Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and Electric Works announce new partnership

Northeast Indiana has long been a hub for entrepreneurship, in part thanks to the work done by the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) over the past 20 years. 

The NIIC serves as an intersection for innovation and economic development, providing an incubator for aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs in the region. As a nonprofit, they’ve formed a community for local entrepreneurs, which has seen the launch of hundreds of new products and patents, created thousands of jobs, and added hundreds of millions in grants and capital into the regional economy. 

They’re also a Venture Hub, pulling down barriers– geographic, racial, social-economic and interest-based, as part of their work with the regional Community of Communities to create an ecosystem of Entrepreneurship for All. The NIIC focuses on collaboration and maximizing the impact of regional partners. 

Now, the NIIC is partnering with Electric Works to bring its entrepreneurial services to the historic campus in Downtown Fort Wayne. 

Tammy Allen from NIIC introduces the NIIC business coaches at a press conference at Electric Works. “NIIC’s new mission is to catalyze the community for Entrepreneurship for ALL,” says Mike Fritsch, NIIC President and CEO. “Our partnership with Electric Works will help provide increased accessibility to business builders in Northeast Allen County. NIIC will provide wrap-around services and community-building opportunities to support tenants to connect with other innovators and business builders on campus.”

As part of this new partnership, the NIIC has opened a new satellite office in the Carr Workplaces coworking area at Electric Works in Building 19. NIIC business coaches will be on-site to provide high-value, no-charge business coaching, business planning services and entrepreneur/innovation events. 

Electric Works campusBusiness coach and Director of the WEOC Women’s Business Center Leslee Hill says these services are an extension of their work in the 16 counties of Northeast Indiana where they already serve. Coaches visit other counties on a monthly or weekly basis to provide in-person help to entrepreneurs and innovators, and now a coach will be available on-site at Electric Works Monday through Friday. 

Coaches will alternate who works from Electric Works on a daily basis, but each of them is able to provide help and guidance to local businesses. Each coach is considered a generalist but they each have their own experience with entrepreneurship. Hill has been with the NIIC since 2018, and she has experience in consulting and previously launched her own start-up.

“I’m bringing all my failures and win and experiences to coaching,” she says. 

Other coaches have experience in product-based businesses, membership building, scaling organizations and patens. They also have coaches who are bilingual, like Samantha Cazares, who is the owner of Simply Charming. Cazares helps with the intake process, meeting with entrepreneurs before assigning them to the coach who best fits their needs. 

Entrepreneurs are able to utilize the help of the NIIC for the lifespan of their business, and Hill says even if people aren’t visiting with them consistently, they love seeing people come back to figure out what’s next for their business. 

Samantha Cazares (left) and Leslee Hill (middle), NIIC Business Coaches talk with a visitor at Carr Workplaces at Electric Works.“Sometimes people will be really in and they want to meet every week,” says Hill. “Then they go for a couple of months, or sometimes even almost a year, and they come back and say, ‘Wait, I need you. I need the support,’ and we love that because it’s fun to see them get the knowledge and do the work, and now they want to know what’s next.”

Much like the Electric Works campus is meant to serve as a mixed-use district, the NIIC is there to help serve all types of businesses, even if they have a reputation for helping startups, Hill says the NIIC is there to help all types of businesses, from small to large, old or new, and help them become profitable.

“As an innovation district, Electric Works offers high-performance workplaces to serve the sole entrepreneur up to the global world headquarters,” says Jeff Kingsbury, Chief Connectivity Officer for Ancora, the lead developer of Electric Works. “Our partnership with the NIIC and its award-winning programs will also give companies at Electric Works unique coaching, entrepreneurship support and corporate innovation services to help them grow.”

For more information on this partnership, visit NIIC.
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Read more articles by Brittany Smith.

Brittany Smith is Input Fort Wayne's Managing Editor. Previously she served as Assistant Editor and participated in the College Input Program. She also volunteers for Northeast Indiana Public Radio.