OTTUMWA — Indian Hills’ Regional Entrepreneurship Center launched in 2014. AJ Gevock, the center’s director, said it has grown as a program and has helped several startups and businesses.
The REC provides resources to small businesses in the community. It is broken down into three categories: business advising, office space, and helping businesses overall. Gevock said the place also provides entrepreneurship education and social marketing courses to businesses and Indian Hills students.
REC, Gevock said, along with Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress, is working to promote Lemonade Day, a youth entrepreneurship campaign targeting third, fourth and fifth graders. Gevock is also working to expose high school and college students to the resources the program provides. He gives presentations at OHS and at Indian Hills.
“I’d like to have more collaboration,” he said. “We’re starting to collaborate a bit more with SparkTank; we’re connecting businesses with SparkTank so they can help them with their websites. I’d like to get more involved with high school entrepreneurship classes.”
The center has also been working on business and child care solutions. “We’re working with local businesses,” Gevock said, “helping them with what we call a ‘child care desert.’ We don’t have any child care. People can’t keep jobs because they don’t have anywhere to take their kids. We’re helping local businesses explore options to make more options for childcare, whether that’s creating a child care network, or looking at how we can open a center and collaborate as businesses in the same goal, or building a new center.”
The program has also decided to let businesses participate in 10,000 Small Businesses, a Goldman Sachs Initiative that allows local businesses to develop five-year growth plans for their businesses.
Gevock said REC has helped businesses who have decided to use the space. Business advising is another tool that has helped the entrepreneurs.
“No one knows the steps it takes to start their own business,” Gevock said, “it’s not a perfect world where you have that knowledge. When you’re out here we have business advisors on site. We’re really relieving that financial burden and giving them that chance to grow. It’s really just one big networking circle. There’s lots of great resources in our community, but you can very easily not know about them. It helps to have the resources we have as a college, the resources we have as a center and the resources we get through the businesses that are housed here.”
Jorge Villeda, founder of Villeda Construction and Krista Tedrow, founder of No Opportunity Wasted ( N.O.W) both said REC has helped them grow.
“It’s been tremendous,” Villeda said. “I have my living room and my office in the same spot, so we could barely fit. Then I was able to find a spot and AJ has helped me tremendously. It’s growing. This is an incubator for small businesses to come and take advantage of the resources and help available. This has been a tremendous step stone for me. I feel more ready to take on a lot more.”
“The REC is one of Ottumwa’s best kept secrets,” Tedrow said. “AJ, Bryan, and Shannon have given me the tools I need to successfully start two businesses in the last 6 months. AJ has been integral in the relationships I have developed through networking opportunities. He leads the REC with integrity and passion. Bryan has provided me with wisdom and experience in anything from writing a business plan, requesting capital funding and becoming certified with SBA. Gayla Harrison and Lonnie Bloomquist, who sit on the board have also been involved in guiding me. The REC team has been a vital part of my successful journey of entrepreneurship.”