The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus are hosting an entrepreneur networking event next month in the Bartholomew County city. Johnson Ventures Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rick Johnson is set to deliver the keynote address at SPARK Columbus.

May 7, 2014

News Release

Columbus, Ind. — The Center for Business and Economic Development (CBED) at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus is partnering with the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce to host SPARK Columbus, a networking event for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, inventors, small business owners, young professionals, students, educators, and others interested in start-up and new business ventures.

The free event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4 in the LHP Building at 703 Washington Street, located on the northeast corner of Seventh and Washington Streets in Columbus. A cash bar will be available.

According to organizers Greg Knudson, CBED director, and Cindy Frey, chamber president, this first-time SPARK Columbus event will celebrate “bootstrapper” entrepreneurs and inventors. Participants can network with a number of creative risk-takers who are launching new business ventures.

The keynote speaker is Rick Johnson, president & CEO of Johnson Ventures, a capital investment firm which owns restaurant, convenience store, construction materials, and publishing companies. The Johnson family founded the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (JCEI) at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Bloomington.

Johnson will discuss the importance of entrepreneurial activity in Hoosier communities and share his thoughts on what makes entrepreneurs successful.

Other speakers will include:

Dawn Andrews, founder and CEO of Garb2ART cosmetics, which is a contracted supplier for J Crew stores. The cosmetics are unique because of built-in LED lights in the applicators and packaging which uses recycled materials.

George Devidze and Dr. Carrie Pumphrey, a husband/wife team that founded a mobile first SaaS application for the dental industry called ClariCare.

James Gorman, inventor of the “land zeppelin,” an all-weather, all-season bicycle enclosure that is designed to enhance the cycling experience for recreational riders, commuters, sports enthusiasts, and others without access to motorized transportation.

“We hope the June 4 event will be the first in a series of networking opportunities that will bring the business and university communities together to meet, share ideas, network, and help each other become successful,” explained Knudson.

Frey said the chamber is working to create a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem where new ventures can find champions, capital, and a supportive environment that enables them to thrive. “Working alongside the Center for Business and Economic Development, we hope to expand the support available for start-ups and young ventures in our community,” she added.

IUPUC and the chamber are discussing a number of possibilities for future programming, like entrepreneurial boot camps, sessions on financing for start-up ventures, and workshops for new CEOs.

To register online, go to Contact Kami Adams at for registration questions.

Source: Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

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