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March 2020

COVID-19: Resources & Updates for Our Community

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Our team at the Elevate Northeast Indiana wants to provide our community with relevant resources for entrepreneurs in the midst of COVID-19 social distancing and quarantines.

But first, some logistical updates (of course):

Office Hours: We are cancelling in-person office hours for foreseeable future. Andie, our Regional Director of Entrepreneurship, will be conducting virtual office hours over video or phone call and invites you to schedule an appointment to chat with her through her Calendly.


A Message From Elevate Ventures, one of our partners:

As Indiana’s leading venture development investor we understand and see the impact that this pandemic has on businesses. Startups and scale ups across Indiana may experience supply-chain disruptions, loss in revenues, and an increased strain to make everything virtual so staff and guests are protected from contracting the virus. Businesses are encouraged to put the health and safety of their team first, but it is still imperative to ensure your operations run smoothly.

While some reports indicate that our lives and economy will be disrupted for three to four weeks, the likelihood is that it will be much longer than that. All businesses should have careful plans based around a four- to six-month disruption. Planning for the worst-case scenario is prudent and knowing one’s burn rate, along with how that ties into other economic disruptions, may cause different decision making.

Moving forward Elevate Ventures will be sending weekly communication to our broad constituencies that will include relevant and thoughtful resources and information specific to how companies can get through this hard time. To remain up to date with these efforts, make sure you subscribe to our content. One key resource that may come in handy is the free webinar offered by the Indiana Chamber. If you don’t have a login, create one when prompted.

Click here to read some additional ways to prepare. Please feel free to contact members of our staff at any time. While we are working remote, we are still here to help as needed.


Chris LaMothe
Chief Executive Officer
Elevate Ventures

Perspectives From Elevate Ventures:

The Elevate Ventures team is made up of thought leaders and experts with practical entrepreneurial experience. Below are some of our Perspectives with advice and insights to help startups get through this hard time.

COVID-19 & Startup Info:

Startups and scale ups across Indiana will hit some rough patches in the coming months as the spread of COVID-19 continues to grow. Elevate is still here to support your needs and as such have gathered some key resources and information pieces from some experts across the nation to share. Below are a few that we felt may fuel your next steps.


Financial Management & Handling Burn Rate

How to Communicate During a Pandemic

Fundraising & Venture Capital

Talent Changes & Projections

Working Remotely & Company Culture

Adjusting Your Pitch Strategy

Tools & Support

Several organizations across the nation are offering free extended trials and subscriptions to make running your business remotely easier. Below are a few tools to consider utilizing and taking advantage of in the coming weeks and months.

Additional Links | COVID-19

Below are some additional links that will help keep you updated with facts and information specific to the pandemic. This list is not exhaustive.

Our list of resources and tips will continue to be updated as more information is available regarding COVID-19 and resources for small business, the people who run them, their families, and their employees.

We know this is a scary time, but it’s integral that we come together in support of our community in any way we can.

Happy social distancing and hand washing!

Focused on the Fork: Hetty Arts Pastry

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Focused on the Fork: Hetty Arts Pastry

| Fort Wayne’s NBC

February 18, 2020

The hospital is probably not the first place you think about when it comes to food. But maybe it should be!

Hetty Arts Pastry just moved into the main dining area at Parkview Regional Medical Center. However, they’ve been in business for about 4 years now.

Kylee Hays, left, and Leitia (Lay-shuh) McHugh, right, are two entrepreneurs investing in the ’05 neighborhood.

In fact, you may have seen Hetty’s Pastry Truck around town.

The cafe has so many beautiful creations to choose from including donuts and muffins to macaroons.

To learn more about Hetty Arts Pastry, click here.

Want authentic street tacos and Mexican cuisine on wheels? Fort Wayne’s food truck scene has it

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Want authentic street tacos and Mexican cuisine on wheels? Fort Wayne’s food truck scene has it

| Input Fort Wayne

March 11, 2020

During the warmer months in Fort Wayne, food trucks are a popular way to dine, and if you’re looking for fresh and authentic Mexican cuisine on wheels, you’re in luck.

The Salsa Grille food truck serves made-to-order nachos, burritos, bowls, tacos, and more.

During the warmer months in Fort Wayne, food trucks are a popular way to dine, and if you’re looking for fresh and authentic Mexican cuisine on wheels, you’re in luck.

Two popular local food trucks, Salsa Grille and Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen, are serving up everything from street tacos to burritos and anything smothered in queso Chihuahua cheese.

We sat down with the food entrepreneurs behind these businesses to hear their stories (and get tips on what to order).

Salsa Grille

You might know the local quick-service Mexican chain Salsa Grille owned by the Rongos family of George’s International Market. This chain has operated brick-and-mortar locations around the city for more than seven years, and it wasn’t long after they opened before customers started to inquire about catering, says Co-Owner Chris Rongos.

While the family was reluctant to pursue it at first, after doing their due diligence and market research, they discovered that catering made sense. When the catering business was well received, the family wanted to make their food accessible to even more people. Hence, the idea for the food truck was born.

Salsa Grille’s food truck was introduced as a response to customer demand.

The Salsa Grille food truck debuted in 2019, offering a streamlined version of the restaurant’s standard menu. Chris’s brother, Jerry Rongos, says the menu was designed to ensure timely food truck service.

“Guests can enjoy made-to-order nachos, burritos, bowls, tacos, and more and get them in a matter of minutes,” he says. “We wanted to build the operation for speed and efficiency.”

Speaking of efficiency, that was another important factor for Jerry when he and his family set out to design the food truck. He says that at some food trucks, it’s not clear where to order and where to pick up food, so customers get confused and create congestion. To that end, his family put a lot of thought into designing Salsa Grille food truck to optimize the guest experience.

In hindsight, Jerry says the truck has been a nice complement to the restaurant and catering business. They often set up shop at private parties, weddings, corporate events, and more in the Fort Wayne area.

So which menu item is a must-try? Chris’s favorite is a chorizo bowl with a side of chips and their namesake salsa.

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen is a family affair.

Flora Barron and Lilia Horta are sisters who run the business with help from their parents and other relatives. In fact, their recipes have been passed down from the family’s time in the restaurant business in Mexico, allowing them to bring authentic flavor to the streets of Fort Wayne.

“All of our family has been in the business in some way,” Barron says. “My sister owned a restaurant a few years back, so we wanted to open something to offer the same type of food that we made in our native country.”

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen serves made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and more.

Now based in Fort Wayne, the family is part of a wave of Latino business owners growing in numbers and economic power nationwide. A recent study from Stanford University shows that during the past 10 years, the number of Latino business owners grew 34 percent, compared to 1 percent for all business owners in the U.S.

Barron’s recipes have been passed down from the family’s time in the restaurant business in Mexico, allowing her to bring authentic Mexican tastes to Fort Wayne.

While Barron says the family initially planned to invest in a traditional restaurant storefront, they decided to go with a food truck and catering business model instead. When they did, local organizations like the Fort Wayne Food Truck Association and the Downtown Improvement District helped them make their idea a reality.

Today, going into their fourth season in 2020, many of their customers come by word of mouth marketing, she explains.

Flora & Lily’s Mexican Kitchen serves made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and more. Barron says they can accommodate a variety of dietary needs on the menu, although she’s partial to anything made with authentic Mexican Chihuahua cheese.

Overall, she attributes the food truck’s success to three variables.

“People appreciate good flavor,” she says. “You can tell the difference between when it’s made from scratch and when it comes from a can. Second is customer service. Also, being able to be dependable. When you’re committed to being at a place, you have to show up prepared.”