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Rebuilding Rural Economy One Entrepreneur at a Time Part 2

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

In the last column I talked about how entrepreneurs think differently than many of us. When they see problems, whether in the things they do or products they use, or they observe other people having problems, they think “I wonder if I could figure out a solution for that and if people would buy it?” In business training, we call that finding a niche in the market, but it’s really about solving the problems of the marketplace. There will always be problems in the marketplace.  

We invited 10 of our area entrepreneurs to a luncheon with Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers to briefly tell their start-up stories. Here are summaries of the remaining five entrepreneurs not included in the last column. 

James Cantrell 

In high school, James didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, but he knew it didn’t involve college. A chance meeting by his dad on a business trip led to the discovery of a jewelry repair school in a nearby state. Upon return, Dad showed James the repair school brochure and said “Here, you like making things with your hands. How would you like to learn to repair jewelry?” James entered the repair school immediately upon graduation from high school. Today he is Kansas’ only Master Certified Jeweler and owns stores in Coffeyville and Independence. 

Julie Eisele 

Julie and her sister had “stores” of many different kinds on the sidewalk growing up. She knew she wanted to do her own thing and also did not go to college. Eventually, Julie got her real estate license and in 2009, with the real estate market at rock bottom after the recession of 2008, Julie and husband George bought Midwest Real Estate. With no prior experience at running a business, Julie learned as she went. She often trusts her gut instincts when making decisions. Julie is a non-competing broker; she does not compete with the agents within her company. She gives them leads and makes sure they have everything they need to be successful. 

Laurie Rutland 

Laurie has a successful career as Finance Manager of Standard Motor Products in Independence. In 2016 she and friend April Whitson, also with a successful career in human resources, joined Fab Lab ICC and created “Fab Lab Divas” a series of events and workshops to show women in the community how to use Fab Lab equipment. Eventually that led to the creation of Twister Design Company with Laurie and April buying their own laser and printing equipment. Both continue with their “day” jobs….for the time being. 

Joanne Smith 

Joanne earned a degree in journalism with a magazine emphasis, leading to a 22-year stint as regional manager of marketing and communications at Mercy Hospital in Independence. After the closing of the hospital in 2015 and several months of job hunting, she began contracting to do various marketing and communications projects. Soon, as word spread, Joanne became very busy and created Fab Creative Services, LLC. Most recently she purchased “Southeast Kansas Magazine” a high quality and well-respected publication. 

Robert Box 

Robert was graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in biology and immediately went to work for Bayer Crop Science in Raleigh, NC. He became aware of and grew to love the idea of craft beer brewing after frequenting a craft beer bar close to his work place. He moved back to hometown of Lubbock TX to be closer to family and starting his own with wife Jess. He set out to open a brewery in 4-6 months that grew to four years. He met up with master brewer Tim Hardy and joined forces, but progress was still slow. Lubbock was not particularly supportive of the effort nor were area bankers. Robert and Tim worked with a restaurant group to build a brewery but left when they realized they would never have decision making authority. Robert’s family moved to Coffeyville to be closed to Jess’ family. Trisha Purdon met them and helped line up investors and a supportive banker insisting that they launch the brewery in Montgomery County. Indy Brew works is scheduled to open in August. 

There are hundreds of entrepreneurs in our region with similar stories of starting small and growing successful businesses. Several grow to a point where they have to hire employees to help fulfill customer orders. Several also buy and remodel buildings, buy equipment and otherwise spend money within the region to make their businesses work. Finally, although not all will become millionaires, some have and many more will. Most of these entrepreneurs will not cost a lot of money in the way of tax abatement and incentives, most will contribute time and money to make our communities better places to work, live and play. These kinds of entrepreneurs can have a major role in rebuilding our rural economy. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns at jimcorrell.com.  


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