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Published: Monday, 10/11/2010

Hundreds go to entrepreneur fair in Toledo to make pitch

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Christopher Adams of Toledo has an idea and a potential location for a combined dollar store and car-detailing business that he hopes to open in the city. Now he needs investors to help him achieve his goal.

Mr. Adams was one of hundreds of aspiring small-business owners who attended an entrepreneurial fair Monday evening hosted by the Regional Growth Partnership.

He wanted to meet business experts who could help him get financing for Honest Dollar & Automotive Detail Shop, a company he has wanted to start for three years.

"I wanted to make sure my face would be seen," said Mr. Adams, who showed his business plan during the event to various organizations and agencies that assist small businesses.

The growth partnership's entrepreneur event, held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg, provided attendees with information on such topics as financing, procurement, and Web-site development.

The free fair was open to the public, and attendees were encouraged to bring executive summaries of their proposed companies.

Providers that participated in the event included Rocket Ventures, which is the partnership's venture-capital program for technology start-ups; the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce; KeyBank; University of Toledo; Bowling Green State University; Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and the Ohio Department of Development.

Greg Knudson, director of Rocket Ventures, said between 250 to 300 people registered for the first annual event, up from the organization's goal of 100 attendees. "This has far exceeded our expectations," he said.

Mr. Knudson said the event was organized to connect potential entrepreneurs with resources that can help them start and grow businesses in Northwest Ohio. That's important, he said, because many people have business ideas but don't know where to get support for their vision.

"You can see the interest," Mr. Knudson said while observing attendees at the fair. "These are people with passion, and they've never had a chance to express that or meet with people."

Virginia Bowerman and Ann Hymel, both of Perrysburg, wanted help with building a company that would sell decorative-glass art pieces in stores and through a studio. Ms. Hymel owns a glass-design business called Fuzed in Perrysburg, while Ms. Bowerman is an art teacher at Fort Meigs Elementary School.

The two friends have talked about building a business together for at least three years. They attended Monday's fair in hopes of getting help to flesh out their idea. "I'm just looking to make sure that we're dotting all of our i's and crossing our t's, and making sure that we have basic support services," Ms. Hymel said.

James Huttner planned to talk to current and potential vendors during the entrepreneurial fair for his company, Bionix Medical Technologies, in Toledo. The firm, which was founded by Dr. Huttner and a partner in 1984, manufactures medical devices and has more than 60 employees.

Dr. Huttner was optimistic about connecting with companies and agencies at the event that could help Bionix grow and continue its policy of using domestic suppliers. "I've found that there's a number of resources that you wouldn't even know were here," he said.

Contact Sheena Harrison at:

sharrison@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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