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15 entrepreneurs selected for GFW’s Bridge Program

Fifteen local entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the first cohort of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s Bridge Program. The program, which connects established companies with startups, is designed to give entrepreneurs an extra boost, helping them bridge the gap between startup and success.

“It’s inspiring to watch these businesses form relationships,” Renata Robinson, director of small business development at GFW Inc., said in a statement. “For Bridge Investors, this is a way to give back to the business community and help smaller companies succeed. For Bridge Entrepreneurs, it’s a step toward realizing their dreams.”

As part of the program, Bridge Investor companies sponsor a startup business’s GFW Inc. membership dues for a five-year period. The startup receives full investor benefits, including exclusive discounts, access to investor-only events, complimentary use of meeting space at the GFW Inc. offices, and more. Entrepreneurs also will have the opportunity to take part in educational and networking programs tailored specifically for startup founders.

The 15 pairs of Bridge Entrepreneurs and Bridge Investors are:

Business Services

• 3r Interactive, LLC, a company that creates video games, mobile apps, websites, audiobooks, and virtual reality applications, and also provides technology advising services for startups. Bridge Investor: The Hagerman Group.

• Elevare LLC, a woman-owned federal business development consulting company that works specifically with small businesses. Bridge Investor: Carson LLP.

• Founders Spark, an organization that focuses on helping underserved groups and creating a diverse and inclusive community of entrepreneurs nationwide. Bridge Investor: Parkview Health.

• SociallySeasoned, LLC, a marketing services company serving local small businesses. Bridge Investor: STAR Financial Bank.

• SoundWalk, a company that uses mobile apps to create spatial audio experiences for film/TV/music/podcast distributors to tie into their marketing campaigns, while also developing a library of audio experiences for users to explore in their everyday lives. Bridge Investor: Sweetwater Sound.

• STRE.ME, which helps shift small business owners, entrepreneurs, and organizational leaders toward fulfilling their potential by simplifying the business growth process. Bridge Investor: Elevatus Architecture.

Human Services

• A Chance Re-Employment and Training Agency, LLC (ACRE), which helps individuals with occupational barriers obtain workplace skills in preparation for securing suitable and sustainable employment. Bridge Investor: Ambassador Enterprises.

• Bounce Back of Indiana, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps keep families out of poverty when an unexpected financial crisis hits. Bridge Investor: 1st Source Bank.

• Out of a Jam, an organization that trains and certifies women and working aged teens, giving them high-level skills that help them feed themselves and their families and find sustainable employment. Bridge Investor: Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Retail

• Bukál Beverage Co., a company that creates bold sparkling water flavors inspired by river regions around the globe. In turn, a portion of each bottle sale goes back to the source: to region-specific clean water projects. Bridge Investor: Ortho NorthEast (ONE).

• House to Home, a trendy yet affordable home-furnishing retail store that also offers staging and design services. Bridge Investor: Summit City Chevrolet.

• Mercadito Taqueria, a food truck that serves tacos, burgers, and other West Coast flavors, with the goal of growing into a casual/upscale, full-service restaurant. Bridge Investor: JPMorgan Chase.

• Plowshares Food Hub Co., which offers local food distribution infrastructure, providing market access for local food producers. Bridge Investor: Wells Fargo.

• Simple Glow Candle Co., a family-owned company creating quality soy candles, hand-poured in Indiana. Bridge Investor: Deister Machine Company.

• Yeoman Service Center, while not fitting the traditional definition of “startup,” is newly captained by third-generation ownership aiming to learn the proper techniques to grow their small business. Bridge Investor: Ridge NAPA.

About 50 entrepreneurs completed applications to be part of the program. Ten of the 15 entities selected are woman- and/or minority-owned.

The Bridge Program will officially kick off Oct. 1 with a welcome luncheon for the Bridge Entrepreneurs and their Bridge Investors.

The program is part of a broad community effort to support entrepreneurship. Additional initiatives include the City of Fort Wayne’s SEED and Summit City Match programs, plus others organized by grassroots and nonprofit organizations.