Fifteen budding Fort Wayne-area businesses are being teamed up with more established companies to help the young companies bridge the gap from startup to success.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. announced its first round of entrepreneurs who will be paired with “bridge investors.”

"For Bridge Investors, this is a way to give back to the business community and help smaller companies succeed. For Bridge Entrepreneurs, it's a step toward realizing their dreams,” said Renata Robinson, director of small business development at GFW Inc.

As part of the program, the veteran partner will sponsor a startup business's GFW Inc. membership dues for a five-year period. The startup receives full investor benefits, according to GFW Inc. Entrepreneurs also will have the opportunity to take part in educational and networking programs tailored specifically for startup founders.

The new companies include a variety of businesses, like a bottled water company, a candlemaker and a digital media company. Their partner businesses are in a different line of work.

GFW Inc. says about 50 entrepreneurs completed applications to be part of the program. Of the 15 selected, ten of the businesses are woman- and/or minority-owned.

The Bridge Program will officially kick off October 1. The list of bridge partners includes:

  • 3r Interactive LLC, a company that creates video games, mobile apps, websites, audiobooks, and virtual reality applications, and also provides technology advising services for startups. Bridge Investor: The Hagerman Group.
  • Elevare LLC, a woman-owned federal business development consulting company that works specifically with small businesses. Bridge Investor: Carson LLP.
  • Founders Spark, an organization that focuses on helping underserved groups and creating a diverse and inclusive community of entrepreneurs nationwide. Bridge Investor: Parkview Health.
  • SociallySeasoned LLC, a marketing services company serving local small businesses. Bridge Investor: STAR Financial Bank.
  • SoundWalk, a company that uses mobile apps to create spatial audio experiences for film/TV/music/podcast distributors to tie into their marketing campaigns, while also developing a library of audio experiences for users to explore in their everyday lives. Bridge Investor: Sweetwater Sound.
  • STRE.ME, which helps shift small business owners, entrepreneurs, and organizational leaders toward fulfilling their potential by simplifying the business growth process. Bridge Investor: Elevatus Architecture.
  • A Chance Re-Employment and Training Agency LLC (ACRE) which helps individuals with occupational barriers obtain workplace skills in preparation for securing suitable and sustainable employment. Bridge Investor: Ambassador Enterprises.
  • Bounce Back of Indiana Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps keep families out of poverty when an unexpected financial crisis hits. Bridge Investor: 1st Source Bank.
  • Out of a Jam, an organization that trains and certifies women and working aged teens, giving them high-level skills that help them feed themselves and their families and find sustainable employment. Bridge Investor: Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
  • Bukál Beverage Co., a company that creates bold sparkling water flavors inspired by river regions around the globe. In turn, a portion of each bottle sale goes back to the source: to region-specific clean water projects. Bridge Investor: Ortho NorthEast (ONE).
  • House to Home, a trendy yet affordable home-furnishing retail store that also offers staging and design services. Bridge Investor: Summit City Chevrolet.
  • Mercadito Taqueria, a food truck that serves tacos, burgers, and other West Coast flavors, with the goal of growing into a casual/upscale, full-service restaurant. Bridge Investor: JPMorgan Chase.
  • Plowshares Food Hub Co., which offers local food distribution infrastructure, providing market access for local food producers. Bridge Investor: Wells Fargo.
  • Simple Glow Candle Co., a family-owned company creating quality soy candles, hand-poured in Indiana. Bridge Investor: Deister Machine Company.
  • Yeoman Service Center, while not fitting the traditional definition of "startup," is newly captained by third-generation ownership aiming to learn the proper techniques to grow their small business. Bridge Investor: Ridge NAPA.