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Elevate Northeast Indiana

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.”

Five questions for William Bryant Rozier

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Five questions for William Bryant Rozier

The Journal Gazette

January 20, 2020

1. As we observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 91st birthday, the average American is far too young to have any direct memory of him and his times. What was it about his life that we should be celebrating today?

Dr. King was one of the many voices of the movement who rose to be one of the strongest. He’ll always be an example of what happens when change meets opportunity meets leadership.

William Bryant Rozier, managing editor of Fort Wayne Ink Spot, stands outside the African/African-American Historical Society Museum on Douglas Avenue.

2. It’s a day when lots of blacks and whites come together to honor King’s vision of a nation where everybody counts. But some would say you shouldn’t have to set aside a day to get along. Is the King holiday a worthwhile tradition? Are we still fighting for civil rights?

Yes. We should keep setting aside a holiday. It should be more than a day … 24 hours isn’t enough.

3. King seemed to know he would eventually have to give his life for the cause of civil rights. How do you think he summoned such extraordinary courage?

He definitely knew death was a possibility. To summon the courage, I think he looked at the courage displayed by all of the civil rights fighters and those slain for the cause. He looked around him.

4. Will there ever be another leader like King? If there were, what would he or she be focusing on today?

Yes, I think there’ll be another King. I could see some of the younger kids who are growing up now … motivated and social-media-savvy … stepping into that role. He or she would be thinking toward the future, like fighting infant mortality. And civil rights for minorities, women and LGBTQ individuals.

5. Fort Wayne Ink Spot will be two years old next month. What hopes do you and your staff have for 2020?

We’ve brought in a handful of new writers and have expanded our admin staff. In addition to our usual output, and publishing new dedicated issues – Civil Rights, Comedy, HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and Infant Mortality – the Ink Spot will be producing some cool special projects.

Focus on nutrition to start the new year

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Focus on nutrition to start the new year


January 11, 2020

ating healthier is on the mind of many in the New Year. It’s a time many people try to transform their diets, but you want to make sure you do it the right way.

Kelley Marvin, owner and founder of Inspired Nutrition by Kelley, stopped by Studio 15 for some tips.

Kelley Marvin gives viewers 15 tips to improve their diets in 2020.

Her biggest suggestion for anyone looking to have a better diet is to ask where your food is coming from. She says knowing the source of your food is key to bettering yourself.

Kelley also suggests making small changes to improve your lifestyle.

If you need a little extra boost, Kelley offers services through her business. You can click here for more information.

Fort Wayne Magazine People of the Year

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Fort Wayne Magazine People of the Year


December 7, 2019

he last cover of 2019 for Fort Wayne Magazine features People of the Year. Ten people have been selected to represent the People of the Year.

Fort Wayne Magazine says these people are only givers, meaning they only give time, ideas, and experience. They give their 110%.

Fort Wayne Magazine says they’re a diverse group, “Who through their service to others, have made significant contributions to the arts, education, social services, business and civic engagement.”

On the cover of the December issue is Aaron Robles of Founders Spark. He is featured alongside nonprofit leaders, husband and wife duos, and a school superintendent.

Fort Wayne Magazine says they take about 15 to 17 people and narrowed it down to this list. This is the 2nd year the magazine as put together People of the Year.

Aaron Robles on the cover of Fort Wayne Magazine’s People of the Year issue in 2019.

Pick up an issue of Fort Wayne Magazine at over a dozen area businesses, including Kroger, or click here.

Hetty Arts Pastry offers donuts and other delectable desserts

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Hetty Arts Pastry offers donuts and other delectable desserts


November 16, 2019

rom legendary donuts to artfully crafted wedding cakes, Hetty Arts has made a name for herself in Fort Wayne, with Hetty Arts Pastry. She is a trained pastry chef that chose to bring her business to the Midwest and in our case right here in Fort Wayne.

Getty grew up in the Netherlands, and was introduced to pastry at a young age.

Hetty Arts Pastry proudly serves the Fort Wayne community with delectably delicious treats.

In lieu of a traditional store front, Hetty Arts Pastry operates as a freelance kitchen, with a small pastry truck. You can find where she’ll be by heading to Hetty Arts Pastry’s Facebook page.

Learn more about her business by clicking here.

Hetty Arts has been featured in Fort Wayne Magazine multiple times. Find out what’s in this month’s issue by clicking here.

Fort Wayne Power Circle celebrates diversity, inclusion

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Fort Wayne Power Circle celebrates diversity, inclusion

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

November 15, 2019

Demographic representation improved locally with the election of three African Americans, including two women, to the Fort Wayne City Council. But, participants in panel discussion at a Founders Spark Power Circle celebration said the city remains far from approaching what it could achieve by improving inclusiveness.

The celebration took place Nov. 8 at Wunderkammer Co. on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne. Aaron Robles, the founder of Founders Spark, led the discussion.

Aaron Robles, founder of Founders Spark, to the far left, led this panel discussion at its Nov. 8 Power Circle celebration at Wunderkammer Co. Other panelists included, from left, Clifford Clarke, who chairs the board of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce; Melissa Rinehart, lead organizer for Welcoming Fort Wayne; and John Dortch, the Black Chamber’s CEO. Clarke and Dortch are local business owners.

Other panelists included Clifford Clarke, who chairs the board of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce, John Dortch, its CEO, and Melissa Rinehart, lead organizer for Welcoming Fort Wayne. Clarke and Dortch are local business owners.

Founders Spark was created to strengthen connections in the entrepreneurial community and help provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed.

“Power Circle is Founders Spark’s attempt to help create more diversity and inclusion, and educate people on what those mean and how we can become advocates for other people,” Robles said at the outset of the event.

The subject is one he cares very deeply about as an immigrant from Mexico and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, he said. DACA provides undocumented residents who came to the United States as children with renewable work permits and protection from deportation.

“The conversation is never over. There’s always more that we could do to educate people on race and gender and all these other types of entrepreneurs and people in our community that have certain hurdles that they have come across,” he said.

“What we want to do tonight is educate and figure out how we can all walk out of here empowered to help those people that need more help and how we can become more understanding and helpful neighbors to one another.”

Robles kicked off the discussion by asking panelists why they believed it was important to talk about diversity and inclusion.

“The data is overwhelming if you look at empirical studies,” Clarke said. “Diverse, inclusive organizations — companies and cities — outperform those that are less so. Strictly by the numbers, you should be looking for diversity and inclusion.

“The other thing that I often reference is that if you don’t have diversity and inclusion and you don’t pay attention to all the PhD studies and all the data, if you are a student of history, there is a tipping point where the disenfranchised cannot take it anymore, and that’s usually never good for society,” he said.

Conversations on the topic need to take place in Fort Wayne because too many of the city’s residents don’t understand the subject and its importance, Dortch said.

“I really think we have a job trying to educate people. We need to sit down and have a conversation about race, what is race and why is it the way it is,” he said.

The fact that the Nov. 5 election was the first in Fort Wayne’s history to vote three African Americans on to the City Council shows “we have an issue,” he said.

When most members of a person’s social and professional network value diversity and inclusion, even women who have endured gender discrimination can benefit from reminders about the amount of education still needed in the city, said Rinehart, a cultural anthropologist.

“Diversity is reality in the world today — cultural diversity — because biologically, we’re all related. So, it’s hard for me to pause and … see that not everyone thinks like that. So, I have to check myself that that person over there is not educated or experienced in the same way that I am,” she said.

Public officials who fail to properly acknowledge disadvantages imposed on a group through historic oppression and actually celebrate a symbol of that oppression need to give much more serious thought to the value of inclusion, Rinehart said.

From that perspective, establishing a local July 16 holiday celebrating the birthday of Gen. Anthony Wayne in a 6-3 vote this summer was not a proud moment for the Fort Wayne City Council, she said.

“There was a lot of criticism from myself and others — scholars from all around the country who have worked with the historical era with Anthony Wayne and the Miami,” she said. “A lot of tribal members have spoken up.”

Another proposal will be brought before the City Council to celebrate Native Americans, and Rinehart encouraged everyone at the Power Circle to attend that meeting in order to show support for the proposal in person.

The resolution celebrating National Native American Heritage Month was to be introduced on Nov. 12 and go to a vote on Nov. 19.

It would acknowledge and honor significant contributions Native Americans have made to the Fort Wayne community, including the more than 200 Myaamia citizens living in part of their ancestral homeland.

New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments

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New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments


October 30, 2019

Fort Wayne musician Kurt Roembke has added another dimension to his technological skill set and his composing capabilities with the development of a free mobile app that turns physical locations into sonic environments to explore.

All that a virtual explorer needs to enjoy Roembke’s new SoundWalk is a smart phone, headset and walking shoes.

It’s called SoundWalk, and in essence, that is what the explorer can expect to enjoy as they make their way around town.

The first site chosen to represent in this manner was the Little Turtle Memorial at Lawton Place, in Fort Wayne.

Earlier this week, WBOI’s Julia Meek got Roembke off of the trail and into the studio to talk about his emerging world of spatial audio and explain how the project evolved as well as how the system works.

Her Long, Winding, Independent Year: Virginia Richardson, Tilde Multimedia Firm

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Her Long, Winding, Independent Year: Virginia Richardson, Tilde Multimedia Firm

| Fort Wayne Ink Spot

October 14, 2019

Of all things to mark Virginia’s Richardson’s one-year anniversary of starting her business, Tilde Multimedia Firm, it’s the SOS Band.  Of all things.

Virginia Richardson was first featured in Issue 22 | Volume 1 of the FWIS.  This is her follow-up.

Last October 2018, Richardson was referred to the R&B group, best known for their songs “Take Your Time,” and “Just Be Good to Me,” for her concert production work by the nationally-known DJ Keylo (aka Who Is Keylo).

As reported in her previous Fort Wayne Ink Spot article, “BET and VH1 Are on Her Resume,” Richardson handled sound design/audio production and special events management for the ubiquitous Viacom Networks.  The group was performing at Purdue Fort Wayne (PFW), and the school’s Special Events department was looking for someone to oversee their audio, video, and lighting management.  PFW became Richardson’s first client.

When SOS performed at the Summer Community Celebration in August, they asked Richardson to run their Facebook Live camera for the show.  Now, she can mark her one-year anniversary, with the memory of where she began and where’s she going; SOS and Tilde Multimedia Firm are in negotiations for Richardson to manage all of their social media.  “The calendar is still in edit mode,” she said.

Since her FWIS appearance, definitely of late, Richardson has been busy, as folks say.  She’s launched a Facebook Live talk show, Real Coffee Convo, where a group of friends discuss current events and highlight business owners…sometimes setting their live shows in the actual business they’re talking about, like a recent show recorded in the Simple Foods Café at 2000 Brooklyn.  Like with a lot of her goals, she wants to take the idea nationwide.

Richardson parlayed her Build Fort Wayne tutorship into an opportunity to manage SEED’s social media’s campaign.  She became a recipient of the Fortitude Fund (formerly the Farnsworth Fund).  She worked with the Madam CJ Walker Legacy Center over the summer, helping to promote some concerts for June’s Black History Music Month.  There’s the Fort Wayne Comedy Club.  She manages social media directives for PQC (Trains, Tech, Works, and Windrose Urban Farm), a project management, IT services, and training company that’s just been named the 2019 National Small Business 8(a) Graduate of the Year.  She has created new digital solutions for businesses such as for Sodexo FWCS. acting as their Social Media Recruiter.  She estimated that she probably makes about 10 to 15 times more than a year ago.  So, progress.

The thing with progress when you work for clients…websites and Facebook pages get updated for them, hardly ever for the contractor.  Priorities shift to and remain on the client.  One of Richardson’s biggest challenges, she said, is bookkeeping and finance.  “Sometimes when you wear all of the hats, you lose yourself.  You can’t do everything.”  Richardson needs a multimedia producer, someone she can throw some work to, like a design or a video person, because not one of her ideas has a tether.  She wants to have a TV network.  And a national newspaper.  Her idea for a publication that focuses on incarcerated citizens, written by them, for them, is en route.  Next year.