Investment workshop attracts 'angels' among us

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Local investors, entrepreneurs will discuss strategies, stories of success

By Marty Finley

Jim Fugitte said Hardin County is brimming with innovation but originators need the financial assistance to get their idea off the ground.

“It all starts with the idea fertilized with money,” the businessman said.

Fugitte, CEO of locally headquartered Wind Energy Corp., addressed the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday about the origins of “angel investing” and an opportunity next week for investors to take a gamble on a concept or a budding entrepreneur to gain insight.

Fugitte is one of several entrepreneurs lined up for Investing Angels of the Heartland, a workshop scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Historic State Theater. The workshop is sponsored by the chamber, the Lincoln Trail Innovation Center and the Lincoln Trail Venture Group, a contingent of local entrepreneurs and investors that assists startup businesses.

Dana Bowers, co-founder of iPay Technologies, and Rick Kueber, founder of Sun Tan City, also are scheduled for the event. All three local entrepreneurs have captured the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Other local entrepreneurs will share their stories, such as Dr. Tao Le, who raised millions in venture capital starting businesses on the west coast, and Bob Swope representing his family’s car dealerships.

“The idea can really be about service,” Fugitte said, highlighting the Swope family story as an example.

Registration for the event is $20 and a cocktail reception follows. As part of the experience, local panelists will discuss crucial aspects of getting a business off the ground, including raising capital, due diligence, perspectives of venture capital and how investors structure deals.

Fugitte said no prior training or experience in investment is needed to attend.

The term “angel investing” was borrowed from Broadway where individuals or groups who invest in a stage show before it enters production are called angels, Fugitte said. The investment indicates a belief in a concept without prior proof of success, he added.

Fugitte estimated about half of the devices and products Americans will use in the next 25 years do not exist now, illustrating a fertile market for fresh ideas.

“The future is wide open,” he said.

Lisa Williams, director of the Lincoln Trail Innovation Center, said Elizabethtown is rife with entrepreneurs.

“(We have) a lot of innovative, smart people who are hard workers,” she said.

Williams said the event allow investors to share what type of investments they are willing to make and what return on their investment they want while allowing entrepreneurs to hear true success stories.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here,” she said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com. Reporter Amber Coulter contributed to this report.