Bukal Sparkling Water offers more than a beverage

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Bukal Sparkling Water offers more than a beverage


July 2019

Local beverage company, Bukal, is bottling bold and extraordinary sparkling water flavors inspired by river regions around the globe. The company has taken off and can now be found in at least nine area cities – including Fort Wayne.

Bukal Beverage Company was founded by Robert and Yvonne Johnson and inspired by fruits from the Philippines

One of the founders of the company, Yvonne Johnson, grew up in the Philippines, where clean water wasn’t always accessible. This led to Bukal to give a portion of each bottle sale to go back to their source. Those sources are region-specific to clean water project where they drew inspiration for their flavors.

Indus is a mango rose flavor, drawing inspiration to that river. Bukal says this is their “homage to Pakistan, India, and Tibet, Indus is both exotic and sweetly familiar. A fragrant blend of mango and pineapple is the perfect marriage of scents and flavors found along the banks of the ancient South Asian river.”

Bukal’s next flavor is Mekong, “the banks of the southeast Asia’s most famous river boasts shades of green unlike any other place on earth. Mekong is an unparalleled blend of our favorite green hues of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos: guava, lime, and mint.”

Bukal only has three flavors, a homage to Fort Wayne’s three rivers. Their other flavor is Yangtze, “in Chinese culture, the peach represents longevity. Along the banks of the Yangtze, earth’s third longest river, you’ll find wild peaches and passion fruit ripe for the picking- two flavors that combine into one exquisite taste unlike any other.”

You can learn more about the company by clicking here.

Locals weigh in on technology’s impact

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Locals weigh in on technology’s impact

| The Journal Gazette

June 16, 2019

We talked with several Fort Wayne-area residents about how technology has affected their lives personally or at work, relating to retail and industry. Here’s an edited version of some of the responses:

Lauren Caggiano does a battle rope exercise at Absolute Fitness Results in Fort Wayne. The certified fitness trainer says “technology has democratized health and wellness.”

“At work, we use iPads to control the flow of seating and walkie-talkies to communicate to each other. I think the technology we use is helpful because it helps improve the communication amongst the staff.”

– Marie Solis, 18, Fort Wayne, Red Robin restaurant employee

“When I first started at the library, we used card catalogs. All this, what we know today with computer and email; … it is much faster and more comprehensive than paper sources. As an example, if someone needed a phone number from out of town it was a lot harder to find. Doesn’t matter now with the new technology.”

– Stephen Miller, 56, Fort Wayne, Allen County Public Library employee

“Technology has democratized health and wellness. If time or money or both (are) an issue and you can’t go to a gym and work with a trainer, with apps on our phone there is really little to no excuse to tracking whether it’s your nutrition, movement or both. Technology has made it easier now more than ever to be empowered so that in a way is a challenge for me. … That is my competition since some people may not want to leave the comfort of their home.”

– Lauren Caggiano, 34, Fort Wayne, owner and founder of New Heights Fitness and a certified personal trainer

“Technology has impacted me in my current job because everything that we do is through a computer, including taking people’s orders, paying with (a credit) card or ApplePay, and scheduling myself along with other staff members. A new staff member also would have to watch instructional videos to be taught how to do things within the store instead of being physically told. Things would be a lot more difficult if we did not have technology.”

– Cameron Fordham, 18, Fort Wayne, McDonald’s restaurant employee

“Honestly it’s had a really negative effect on retail. The emergence of online shopping and in result online returns in store are the reason that many stores like Charlotte Russe are forced to close.”

– Noelle Larimer, 18, Fort Wayne, American Eagle sales associate

Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

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Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

| Input Fort Wayne

July 17, 2019

s the saying goes, time is money, and that saying especially rings true in an office environment. One female entrepreneur is helping interior designers save time on everyday tasks with the help of a newly released app, Sample Snap.

Melissa Hall (left) and peers at the 2017 Launch Women Pitch Competition

You could say the concept behind Sample Snap is 20 years in the making. Melissa Hall, currently the co-founder of Bona Vita Architecture and the brains behind the app, has been in the architecture design field for more than two decades. In that time, her experience as an interior designer exposed her to the inefficiencies that plague firms of all sizes all over the globe.

Tasks like ordering samples of fabric, carpet, and other materials from sample books in a library can be cumbersome and resource-intensive.

So Sample Snap is disrupting the status quo by helping designers easily order samples, as well as store ideas and preferences within the app.

Drawing on her personal experience and feedback from industry peers across the country via a survey, Hall was able to quantify the potential savings in both time and money for app users. She collected 120 survey responses and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive—97 percent of designers said they would use the app.

“Based on the feedback from the survey, I learned designers estimate it takes them 5-7 minutes to order just one sample,” she says. “I took the average billable rate, which is $145 an hour and figured out that is more than $16 of billable time to order just one sample! The app reduces that from 5-7 minutes to about 30 seconds.”

This savings really adds up because for each project designers take on, they order dozens of samples to create multiple color palettes. The app is also a great tool for firm owners because designers can save time on projects, making the firm more profitable.

Speaking of money, the business model is to have manufacturers—the customer—underwrite the cost of the app so that it’s free for designers to use. According to Hall, manufacturers compete with one another to get interior designers to specify their products. If they can make it more attractive for designers to work with them, they’ve carved out a point of difference.

In other words, Sample Snap is a marketing advantage for manufacturers, and Hall is using that to her advantage.

She didn’t come to that conclusion right away, however. It was thanks to a business competition and later a mentor and advisor at The NIIC that she determined exactly how to monetize the concept. After competing in the Launch Women Pitch competition in the fall of 2017, she was connected with The NIIC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mike Fritsch for coaching. He helped her develop a financial model and determine that commission-based was the way to go to accommodate manufacturers of all sizes.

Based on his recommendation, she plans to charge per sample ordered—so the higher volume company naturally pays more because they have more orders. Those companies will also benefit from a form of business intelligence.

“For example, when designers save products to their ‘Love It’ Box, the manufacturers can buy that data from Sample Snap to see who loves the product,” she explains. “So maybe in three months, when that product is actually available for ordering, they can push out customized, targeted marketing to the designer about that specific product as a reminder that they loved it at the trade show recently.”

Speaking of trade shows, having a presence at one, in particular, was a milestone for the business. Held every June at The Mart in Chicago since 1969, NeoCon serves as the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation, offering ideas and introductions that shape the built environment today and into the future.

Hall had identified NeoCon as the ideal place to launch her app because of its high-profile nature. While she didn’t have any manufacturers on board at the time of the convention, she says she still reaped benefits in the form of awareness.

“I used the opportunity to spread the word out about it,” she says. “I did a pretty aggressive social media campaign with multiple posts each day of the event and the weekend leading up to the event and sent a series of emails to my target customers’ presidents and VPs of marketing.”

It’s no secret she’s hungry to bring the app to market, and she’s in good company with her entrepreneurial pursuits.

According to data cited in Forbes, women-owned firms have grown at a rate 1.5 times greater than other small businesses over the last 15 years. Sample Snap is one of these businesses on the move.

CookSpring Shared Kitchen is Positively Fort Wayne

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CookSpring Shared Kitchen is Positively Fort Wayne


August 26, 2019

Sharing a commercial kitchen is paying off for some local food businesses. “This is kind of our hub where all the baking happens and where we get all the work done,” said Hetty Arts, owner of Hetty Arts Pastry.

Hetty Arts Pastry truck

Hetty Arts has a sweet set up. For three years it’s been working out of the CookSpring Shared Kitchen located in the back of the Summit Building at 1025 West Rudisill Boulevard. “We started with a little pastry truck and we really just wanted to grow our business and not have to worry about all the overhead costs of getting a space and having to staff it,” said Arts.

“You can’t do that from home and you actually need a licensed kitchen,” said Troy Tiernon, General Manager of Cookspring. “So I provide that to the community. Having a licensed kitchen where you can come in, focus on your business and sell it to the people you want to sell it to. CookSpring is actually built to help food entrepreneurs start their businesses.”

Tiernon has been running this operation for four years. He’s helped Hetty Arts Pastry and others cook and bake their way into business. “You just pay a fee and you have access to everything,” said Arts. Tiernon said, “Our current rate is $20 an hour.”

CookSpring also provides the sizzle for other foodies like meal prep business Smile More. “We started cooking healthy to help ourselves,” said Smile More co-owner Terel Lynn. “In the last six months we decided hey why not make this into a bigger dream and two weeks ago we got into this commercial kitchen and now we’re cooking for other people.”

Lynn and his fiancee Joanna Hersey started using the facilities at CookSpring just a few weeks ago. Their business provides premeasured, portion control meals to those looking for a healthy time saving option. “I started meal prepping three years ago for just myself,” said Jersey, Smile More co-owner. “I would spend a few hours on Sunday and have all my meals for the week. We’ve been doing it every week since. It is so successful for us.”

CookSpring has 30 clients who use its facility and some have branched out on their own. “We’ve had a couple of grads from our kitchen,” said Tiernon. “Our first was Junk Ditch on Main Street. They cooked out of here for about a year and a half. Our second was Sol Kitchen that was also a taco truck and he graduated and opened his own business on Lima and Dupont Road it’s called Solbird. Then our third was Ragin’ Cajun food truck and he opened up on the 13th floor of the AEP building and it’s called NOLA 13. We’ve probably had around 90 businesses that have actually started here and grown.”

“It’s pretty priceless,” said Arts. “We’re really lucky because Fort Wayne is a smaller city and we have something like this available to us which is pretty unusual. Having everything be shared is extremely useful for small businesses.”

CookSpring Shared Kitchen offers 24 hour access. Information on renting the space can be found on the CookSpring website.

HU alumni open food truck

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HU alumni open food truck

| The Herald-Press

August 23, 2019

Two Huntington University alumni have started their own food truck business, which aims to build community through their food.

Hannah Britton, the general manager of Chow Down takes orders from a line of customers from the window of the Chow Down Food Truck.

Edwin Chow, the owner of Chow Down, and Hannah Britton, the general manager, are dishing out Korean tacos, loaded nachos, and other creations from the Chow Down Food Truck. The truck serves the greater Fort Wayne area including Huntington, Warsaw, and Columbia City.

“What we love about the food industry is the potential,” said Chow. “The ability to gather people and gather communities around.”

At first glance, the white-and-orange, retrofitted bus looks like any other food truck, but a closer look reveals verses from The Bible and prayers written along the exterior. The verses and prayers are a conversation starter according to Britton, who says many customers will ask about them while she’s serving them.

“If we don’t get to explicitly say that then we trust that through kindness and love and other simple ways we can stand out,” said Britton. “That something is being shared.”

Chow says the goal is to help people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders to take one step closer to knowing Jesus. They have provided food for Campus Life groups and a youth ministry group in New Haven called The Hub at The Crossing Community Church.

“We want to meet physical needs by feeding people as well as spiritual needs through relationships,” Chow said.

Chow and Britton knew they wanted to utilize food to build community since both had ministry-related degrees from Huntington University and both also worked in the food industry. A restaurant was out of the question because they wouldn’t be able to stay at their regular jobs. Chow works for Youth for Christ in Fort Wayne and Britton works at Place of Grace in Huntington, so when Britton threw out the idea of a food truck, they saw it as an opportunity to merge their passions.

“We kind of laughed it off if we’re being serious,” Chow said. “But that month we both just kept thinking about the food truck.”

Their first conversations about the food truck began in the winter, and by January, they purchased a bus from another Huntington University alumnus. They purchased appliances from Josh Kesler, senior pastor of The Well church in Huntington and assistant men’s soccer coach for Huntington University.

The bus underwent a retrofitting process to become a food truck, but Chow and Britton didn’t want to wait until the food truck was finished to start gathering people and preparing food. A menu was developed by experimenting with recipes.

They tested their food creations on a community of people who gathered every Wednesday night from February through the first week of June. They continued testing until the week before opening the food truck.

“Edwin has put in an incredible amount of work, and so have I,” Britton said. “But just with all of our efforts, if the Lord’s hand wouldn’t have been in it the way that it was it would not be what it is.”

Since their launch at the Jorgenson Famliy YMCA in Fort Wayne, they have catered for weddings, graduation parties, business lunches, church events, and were a part of the grand opening of Promenade Park in Fort Wayne.

Chow Down’s food truck will be at St. Pete’s First Community Church in Huntington from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 25.

“Young Entrepreneur” of the month: Blake Webb

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“Young Entrepreneur” of the month: Blake Webb

| WPTA 21

August 24, 2019

Each month, ABC 21 partners with Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana to showcase “Young Entrepreneurs” in our area.

For August, we introduced Blake Webb, 18, and his businesses: DeKalb Computer Clinic and Konnect Hosting.

Blake Webb, Fort Wayne’s Young Entrepreneur of the Month

The Auburn native fell in love with computers at a young age. He created his first website at the age of 13.

Now, he can disassemble any computer and diagnose a problem and then fix it or make a recommendation. His Konnect Hosting business provides monthly subscriptions to servers for online gamers.

“It’s just fun. Just the thrill of taking it apart, seeing what’s wrong with it, and then when you put it all back together and it boots up and it works, and then you can say ‘Hey, I fixed your problem,’ and everybody is just like ‘Oh my God, that’s awesome. I couldn’t figure it out. Thank you,’ that’s the best part,” Webb said.

He is studying computer science at Ivy Tech and plans to soon transfer to Indiana Tech.

Webb said he plans to complete internships to expand his knowledge, but both businesses, he said, are having great success.

Right now he works from home, but he hopes to one day open up a shop.

“I don’t ever want to stop those. I just love them,” Webb said. “Even if one day they just stopped getting money, which I doubt, I would still continue to do them because I’m passionate about them.”

How does your Latino heritage inform your approach to business?

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How does your Latino heritage inform your approach to business?

| Input Fort Wayne

July 10, 2019

How does your Latino heritage inform your approach to business? Three Latino entrepreneurs blazing their own trail in different industries answer this question.

Amparo Rojas is an entrepreneur who designs and makes hand-crafted jewelry pieces for men and women.

How does your Latino heritage inform your approach to business? Three Latino entrepreneurs blazing their own trail in different industries answer this question.

José Cruz

José Cruz is the owner of Crimson Knight Tattoo at 1804 ½ W. Main St. But before he was an entrepreneur, he worked his way up the corporate ladder. Most recently he worked for a property management company. He was promoted from leasing coordinator to a regional representative.

“I would travel from state to state overseeing projects,” he says. “It was a really good experience, and I learned a lot from it, but there was something missing.”

For Cruz, a formally trained artist and a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, that something was a creative outlet. It was an existential struggle, as he put it.

“If there’s something that you’re supposed to be doing in life, and you’re not fulfilling that, you feel like you have this empty void,” he says.

Around that time his brother, Obie, graduated from what’s now Purdue Fort Wayne. So Cruz decided to make it a family affair and partner with his brother to open up Crimson Knight, a tattoo shop and art gallery. He wants to elevate the tattoo industry as a whole while providing a space for local artists to showcase their work.

His vision came to life about a year and a half ago, when he completed the restoration of a previously distressed space. Cruz says the response from the artist community has been positive.

“We put on about six to eight art shows last year, and so far this year, we’ve done three shows as well.”

He acknowledges that this would not have been possible without the support of his family and the stability of a full-time job at a local firm. He parents taught him the value of hard work. And although he grew up poor, Cruz says rich cultural experiences left a mark on him.

“As a child, my first experience with art was actually with my parents,” he explains. “I saw all of these pictures and paintings in their Bible. At the time, I didn’t know too much about religion, but I remember thinking to myself, “Wow.”

It was those artists, whom Cruz refers to as “the masters” that later inspired him. Now he’s carrying on the favor.

“At this point, I really want to inspire and teach so that others learn from what I’ve done,” he says. “So that in the pursuit of happiness, I can make this world a better place.”

Amparo Rojas

Under the umbrella of Worn Intentions, the Mexican-born entrepreneur Amparo Rojas designs and makes hand-crafted jewelry pieces for both men and women. Her complementary services include jewelry making workshops and feminine empowerment coaching.

For Rojas, the path to entrepreneurship was accidental in a way. In the summer of 2017, she went to a yoga retreat. A friend was wearing a gemstone necklace that caught her eye. She wanted to buy it, but it was out of her budget. So Rojas did what a lot of entrepreneurs do: She found another way.

She went on YouTube to find tutorials and ended up purchasing gemstones. She was hooked and continued making pieces not only for herself, but also for retail. Fast forward to today, and she’s pursuing the business full time.

Rojas sells her pieces at markets and through an online store. But if you ask her, there’s much more to the business than making money.

“I believe heavily in the mind-body connection,” she says. “The world we create is entirely based on our emotions and our thoughts.”

Her business is rooted in this philosophy.

When customers wear her jewelry, she wants them to feel empowered and in control of their destiny. The gems and crystals are the centerpieces of each item, which is an intentional move on her part, too.

According to Rojas, for centuries people have believed that these natural elements hold special spiritual powers. That’s why she handpicks each of them to ensure their quality.

In this way, the business is an extension of her values, and she intends to maintain that artistic control even if the business scales. Speaking of art, Rojas says she feels most drawn to the works of Frido Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Both artists came from the same area of Mexico as her family. To her, they represent the beauty and diversity of Mexican heritage and art.

Sal Soto

Sal Soto started a translation company called DeSoto Translation & Marketing in 2000. Although he doesn’t speak much Spanish, Soto is Mexican-American, and his family roots run deep in southern Texas.

Currently working as a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty, he says his pursuits all go back to this first iteration as an entrepreneur.

“It all goes back to when I first started my company DeSoto, trying to find cheap office space,” he says. “And later on, I was trying to find an office or a house in the 46807 zip code because I grew up on the south side.”

He had a knack for finding real estate, and Hispanic entrepreneurs would come to him for help finding offices and negotiating deals. In the process, Soto realized there was an opportunity.

“I was like, you know, I might as well get paid, right?”

So he decided to give it a go a few years ago and pursued a real estate license. His business, DeSoto Holdings, came out of that endeavor. He invested the first several years building up the infrastructure of his business, what he calls “laying the foundation.” Today he helps consumers and business owners find property.

The serial entrepreneur says while real estate is a relatively new endeavor for him, the underlying concept is not. Ultimately, it always goes back to trying to solve people’s problems and then trying to match them up with the best solutions.

The real estate business relies heavily on trust, and trust is built on relationships, something Soto learned from a young age.

“Mexican culture is about creating relationships, and that’s where the trust comes into play,” he says. “In our culture, you establish that rapport, and then you do business. Not the other way around, like we’re used to in traditional American society. To skip that process was almost like disrespect. But I think in the last five or 10 years, we’ve shortened that process because everything is moving faster in our world. So the question is: How do you create an authentic relationship with somebody when you only have a few hours?”

Coffee With Friends marks first anniversary

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Coffee With Friends marks first anniversary

| IN|FW Newspapers

July 2, 2019

Coffee with friends is not just a social activity for conversation and enjoying rich, dark mocha. It’s also the name of a new niche coffee roasting business in New Haven. Coffee With Friends (CWF) marked its first year roasting and selling coffee in May and is hoping to expand its markets online and into more area restaurants.

Coffee With Friends founders Aaron and Michelle Cantrell began roasting and packaging their special blends of coffee a year ago for the Fort Wayne Farmer’s market and the internet. Their Aillio roaster can do a kilo of green beans in about 20 minutes.

Founded by Michigan natives Aaron and Michelle Cantrell, CWF coffee can now be purchased at Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market on Barr Street from May through September and Parkview Field from October through April. It’s also at Integrity Physical Therapy in New Haven and at NOLA 13 on Floor 13 of the Indiana Michigan Power building in Fort Wayne. In addition it can be purchased online at and on Facebook at coffeewithfriendsFW.

It all started when Aaron, who is described by Michelle as a “coffee snob,” bought some green Colombian coffee beans at Old Crown three years ago. He roasted them on a pizza pan in their oven. Some of them got burned, but he kept experimenting until he mastered it. “After a while,” Michelle said, “we had so much coffee we began giving it to friends. They liked it so much they said they would actually buy it. That’s when we decided we had a marketable product.

“We invested in a Behmor roaster,” she said, “which is about the size of a toaster oven. It could only do a half-a-pound at a time and we quickly outgrew it and had to upgrade to an Aillio Bullet roaster that can do a kilo of green beans at a time just to keep up with the demand. We now do our roasting in the commercial kitchen of a local church in order to meet the requirements of the health department. The beans, which come in 20- and 45-pound bags, are stored at the church.

What started as a hobby for Aaron, whose regular job is executive assistant to the pastor of a Fort Wayne church, has become a full-blown business. He does the roasting and she has been upgraded from coffee lover and supporter of his hobby to business partner who does the labeling, weighing, scooping and filling the 1-pound craft bags. She also makes deliveries for online sales in the Fort Wayne area free of charge.

“At our booth at the farmer’s market we offer samples of five different coffees,” Michelle said. “People tell us it’s kind of like wine tasting. Each blend has its own flavor notes ranging from chocolate and fruity to caramel and even smokey. Our labels profile the blends and the flavors customers should be able to experience. They come in both regular and decaffeinated. The unroasted beans have a sort of pleasant, grassy/earthy smell.”

Before getting to the commercial stage, Aaron did extensive research on coffee in general and specifically those from Honduras, India, Java, Indonesia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Tanzania, Peru and Costa Rica. He found a supplier in South Bend that keeps them in beans from all those countries. Honduras beans are used in a medium roast blend he calls Florida Morning and another that is a French roast called Quantum.

One that he and their 15-year-old son, Aiden, (already a coffee snob) invented is called “Goes to 11” which is a play on words from a movie about a heavy metal band. It means a step and beyond in flavor and roast level. It’s an extra-dark blend of Malabar and Guatemalan beans featuring notes of subtle spice, brown sugar and dark chocolate. The label features Aiden playing his guitar. It was just introduced June 15 at their farmers market booth.

Their goal is to get an even bigger roaster and open a storefront shop or possibly partner with a restaurant. “We’re getting close to being maxed out as to how much we can make with the present equipment,” she said.

The Cantrells view their customers as friends and strive to make the experience a relational community outreach. It’s a vehicle to build community around coffee. “One Sunday evening a month,” says Michelle, “we invite our faithful customers to come to our home on State Road 930 in New Haven to see how we roast our coffee and mix our blends. They can choose beans from one of our source countries, scoop it, roast it, bag it and take it home as a gift from Coffee With Friends.”

Two entrepreneurs launch community-centric businesses in Fort Wayne’s up-and-coming ’05

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Two entrepreneurs launch community-centric businesses in Fort Wayne’s up-and-coming ’05

| Input Fort Wayne

December 12, 2018

When entrepreneurs Kylee Hays and Leitia (Lay-shuh) McHugh started looking for a shared location for their two, growing businesses, they knew what they wanted to find.

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

Hays wanted an open space to host events, while McHugh desired a space with natural light that was close to home to accommodate her family.

So when they found a house-like building at 1412 Delaware Ave. nestled in the heart of Fort Wayne’s highly coveted Forest Park Neighborhood, they knew it was the perfect fit. The building, which formerly housed a marketing firm, dates back to the 1920s with hardwood floors, tall ceilings, and historic woodwork throughout. Now, it’s home to two new, creative ventures.

On the main floor, McHugh runs a one-of-a-kind party themed care-package company called the Confetti Post. Upstairs, Hays runs the Bookhouse Studio, which offers yoga, mindfulness/meditation classes, and a creative kids’ event center.

While these modern business concepts are unique in a historic neighborhood, both entrepreneurs say their neighbors have welcomed them with open arms since they opened in October.

“We were blown away by the community support,” McHugh says. “We had about 100 people through our doors for our open house up until the time of closing our doors.”

So what do the Bookhouse Studio and the Confetti Post do?

Input Fort Wayne sat down with the entrepreneurs to hear their stories and learn more about their shared interest in engaging the Fort Wayne community.

Meet the Bookhouse Studio

When Klyee Hays moved to Fort Wayne for her husband’s job, she knew it was time to plant roots.

Having moved two previous times, she was ready to find her community, and she had an idea for a business.

After finding herself in the pit of postpartum depression, she began practicing yoga and realized how incredibly helpful it was to her, so she wanted to share her passion for yoga with others.

She completed training to teach yoga and meditation and combined that with her background in social work to become an instructor at Simply Yoga Studio in Fort Wayne. But after teaching there for awhile, she wanted to find her own space.

She envisioned a place where she could not only teach yoga, but also invite the community in to host events and test ideas of their own.

From this, Bookhouse Studio was born. Hays says Bookhouse is an intentional blank space to be used for all types of gatherings where people can learn and connect.

An introvert herself, she was craving the closeness of community around her, which inspired her to rent her space to community members. On hard days, she says the connections she’s made in Fort Wayne are what keeps her going.

With a maximum capacity of 25, Bookhouse is ideal for intimate gatherings, Hays says. She describes the atmosphere as “cozy, intentional, and welcoming.”

In addition to yoga, events like workshops, craft gatherings, and kid’s classes have taken place in the studio so far.

She says it’s also great for birthday parties, bridal showers, private rentals, pop-up shops, and other creative collaborations.

For more information, connect with her on Instagram at @bookhousestudio.

Meet the Confetti Post

Similar to the beginnings of Bookhouse Studio, the Confetti Post came to be after McHugh had her second child and felt for an entire year that she was ready to get out of her house and do something more adventurous.

She loved being a mom, but she wanted to do something else, too. So in March of 2016, her passion for parties met a little Pinterest inspiration, and her idea for a party-in-a box company was born.

On her website, McHugh describes the concept as “kind of like a care package, but a lot more fun and without all the work hopping from store to store to find the perfect items, buying a boring box, then fighting the lines at the post office.”

She started the business in her basement and quickly expanded it to her daughters’ room. With steady growth, the Confetti Post doubled its sales in 2017 and needed more room.

Today, it’s a full-fledged online business that allows people to send themed care packages for birthdays, cheer-ups, and other (wittier) occasions, like pity parties. Visit the website and choose from dozens of options in package sizes ranging from $22-$104.

When collecting items for each package, McHugh says she makes it a point to give back by sourcing products from other small businesses and focusing ethical production as often as possible. She often buys from vendors she finds on Instagram, Etsy, New York Now, and through other online connections.

She recently hired two more people to join her team, so she has more time to focus on marketing her business in the Fort Wayne community.

Although the Confetti Post lives online, she says she still desires to interact with the local community daily. In fact, her office even has a tiny storefront open to the public for visits. Typical hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

For more information, connect with her on Instagram at @theconfettipost.

New business bubbling up: Kombucha entrepreneur launches sparkling water company in Fort Wayne

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New business bubbling up: Kombucha entrepreneur launches sparkling water company in Fort Wayne

| Input Fort Wayne

January 9th, 2019

A few years ago, Robert Johnson became a beverage entrepreneur by chance. A soda addict at the time, he wanted a way to get the fizz and flavor he loved in a soft drink with less sugar, so he started homebrewing kombucha, or fermented tea, in his kitchen.

Yvonne and Robert Johnson launched Bukál flavored sparkling water.

Before long, his hobby grew into a full-blown business called Crossroads Kombucha, which started producing the fizzy drink using locally sourced fruits and herbs at 810 Donnell Ave.

After building the company for about three years, Johnson sold it and is onto his next venture: flavored sparkling water.

But not just any sparkling water, mind you. It’s called Bukál (boo-call), and it’s a sparkling water brand devoted to sharing the exotic flavors of the world with a powerful mission.

“Crossroads Kombucha just kind of happened; it was never planned,” Robert says. “This time, we’re trying to be more intentional, so we can make this into something that’s not just a product, but a story.”

Along with filling a gap in northeast Indiana’s beverage industry with sparkling water, Bukál has a personal meaning to Johnson and his wife, Yvonne.

The couple met while teaching together in the Philippines in 2004. She grew up there, and he eventually moved there for three years, where they married and moved to Thailand for a while.

Robert says those years solidified his love of Southeast Asia. So when he left Crossroads in May and he and his wife returned to the Philippines for her father’s funeral that same month, they felt the desire to connect her homeland to their new hometown in Fort Wayne.

What both places have in common is water—or rivers, to be more exact. Bukál is the Filipino word for stream, fountain, oasis, source, and bubbles.

Since Fort Wayne has three rivers, the Johnsons decided to start their company based on three rivers in Southeast Asia: the Indus, the Mekong, and the Yangtze.

Each of these river regions defines the flavor profiles for Bukál’s first three types of sparkling water. The Indus is a mango rose, the Mekong is a guava lime mint, and the Yangtze is a passionfruit peach.

“It’s about drawing our customers into a bigger story,” Robert says.

Each of these river regions defines the flavor profiles for Bukál’s first three types of sparkling water. The Indus is a mango rose, the Mekong is a guava lime mint, and the Yangtze is a passionfruit peach.

“It’s about drawing our customers into a bigger story,” Robert says.

Along with giving local consumers a taste of Southeast Asia, Bukál is also connecting them with location-specific causes in the region. Working with an organization called WateROAM in Singapore, the company donates a portion of its proceeds to clean water projects within the same regions its flavors are inspired by.

The Johnsons hope to extend their flavors and support beyond Southeast Asia someday, too.

Robert says the goal of this effort is to expand people’s definitions of poverty and global need by showing them the range of places that are often overlooked and underserved around the world.

“A lot of times when we think of poverty, our mind goes directly to Africa, which has a huge need, but there are other regions that don’t get the recognition or support they need,” he says. “That’s where our passion lies—in those untapped regions.”

Along with being a good vehicle for giving back, flavored sparkling water is also a much easier beverage to produce and scale than kombucha was because it doesn’t have to ferment, Robert says.

“Kombucha was about a two-and-a-half-week process per bottle; this is about a day-and-a-half process per bottle,” he explains.

The Johnsons started making their flavored sparkling water at the Fresh Food Hub in Auburnearlier this year. Since then, they’ve received a Fortitude Fund grant, attracted investors, and purchased the Hoosier building at 1036 Huffman St. to be the new home base of their operations.

They are currently in the process of renovating the space, and they plan to hire workers in production, delivery, event planning, and administrative positions soon. Check their website and social media for details.

While their space has a small storefront that will be open for visitors later this year, Robert says the easiest way to find Bukál’s products is at Fort Wayne area restaurants and grocery stores, like the 3 Rivers Coop where the water will be available by February, he hopes.

Since sparkling water doesn’t need to stay refrigerated like kombucha, he’s had an easier time getting it into restaurants, too.

“Sparkling water has a shelf life of about a year, as opposed to two or three months with kombucha, so it’s easier to work with,” he explains.

As he and Yvonne plan for the future, they are hoping to scale the product to even more restaurants and stores nationwide, making them potential competition for big name brands likeLaCroix.

While they didn’t initially plan on being serial entrepreneurs, Yvonne says the Fort Wayne community has inspired them since they moved here in 2011.

“I think it’s a very big reason why Crossroads and Bukál were born,” she says. “There’s an entrepreneurial atmosphere here in Fort Wayne, and there’s the support of the community, as well.”