IPFW Graduate Helps Get Millennial’s on the Right Entrepreneurial Path

Millennial’s often get a bad rap when it comes to their work ethic. Past generations see Millennial’s with phones in their faces, endless Facebook scrolling, and general lack of social interaction as all a Millennial has to offer. Yet Millennial’s are proving everyone false with their unique entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to build exactly what they want. Sonya Snellenberger, Millennial 2020 Specialist at Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, is committed to helping Millennial’s get on the right path. We sat down with Sonya for more information on what she does with the Partnership.

Why do you believe more 20-somethings are going to start a business?

Millennials are interested in innovation, flexibility and freedom; that combined with them growing up with easy access to information, makes entrepreneurship an attractive avenue for them. In particular, I believe 20-something's are going to start businesses in Northeast Indiana because of our region’s efforts to connect future leaders to current leaders. These connections provide guidance and resources for future business owners to achieve their dreams. The Millennial Leaders Alliance provides networking opportunities with regional leaders as well as leadership workshops and other ways to further engage them in the community. Northeast Indiana also has a low cost of living and people honestly want to help you succeed. Given all of that, the barrier to entry on starting on a business is rather low and the community is very supportive.

What is your background and what led you to your current position?

I am a Fort Wayne native that graduated from Indiana Purdue university- Fort Wayne. I had the privilege to live outside of Indiana for a few years. Upon my return I realized how much northeast Indiana has to offer. Taking the position as the Millennial 2020 Specialist has allowed me to be able to connect with other millennials and help them find resources for them to be able to call northeast Indiana their forever home.

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What makes Fort Wayne, Indiana a good place to be an entrepreneur?

Northeast Indiana has numerous programs to support young entrepreneurs including established entrepreneurs who offer one-on-one mentoring, an angel investor network and business incubation programs. (Example:Whitley County programs and the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center) We are also home to over a dozen colleges and universities that offer unique entrepreneurial assistance. For example, Ivy Tech Community College holds an annual New Venture Competition that offers students and alumni the chance to win up to $20,000 to launch a new business. (Ex:Olivia Fabian, OFabz Swimwear) The University of Saint Francis just purchased two buildings in downtown to launch a new program uniting business and the arts with their new Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) program. Indiana Tech also recently announced a new entrepreneur center, the Center for Creative Collaboration (the C3). The C3 will provide entrepreneurs with rapid, targeted, and effective assistance in all phases of business startup, operation, and growth.

What does the Millennial Leadership Alliance do and what makes it unique?

The Millennial Leaders Alliance (MLA) is a leadership body of Millennials from 10 counties across Northeast Indiana that dedicates their time to projects that continuously improve the quality of life in Northeast Indiana. Projects range from supporting riverfront development to cleaning up parks to events that help young people brainstorm their own ideas to contribute to our quality of life. The MLA is unique in the sense that it gives millennials an active voice in shaping the future of our region. Here, a millennial has a seat at the table with the top CEOs in the region. Their voice is heard and supported. As the Millennial 2020 Specialist I make sure that all of the MLA member’s voices are heard by creating the opportunities for them to voice their opinion to regional leader and have the ability to shape the future of our region.

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