In the heart of the Evansville Region, a diverse group of entrepreneurs is reshaping industries and fostering innovation. These visionary individuals are not only pursuing their dreams but are also contributing to their communities and the state’s economic growth. Let’s dive into the inspiring stories of five Indiana-based entrepreneurs who are making a mark in various fields.
1. Scott Massey – Anu™ Smart Garden Appliances: Scott Massey, an Evansville native, identified the environmental challenges posed by industrial agriculture and envisioned a solution. In 2016, he launched Anu™, a subscription-based system that combines Indiana’s manufacturing legacy with a consumable seed pod model for indoor gardening. Anu™, described as “nespresso for plants,” empowers users to grow Pure Produce™ in the convenience of their homes. The innovative approach gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to National Science Foundation grants for A.I. enhancement. With a focus on sustainability and local production, Anu™ aims to surpass the output of the world’s largest farms.
2. Darrick and Jennifer Hayden – Parlor Doughnuts: The Hayden family’s irresistible doughnut, infused with the secret ingredient “Parlor Spirit,” has propelled Parlor Doughnuts to success with 98 franchises nationwide in just four years. Rooted in community values, Parlor Doughnuts evolved from Noah Hayden’s original concept, Proper Coffee. The family’s commitment to community, collaboration, and mentorship has not only expanded their business nationally but has also inspired others to become entrepreneurs. With a goal to open 230 shops nationwide, the Haydens aim to make Parlor Doughnuts a staple in every community while giving back to society.
3. Kerry Ao – Intertwined Financial Literacy Platform: Understanding the learning preferences of Gen Z, recent high school graduate Kerry Ao embarked on creating an immersive software platform to teach financial literacy. Intertwined, developed in collaboration with his business club, employs A.I. technology to personalize content based on individual student reactions. The platform gained momentum through competitions and grants, securing its first sale within a year. With a vision to expand into various educational sectors, Kerry Ao envisions Intertwined becoming a valuable resource for financial literacy education, aligning with the growing movement to incorporate this essential knowledge into school curricula.
4. University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Applied Research: Founded by Dr. Sue Ellspermann in 2005, the University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Applied Research (CAR) serves as a catalyst for aspiring entrepreneurs. CAR acts as a bridge, connecting entrepreneurs with essential services, tools, and expertise to bring their ideas to market. With a focus on viability and cost-effectiveness, CAR collaborates with a network of regional partners, offering access to faculty, laboratories, and equipment. Through its commitment to community engagement, CAR is nurturing startups in various fields, contributing to the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
5. DeAndre Wilson and Merrick Korach – Bedford Collab Shared Kitchen: Serial entrepreneur DeAndre Wilson, along with co-founder Jeff Gott, identified the need for a shared kitchen for food entrepreneurs. After launching Turn Table catering in 2017, they established Bedford Collab, set to launch in 2023. The shared kitchen not only meets the needs of food entrepreneurs for prep and storage but also aims to improve the food culture in Evansville. By locating in the economically distressed southside, Bedford Collab becomes a catalyst for sustainable change, breathing life into a classic 1919 commercial building. With support from various financial backers and the creation of Impact Evansville, Inc., Wilson and Korach are providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs to thrive.
As we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit in Indiana, these five stories exemplify the resilience, creativity, and community-driven approach that defines the state’s business landscape. However, these narratives are just the tip of the iceberg. Across Indiana, countless innovators are making waves in diverse industries, and their stories are waiting to be discovered. For a deeper dive into the wealth of entrepreneurial endeavors shaping the Hoosier State, explore more stories on the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) website. From tech startups and manufacturing ventures to educational initiatives and community-driven projects, these stories collectively paint a vivid picture of Indiana’s dynamic and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.