Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute



Who are Entrepreneurs?  Why Do We Need Them?

Entrepreneurs are innovators who assume the risk of organizing and operating a business or non-profit venture.  Entrepreneurs question the status quo; they recognize opportunities for addressing needs, problems and wants that others may not see.  They are the backbone of every community’s economy.    It is estimated that 44 percent of new jobs in the U.S. are generated by startup firms with only a few employees.  These firms create about 70/% of new economic growth in the nation.

Small business income in Kentucky approached $8 billion in 2003.  These small firms employed 50.3% of the state’s non-farm private workforce.  As the Small Business Administration noted we are moving into an “entrepreneurial age.”  If current trends continue it has been estimated that one out of every four rural citizens will be self-employed by 2015.

Entrepreneurs add to the quality of local life through improved goods and services.  They generate new income for themselves and others and tend to be loyal to the communities in which they start their firms.  They often become civic leaders and donate services and money to their community.

These are some of the reasons why Kentucky communities may be shifting their economic development resources from an exclusive focus on industrial recruitment to a more balanced portfolio to create more entrepreneurs, build better skilled entrepreneurs and more competitive and productive small businesses.   Communities can strengthen their entrepreneurial culture and behavior.

Why Is An Entrepreneurial Culture Important?

A 2003 Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute study assessed the state of entrepreneurship in Northeastern Kentucky.  While it recognized the strength of support services for entrepreneurs, it found there was limited local support and recognition of the importance of entrepreneurs in the local economy. 

Think of your community as an entrepreneurial venture.  Entrepreneurs are innovators who transform ideas into something that people value or need.  Entrepreneurial-friendly communities appeal to creative individuals.  They nurture creativity through the arts, honor diversity, promote a healthy civic life and celebrate their cultural uniqueness.  A strong entrepreneurial culture provides a setting in which an entrepreneur is more likely to emerge and stay.  Entrepreneurial friendly settings take a systems approach to entrepreneurship; they connect the dots.  They link entrepreneurs with investors, technical assistance provides and others.  They integrate entrepreneurship into youth education, leadership development, faith life, philanthropy and other aspects of community life.  An entrepreneurial friendly community has entrepreneurial leaders, advocates and coaches who make it easier for small businesses to start and succeed. 



KECI Fellows Todd Hoskins and Anita Skaggs (Casey County) meet with entrepreneurs from Kenny's Country Cheese (Barren County) during An Entrepreneurial Taste of Bowling Green Event held at the National Corvette Museum in Spring 2008.




Ron Hustedde, KECI Director, and Katie Ellis, KECI Program Coordinator, work to highlight entrepreneurship throughout South Central Kentucky during An Entrepreneurial Taste of Bowling Green Event held at the National Corvette Museum in Spring 2008.



Karen Dabson, RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, talks to KECI Fellows during the Energizing Entrepreneurs seminar.


Entrepreneurial Success Stories







KECI Fellows and Team Members visit with the Iowa Speedway and learn how an entrepreneurial vision made this dream a reality.

“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.” Orison Swett Marden

Newton, Iowa made national headlines in 2005 when the community’s largest employer, the Maytag Corporation, announced its intent to sell the company. This is a story that rural communities in Kentucky have known all too well in recent years. During the months following the announcement the community found itself at a crossroads. They could accept this reality and begin to work proactively to create new opportunities for a highly-skilled workforce or they could toss their hands in the air and embrace a why me attitude and wait for the silver lining. Out of necessity, several individuals in the community rose to the challenge.

One such individual was Jordan Bruntz, of Springboard Engineering. Bruntz is a former Maytag laundry R&D team leader who worked with a team of highly-skilled individuals who remained dedicated to the Newton community in the wake of this transitional period. “The conditions to start a business were perfect. It was the perfect storm and we had nothing to lose,” recalled Bruntz who approached several of his team members about branching out and opening their own business during the transitional period after Maytag’s announcement. Through this decision to create Springboard Engineering, the quest for funding, establishment of the company, and its continued growth, Bruntz has remained true to the values instilled in him at an early age, growing up on his family’s dairy farm. From his experience on the farm Bruntz learned the value of hard work and the joy that comes with such efforts, that nothing goes to wasted and that he has a responsibility to take care of his family and friends. These three themes continue to guide Bruntz and his work with Springboard. For him, entrepreneurship is about much more than financial gain. Entrepreneurship is about taking care of the people around him.

Chris Barton, a young entrepreneur in Newton, has also come to embody this way of life. “An entrepreneur is anybody that is willing to do what it takes. I come up with ideas and I’m going to do what it takes and not let up,” emphasized young entrepreneur Chris Barton of Newton, Iowa. “I’m not doing this to make money. I’m doing this because I love it,” said Barton who has embraced and begun to the live the philosophies of competitive advantage, creativity, risk, and care for the people around him well before the age of 35. He has a keen understanding of the assets that exist within his community and ways that he can tap into and serve global markets.

Another example of care for the people in the community and entrepreneurship roots is seen in that of Maytag Dairy Farms. The farm was started in 1919 in the community had has evolved to be a worldwide competitor in the cheese industry. They are best-known for their blue cheese which has been recognized by US Presidents. Maytag Dairy has remained true to his roots and has chosen not to automate the process. Instead, each wedge of cheese is handled with care by members of the community. This is Maytag Dairy Farms competitive advantage.

These are merely a few shining examples of the innovation that exists within the Newton community that the South Central Kentucky KECI Fellows saw during their E-Communities Tour of Iowa. Throughout the past five years this community has seen and embraced more change than many do in a decade. This change has not come easily or; rather, it has evolved out of necessity. However, many powerful lessons are to be learned from this experience. As community leaders we must question what it will take for our communities to become more entrepreneurial-friendly and continue to strive to create environments in which entrepreneurs thrive. After all, isn’t it the people that matter in the end? The Newton community would argue so.

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