Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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Start Fort Wayne Launches Entrepreneurship Coaching Program

Start Fort Wayne, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to building a thriving entrepreneur and high-growth tech community, has announced the launch of Compass, the first program through LevelUp, a series of educational programs for startup founders and entrepreneurs. Start Fort Wayne was founded on the idea that our region’s startup community will grow stronger as our entrepreneurs gain skills. The LevelUp series was created to enhance those skills.

Compass is a one-on-one entrepreneur coaching program that gives startups and founders personalized help as they create their new venture. It is open to anyone planning a startup in the Northeast Indiana region, in any market or industry. Entrepreneurs may elect the full six- to ten-week curriculum, which features a structured walkthrough to create everything they’ll need to get funded and launched, or they may opt for a few conversations to work through a challenge or two.

By completing the full curriculum, entrepreneurs will:
1. Build their business model’s assumptions.
2. Validate those with buyers and sellers.
3. Project their financials.
4. Prepare to present to lenders, investors, or customers.
Compass coaching services, a $1,000 value for the six- to ten-week curriculum, are offered free of charge to individual entrepreneurs. Organizations that want Start Fort Wayne to provide a customized Compass program tailored to their clientele are asked to sponsor that program.

Steve Franks, entrepreneur coach with LevelUp, will facilitate the one-on-one coaching. He has helped hundreds of northeast Indiana entrepreneurs and startups over the past decade at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, at regional venture accelerators he established in Whitley and LaGrange Counties, through the Co.STARTERS program in Fort Wayne and Decatur, and informally over coffee. He’s worked with startups ranging from part-time ventures to those that raised millions in investments, across dozens of industries and markets.

“I love helping the Northeast Indiana entrepreneur community grow,” Franks said. “Since soft-launching Compass, I’ve met with over 40 entrepreneurs from over 30 ventures. And we are just getting started!”

“Coaching and mentoring are essential ingredients to a startup’s success,” said local entrepreneur Brendon Maxwell, owner of Utopian Coffee. “They can help founders get a much better return on their limited time and money and help them avoid pitfalls that can stop their venture in its tracks. I wish there had been a formal program like this ten years ago when I started Utopian Coffee. It’s greatly needed and will be a tremendous asset to the startup community. “

To register for Compass, complete the registration form at For more information, download a program description at or contact Steve at