The Summit at the old Taylor University campus on Rudisill Boulevard is a socially-minded organization that offers budding entrepreneurs space to shape northeast Indiana.
It hosts 20 startups and organizations on its campus, and throughout the year, more than 2,000 events and meetings take place at its facilities.
But one thing everyone who uses its space has in common is their passion for building what Melissa Dessaigne calls “thriving community.”Melissa Dessaigne
As the Executive Director of The Summit, Dessaigne talks about how its partners from CookSpring to Athletes With Purpose (AWP) Sports have big dreams for the region.
Input Fort Wayne sat down with Dessaigne to learn more about The Summit, what’s next for it, and what advice she has for entrepreneurs who may find themselves there someday.
IFW: Tell us how you came to be the Executive Director of The Summit.
MD: I started working at The Summit on a part-time basis in February 2016.
At the time, I was an Education Support Specialist and had the opportunity to work on a lot of the education programming that was being done at The Summit, as well as plan for the first annual Family Summit.
In July of that year, I was asked to consider taking on the role of Executive Director.
I loved everything that was happening at The Summit, and I loved my role there, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go full-time as my children were 3, 4 and 5 years old.
However, after much prayer and consultation with my husband and others, I decided to accept the role.
I’m passionate about my job and the opportunity we have to impact our community.
IFW: What have you been most proud of so far during your time as leader at The Summit?
MD: I’m most proud of my team.
I get to work with an amazing group of individuals who are not only smart and talented in their respective areas, but more than that, they all have a heart that cares about our community and making a difference.
It’s their hard work and passion that has allowed us to grow and live out our mission to be a shared campus for a thriving community.
IFW: "Thriving community" is a term that keeps coming up. What does that mean to you?
MD: Thriving community can mean different things to different people.
For instance, for some, it means a community that is growing economically and provides opportunities for all. For others, it is a community that is safe. For some, it is a community where diversity of thought and expression is welcomed.
The common theme through all of these definitions is that a thriving community is one that is not stagnant and is always improving.
IFW: Your parent company is Ambassador Enterprises. Tell us about Ambassador's impact on northeast Indiana and why they chose to be here in the first place.
MD: The founder of the company is from and lives in northeast Indiana, so this is one of the big reasons for why the company is based here.
Ambassador Enterprises invests in cultural and social impact organizations that are working to solve systemic problems in an innovative way. They do this by partnering with collaborative organizations and supporting their strategies for development.
They seek to be active partners assisting leaders in optimizing for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and I believe it is because of this focus on both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors that Ambassador is able to have such a great impact.
At The Summit, local organizations can work toward their goals for their community in a shared space.
IFW: What are your goals for The Summit in 2018?
MD: We would love to see our entire campus full of socially-minded individuals and organizations working together to make our community thrive. And we’re just about there as we continue welcoming new partners who want to join our campus, who recognize the value of sharing space, sharing ideas and resources, and ultimately sharing an increased impact.
My ultimate goal for The Summit is to be the catalyst for collaboration amongst organizations which, by working together to address some of our community’s biggest challenges, will effectively bring about change. And we are well on our way toward doing that.
The organizations located on our campus, as well as those with whom we partner on a daily basis are working to bring transformation in areas like literacy, character development, mental health, education, health and wellness and spiritual vitality, just to name a few.
By sharing space, resources and ideas, we aim to provide each individual organization the opportunity to truly focus on their core mission while growing their collective impact.
IFW: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs creating organizations that might partner with the Summit someday?
MD: Be passionately involved in what you’re doing. Be willing to work hard, and then work even harder.
Have a good business plan, and surround yourself with people who believe in you and will challenge and support you. And if you’re a young (or young at heart) entrepreneur wanting to get into the food/catering business, come check out our CookSpring kitchen.
NOTE: Kyah is a graduate of the Summit Scholars program formerly offered at the Summit in partnership with Grace College.