Angela Casey contributed to this story.
NEO LaunchNET aimed to connect local business owners and consumers at the Community Entrepreneurial Expo on Tuesday, April 19 in the College Center of Lorain County Community
Since its arrival on campus in 2012, the entrepreneurial jump-start underwent a name change from Blackstone Launchpad to NEO LaunchNET in 2015. Employed by LCCC, Launch seeks to develop the entrepreneurial goals of its students and community members. “I feel it’s our responsibility to help educate other students about entrepreneurship and that you can be a nurse and have a business on the side making cupcakes if that’s something you enjoy,” said Janice Lapin, NEO LaunchNET Program Manager.
In addition to educating, Launch uses their web of connections on and off the LCCC campus to help businesses flourish. The community expo was created to highlight the connection between Launch and the community. Using the College Center as hub for a multitude of business tables, attendees were offered everything, from books to salsa.
The table of home-based business Casa de Kelly offered visitors a chemical free alternative to traditional suds with all natural laundry detergent and soaps. Kelly Hunter, former LCCC student and entrepreneur, was inspired to create her business after returning home wounded from her second stint in Iraq as a diplomat. “All my friends had kids, so I was looking at the detergent they were using on their kids’ stuff and realized it’s all chemicals,” said Hunt.
In an effort to relax and replace chemical products with a safer substitute, Hunt began making natural laundry detergent for her friends. Running a business may not be the same as aiding a worn torn country, but Casa de Kelly offers Hunt the ability to fulfill her lifelong goal of bettering the world. “I’m saving the world in a different way. I’m saving the environment,” said Hunt.
Like Hunt, Amanda Saucedo is using her business, the Benny Bears Organization, to help change the world by spreading awareness. Saucedo uses Teddy Bears named Benny Bears to enlighten new and expectant mothers of the dangers of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Attached to each bear is the story of how Saucedo lost her son to SIDS, and recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS in newborns. “After you have a baby you’re given a bunch of paperwork, but this is something that’s tangible,” said Saucedo. “The best way to reduce infant mortality is by sleeping alone back in their crib.” The organization aims to arm local hospitals with life saving information in the form of a door hanger that doubles as a checklist.
LCCC’s Early College High School student, Alexander Haslage, enjoyed the atmosphere of the expo. “It’s nice to see different people getting out and showing off their products and services because they’re proud of it,” said Haslage. “It’s good to have that kind of thing around here every so often.”
Earning his way towards a degree in engineering Haslage is also interested in owning a culinary side business. “This is kind of like a motivator, maybe I could one day end up like these people and show off a product that people are genuinely interested in,” said Haslage. “It’s nice to have options and gateways into whatever I need.”