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Entrepreneurship & Innovation News

The Southwest Indiana SBDC helps entrepreneurs bring ideas to life

Dontae Hines – Owner, Dontae’s Highland Pizza Parlor

Video by: Casey Voelker at Captivated Content | Copy by: Jennie Jolly at The Versatile Admin

At the young age of 16, Dontae Hines began his career in the restaurant industry as a busser at Turoni’s Pizzery & Brewery on N. Main Street in Evansville. For several years the kitchen manager tried to convince Hines to quit bussing tables and work in the kitchen, but he repeatedly declined. Thankfully the manager didn’t give up, Hines fell in love with making food, and the rest is history! 

He spent the next 15+ years working in several area restaurants, eventually becoming a manager and gaining more experience while building a kitchen from the ground up. Then March 2020 happened. While the pandemic brought a lot of businesses to a halt, he took a break from the restaurant world and spent some time getting in tune with himself. What he realized was that after spending so many years working alongside others to build their businesses, he wanted to give life to his own ideas and potential. 

Hines began looking at buildings to establish his restaurant and followed up on a lead regarding a former pizza shop on Evansville’s north side. It seemed like the right fit, and the lease was signed in June 2020. Dontae’s Highland Pizza Parlor became a reality.

Enter Julie Folz with the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center (Southwest Indiana SBDC). Folz is Hines’ Business Advisor and has helped him create a marketing strategy. “She has pushed me to think outside the box and has taken it to another level, especially with the marketing side of the business,” said Hines. Folz also connected him with the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Project HOPE. At no cost, a team of students assisted with the digital marketing aspects needed to increase the online presence and boost digital capabilities for the pizza parlor. 

His driving force is to set an example for his children and others who may have come from a similar background and could use a little inspiration. He sees his restaurant as a stepping stone and a way to give back. “Money and profits are great, you have to have them to sustain your business, but at the end of the day, it’s about helping my community – my employees or anyone else I may be able to help. Every day when I wake up, I always try to find a way to help someone.”

Hines praised the Southwest Indiana SBDC for being a great asset to the community and is grateful for the answers that provided him the opportunity to pursue his dream. “I may be in the business of making pizza, but my true business is making people happy. If my community is going to invest in me, I’m going to invest right back into my community.”