Four local businesses and one non-profit organization participated in the 2021 Forge Competition. This was the fifth offering for the competition following seven weeks of classes with instructor Scott Hughes of Marion Technical College.
“Part of the genesis of The Forge was that when we looked at some economic information, we learned that Marion was relatively low compared to other communities of our size in entrepreneurial activities,” said Dr. Bob Haas in competition opening remarks.
“In 2017, Marion Tech teamed with Lars Olson and Julie Welch, two members of the 2017 Leadership Marion class to offer these free classes,” says Tami Galloway, Program Manager for America’s Workforce Development Capital. “Approximately 75 individuals have completed The Forge since. Many have become recognizable companies in Marion. We are honored to be able to assist these businesses in becoming reality.”
“The success of small businesses is key to economic development in a community. We’re thrilled at the number of great participants who have come through The Forge in the last five years,” says Olson. “Based on the creativity we have seen from these entrepreneurs, Marion has a bright future.”
“I love the entire community rallying around small businesses. When a small business fills a need in this community, we are all better for it,” says Mike Augenstein, competition host.
Brent Blanchard kicked off the competition filling judges with political puns and samples.
“Commander in Cheese is a fun mobile food experience that crafts grilled cheese sandwiches that are inspired after the historical significance of America’s past presidents,” said Blanchard. “Using fun and fresh ingredients, we take the grilled cheese you loved as a kid and we make them more layered than an impeachment hearing.”
Ana Malone presented next. She discussed why she believes her method in cleaning is better, the growth she has experienced in the past, and anticipates moving forward.
“I started this cleaning service with my daughter to fill the gaps that discount cleaning services were leaving,” says Malone, owner of Busy B Cleaning Service, LLC. “We offer a premium cleaning service.”
The third presentation was from Chris Baumgartner, head coach, and owner of The Barn Baseball & Softball Academy.
“The mission of The Barn, when you think baseball and softball academy, a lot of people think skill set. We’re going to work on physical stuff, make the kids a better player,” said Baumgartner. “That is the case, but the main part of coaching is not just teaching skill set. It’s teaching life lessons.”
Jeremy and Natalie Berger gave the final, and winning, presentation on Get Wired Solutions, LLC to add electric car charging stations at local attractions to bring customers and revenue. The couple won a $2,500 prize.
“Our mission is to build a more sustainable community by preparing the path for electric vehicles,” says Natalie Berger. “But our vision is even bigger. We see technology advancing quickly in a way that not only adds convenience but also improves the sustainability of a community.”
Following the presentations of the for-profit division, Jess Lamar Reece Holler gave a presentation on behalf of the Marion Voices team, the sole competitor in the non-profit division. They won the $1,000 nonprofit prize.
“Marion Voices is Marion County’s county-wide folklife and cultural arts for social justice program. We exist to amplify Marion County’s under-heard heritages for more just and abundant futures,” explained Holler. “We also want to build livelihoods for Marion County cultural artists, and to cultivate something we call critical, reparative pride-in-place.”
The classes and event are sponsored by Sakamura, First Citizens National Bank, Alluvial Private Wealth, Marion Technical College, Marion Young Professionals, United Way of North Central Ohio, Verne Hart Insurance Agency, Marion Community Foundation, Nuova Heat, and News Force 24/7.
At the end of the evening, Augenstein announced plans for The Forge 2.0 for those who have completed the first round of classes to participate in another set.