By Kasy Long
Oct 12, 2023
Program Director for the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center at Indiana State University
Starting a small business can be an exciting, yet terrifying, experience. There are numerous questions: Where do I begin? How do I get funding? How will I make a profit? Should I partner with someone else? Do I have enough experience? Will I succeed or fail?
Is this even worth it?
Courtney Richey-Chipol has the answer: The unknown becomes less frightening when you have a support system.
Since 2015, Richey-Chipol has served as program director for the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC), which is hosted by the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University. The Center is under the leadership of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, offering no-cost business advising, training, referrals, and tools to help businesses succeed.
In her role, Richey-Chipol has met ambitious business owners of all backgrounds, including boutique owners, bakers, restauranteurs, manufacturers, service professionals, and others. No matter someone’s entrepreneurial aspirations, Richey-Chipol and her team are here to help.
“We advocate for small business owners. They become our clients and we support them through every step of growing their business,” says Richey-Chipol, a 2010 Master of Business Administration [MBA] graduate from Indiana State. She adds, “Most business owners don’t know where to start or how to overcome major challenges. We answer their questions, but maybe more importantly, we answer questions they didn’t even think to ask.”
The West Central ISBDC assists businesses in West Central Indiana with fewer than 500 employees. Richey-Chipol and her team of advisors help owners develop business plans and models, receive funding and patents, build websites, develop marketing strategies, understand customer service, reinvent branding and marketing efforts, take professional photos, and more. The Center also partners with industry experts to offer subject matter expertise to clients.
“We match the experience of our consultants to what our clients need. Everyone comes from diverse backgrounds, and they are passionate about helping businesses succeed,” Richey-Chipol explains.
Richey-Chipol describes her career path as serendipitous. After receiving her MBA from Indiana State, she gained more leadership experience as director of graduate admissions at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and pursued her Master of Leadership Development with a focus in nonprofit leadership.
In 2015, Richey-Chipol’s passion for career development led to her current position at the West Central ISBDC. Rather than recruiting graduate students, Richey-Chipol wanted to help businesses achieve success.
“I had no idea a position like the one I hold existed. I just knew I loved marketing and business but was also passionate about philanthropy. Now I am able to help advise for-profit businesses while having the expertise in non-profit management to lead the office and ensure we are able to continue to provide high-value service at no cost to clients,” Richey-Chipol states.
In her role as program director, she conducts research on how comparable businesses are succeeding. Richey-Chipol looks for how she can support individuals, especially those who feel they have been ignored in the past.
“I see our office as being advocates for the small business community. We serve the underserved. We identify the needs of the community and bring in new programming to better serve our community,” she remarks.
Because of this advocacy, the West Central ISBDC has received a $1 million grant to focus on serving underserved entrepreneurs. This includes rural, Black-owned, LGBTQ+ -owned, and Veteran-owned businesses, as well as, in recent years, businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center works with advisors in these areas who can provide one-on-one assistance.
Richey-Chipol believes in supporting entrepreneurs as they learn how to advance their businesses. “Any business owner who may have faced a barrier in the past, we break those down for them. We find programming that will help them succeed,” she says.
Because the Center is located at the Scott College of Business, many students, including business majors, are able to serve internships there and assist with projects. In recent years, a student studying Human Resource Development for Higher Education and Industry worked with the West Central ISBDC to pursue her passion for healthcare business. She collaborated with the Center to assist medical groups in developing operating procedures, which allowed her to learn more about working in human resources in the healthcare industry.
“Indiana State’s students help us work with writing grants and assisting with projects. They’re eager to learn and have real-world experience,” Richey-Chipol comments.
Richey-Chipol says she is always excited to participate in local business exhibitions in Terre Haute, including the Black Owned Business Expo, Terre Haute Day, a Juneteenth celebration, and a business exhibition during Terre Haute’s recent Pride Fest.
“We’re taking tangible steps to make a direct impact for business owners in the area. Every meeting is one step closer to helping individuals with their business dreams,” Richey-Chipol says.
With Richey-Chipol’s leadership, and the advice of mentors at the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, area business owners have the resources and advice they need to achieve success. Because thriving businesses begin with BLUE!