Indiana SBA Program Teaches Entrepreneurs How to Work On Their Business

By Laura Schafsnitz, Public Affairs, U.S. Small Business Administration, Indiana District Office

The SBA Indiana District Office Emerging Leaders Class of 2017. These entrepreneurs are taking part in this intensive “mini-MBA” program in order to learn how to more effectively grow their Indiana based small businesses.

Every other Tuesday, retired PepsiCo executive and SCORE volunteer Tim Martin brings a unique big business prospective to a group of 17 successful Indiana small business owners who hope to learn how to more effectively grow their companies.  Martin teaches the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program.

Emerging Leaders is a free training program developed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) which offers small business owners powerful benefits and learning experiences including innovative growth strategies, financing know-how, access to new markets and networking with peers.  The seven month program is for established small businesses that have been in business for at least three years with revenues between $400,000 to $10 million per year.  This is the third year that the SBA Indiana District office has offered Emerging Leaders, and District Director Stacey Poynter says this intense “mini-MBA” style training is a great way for entrepreneurs to take the next step forward.

Emerging Leaders Instructor Tim Martin listens to students during a recent session at the Indiana District Office.

“The goal is to provide established small business owners with the knowledge and resources they need to build a sustainable business,” Poynter says.  “Classes teach students how to think strategically, about where they want to move forward, and how they want to expand their business outside of their comfort zone.”

But Martin says there’s more to Emerging Leaders than developing long term strategies; the classes also give entrepreneurs the chance to do something that most small business executives don’t think to do.

“This is an opportunity for business owners to work ON their business instead of just IN their business. That’s huge,” he says.

Chris Walls, Co-Owner of 39 Degrees North, says this ON instead of IN concept was like a light bulb turning on in the dark.  For years, his Bloomington based Geographic Information System tech company had grown, but not at the pace he wanted it to.   Walls says it was because he hadn’t been asking the questions he really needed to in order to surge forward.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have to work at growing your business. I wasn’t doing that,” says Walls.  “Everyone has noticed a change in me; my wife, employees, etc.  I’ve been able to ask tough questions during Emerging Leaders and have found out that it’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to give it a try.”

Martin says that through his big business experiences, he’s learned that another key factor to working ON a business, is networking.  Martin feels opportunities for networking between Emerging Leaders classmates is crucial for growth.

“I think the number one benefit of Emerging Leaders is getting to work with other business owners – hear new ideas, share common issues, network, and in many cases pick up new work or a partner.”

Students discuss strategy and bounce ideas off one another during an Emerging Leaders class. Instructor Tim Martin says this opportunity to network with peers is one of the number one benefits of the program.

Soraya Van Horn agrees. Van Horn runs several companies under Van Horn Ventures, LLC as well as a Hive Staffing franchise in Indianapolis.

“It’s the people and the networking that I find valuable in Emerging Leaders,” Van Horn says. “Networking is key. It’s the underground that makes things happen for your business.”

The Emerging Leaders Program is entering its third month, and already, Bluffton’s Dedrick Tool & Dye owner Deb Dedrick credits Emerging Leaders with changing how she runs and views her business.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but being in Emerging Leaders has re-ignited my passion for manufacturing and owning my own business,” Dedrick says.  It’s great to also have this new network of entrepreneurs, be able to hear their problems, their solutions, and be able to bounce ideas off of each other to make all of our companies more successful.”

The 2017 Class of Emerging Leaders will graduate in October. For more information about SBA programs and events throughout Indiana, sign up for email updates on the SBA Indiana District website at