it’s important to encourage such growth, he said.
“This activity, what we’re doing today, is absolutely crucial to jobs in our community for the 21st century,” he said.
That takes an understanding of customers, tenacious business people, and smart accumulation and use of financial resources, he said.
Another Ernst & Young honoree, Dana Bowers, described how she and her husband went from buying back the business they founded, iPay, from an Internet-based company following the burst of the online bubble to selling the company for $300 million.
About 90 percent of financial institutions, potential clients for the electronic payment service, didn’t have a provider for such a service when they reacquired the company in 2001.
They rushed against competitors for customers and put themselves in a good position by offering higher quality service than their competitors for a lower cost than most of them. Then they expanded their technology to make their service more valuable to the financial institutions’ customers, Bowers said.
Bob Swope also was among the list of speakers and shared the Swope family success story.
His family is acquainted with the idea of angel investing.
Swope’s father and uncle began what has become a group of automotive dealerships based on startup money provided by their parents. Swope began his own dealership with the help of a $40,000 loan from those same grandparents.
“None of this would have happened, I wouldn’t be talking to you today, if it wasn’t for our angel investor,” he said.
Swope said hard work, perseverance, family values and providing customers a higher level of service than they expect has allowed the dealerships to thrive.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.