Throughout the Lincoln Trail region, you’ll find strong connections to our nation’s military and a deep appreciation for the men and women who serve our country. At the same time, ours is a region that strongly supports entrepreneurship and small businesses. It’s no surprise that so many veterans have chosen to start businesses in Central Kentucky.
At the Kentucky Innovation Network, we’re committed to supporting veteran entrepreneurship, and we’re very proud to sponsor the Entrepreneurial Summit, set for 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Fort Knox. Presented in partnership with Western Kentucky University, Elizabethtown-Fort Knox and the Army Continuing Education System, the summit offers a full day of activity and is open to all potential entrepreneurs including but not limited to veterans, those currently serving and their families.
We’re bringing together more than 15 experts who all have a passion for growing entrepreneurship and ensuring veterans have access to the expertise and resources they need to succeed. Those who have considered starting a business, regardless of industry, are sure to find helpful insight at the summit.
“We have a large number of service members who are preparing to transition out of the military and determining the best course of action,” said Dr. Evelyn Ellis, Regional Chancellor of WKU Elizabethtown-Ft. Knox.
“When they visit our campus, they talk to us about their dreams of starting a business. They ask about what classes they need, what they should do while they are still in the service and what resources are available to them,” she said.
The Entrepreneurial Summit is designed to answer those questions and help these potential business owners position themselves for the next steps.
Participants will be able to choose from a dozen break-out sessions covering business plan writing, Kentucky tax incentives, loans specifically for veteran-owned businesses, conducting crowd funding campaigns, exporting, franchise opportunities and more.
In addition, guest speakers will be on hand to share their success stories. Participants will hear from Jim Fugitte, a 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, as well as Rebecca Wheeling, co-founder of an Elizabethtown startup that raised $1 million in venture capital in one week.
Largely because of Fort Knox, countless military members have been introduced to our region and decided it was the place to make their homes. Many of those veterans have started successful businesses here, too.
As Ellis notes, those who have served our country are especially equipped to develop a mission, align resources and evaluate the level of success achieved. That type of experience is critical for entrepreneurs.
“They’ve developed a skill set that empowers them to be ready for entrepreneurial endeavors such as engaging people, following regulations, anticipating the unexpected and developing contingency plans,” said Ellis, who also is a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.
As important, there are a lot of reasons to stay in Kentucky to start a business, from the low cost of living and ideal central location to access to capital or incentives. Plus, we’ve developed an exceptionally supportive entrepreneurial culture in our region.
In fact, the Elizabethtown-Fort Knox metropolitan statistical area (MSA), which encompasses Hardin, LaRue and Meade counties, was recently recognized as the No. 1 MSA in the country for startup growth.
As we look forward to engaging and supporting veterans, active duty military, reservists and their families at the upcoming event, we also want to recognize what their future success means for our entire community. Small business growth is essential to our economic future. Small business owners across the region are creating jobs and improving the quality of life we enjoy.
That’s why we plan for the summit to be the start of a regular event where potential entrepreneurs can find genuine local resources to help turn their ideas into reality.
For more information and to register for the Entrepreneurial Summit, call 270-351-1192. You also can view the full agenda and register online at wku.edu/etown-ftknox/summit.php.
Lisa Williams Boone is director of the Kentucky Innovation Network in Elizabethtown and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. She can be reached at 270-307-4214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.