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Ignite set to build small businesses

 

Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)
May 21, 2014

Ignite set to build small businesses
Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Marty Myers reaped the rewards of hard work as a young boy, helping his grandparents pick and sell loads of Silver Queen corn each summer, and says those lessons continue to inspire him to help others build businesses and be their own boss.

“The story starts when I was much younger,” Myers said, sitting in the massive second floor space where he has opened Ignite Ashland KY, to serve as an entrepreneurial community, business incubator and shared workspace for small business owners and operators.

Myers said he and his grandparents sold their corn door to door in Flatwoods, and used the proceeds to pay for an annual vacation trip visiting Kentucky’s state parks in an RV.

“It instilled values that carried over,” he said. “A make-your-own-way kind of mentality.”

A 1997 graduate of Greenup High School, Myers and his wife, Erica, are co-owners of the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt shop at Ashland Center, where they recently earned the 2014 Northeast Kentucky Small Business Award for New Business of the Year. Myers said the basic concept for Ignite Ashland KY was the direct result of his research while working to open Orange Leaf.

“There were a lot of questions and roadblocks that I kept running into without a person to ask,” he said, explaining he began thinking of a place where startup businesses and entrepreneurs could turn to for answers and resources. Working with Mick Fosson at ACTC and Jonathan Gay at the Morehead State as part of the state’s Innovation Center network, Ignite Ashland KY opened on the second floor of the building at 1100 Greenup Ave. that houses Hope’s Place, where his church formerly met.

“It fit perfectly with what we’re trying to do,” he said, pointing out the space has been furnished to provide an “eco-system for entrepreneurs and startups.”

With absolutely nothing else in the area to compare it to, Myers said “I get a lot of blank stares when I explain the concept.”

According to the business’ Facebook page, “Ignite is a cooperative working space and startup incubator in downtown Ashland. Cooperative working spaces allow potential business owners and innovative entrepreneurs to jumpstart their business by offering benefits that you can’t get at any other location. By eliminating the up-front cost and monthly expenses of maintaining a single occupant office and being located in the “one stop” for anyone wanting to start a business, we promise to provide the tools unique to success in business.

“Our partners, the Ashland Community & Technical College Innovation Center, the Small Business Development Center and other local professionals representing various industries pertinent to creating a new business (banking, accounting, investors and attorneys) are coming together to provide the business services you need all under one roof.”

With numerous desks, file cabinets and other resources, Ignite Ashland KY will serve as an office away from home for some small business operators, he said, while the conference room and other spaces will provide additional options, including training programs, to benefit small businesses. The center hopes to launch a program for local young people, he notes, providing basic video game development and programming skills for area middle school and high school students.

The center will also host a “pitch contest” starting in June, he said, with professional judges evaluating business concepts, or “pitches,” and rewarding the top two with a $1,000 and $500 prize. The top winner will advance to statewide competition, with judges including Gov. Steve Beshear and a $10,000 grand prize.

Beyond basic training and essential business resources, Myers said he hopes Inspire Ashland KY will serve a higher purpose and teach young people in the area they have options they may not have considered.

“A problem in this area is young people grow up and ask ‘What big company am I going to go work for?’ I want to break that mold a little bit. I want them to ask, ‘What kind of company or product can I create to create jobs?’”

For more information about Ignite Ashland KY, visit facebook.com/igniteashland.com, email marty@orangeleafky.com or call (606) 923-8342.

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