Chamber Champions

Oldham Chamber selects
two Business Plan winners

Blooms, Zaager Inc.
each receive a $12,000 prize

By Don Ward

BUCKNER, Ky. (April 2012) – Two Oldham County-based companies split $25,000 in prize money after having competed in the inaugural Business Plan Contest, sponsored by Oldham Chamber and Economic Development office.
Oldham Chamber Executive Director Deana Epperly Karem presented the awards to Blooms, a La Grange-based florist, and Zaager Inc., a digital company, during the March 9 Showcase Oldham County Business Luncheon. Each winning company of the contest received $12,000 to put toward their business plans. The money was provided by private donors, some of whom served on the committee that selected the winners. Blooms is co-owned by partners Nancy Rankin and Susan Zehnder. Zaager Inc. is a startup company owned by Mike Russell and Linda Schuster.
The competition attracted 30 entries. A committee narrowed the entries down to four before making its selection. The other two finalists were Abspark and Promark Publishing. Each of the four finalists made a presentation to the selection committee on March 7.


Photo by Don Ward

Deana Epperly Karem (left) presents
the award to Blooms owners Susan
Zehnder and Nancy Rankin.

“It takes a special discipline and drive to be an entrepreneur. Many of our current Oldham County businesses were started, nurtured and grown here,” Karem said.
The Chamber and Economic Development conceived the contest to encourage the creation, acceleration and expansion of businesses in Oldham County. The grant money provided is to be used for legal, marketing and accounting services to help the winners launch or expand their venture. The winners also will receive up to 10 hours of of consulting services from industry professionals. This is valued at approximately $5,000.
The contest opened Nov. 14, 2011, with an entry deadline of Dec. 9.
It was hoped that just by competing in the contest, it would help participants improve skills necessary to create a business plan and may lead to valuable public and media exposure. Also, participants would gain access to potential investors, advisors and mentors through formal and informal channels.


Photo by Don Ward

Deana Epperly Karem (left)
presents the award to Zaager Inc.
owners Linda Schuster
and Mike Russell.

Also during the Showcase Luncheon, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer served as the keynote speaker. He discussed a project he has been working on since November 2011 with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to foster more regionalism and partnerships between the two cities to create more economic development opportunities in the state. The initiative is called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, or BEAM, and focuses heavily on manufacturing initiatives. It is being led by Louisville Arena Authority chairman Jim Host of Lexington.
Fischer said the goal is to attract companies to the Bluegrass to help create more jobs. But he said the biggest challenge is finding skilled workers to fill those jobs. Fischer cited statistics showing that even with 8.3 percent unemployment in the country, there are 3 million open jobs, due to the lack of qualified workers to fill those jobs.

Greg Fischer

Photo by Don Ward

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
addresses the Showcase
Oldham County luncheon.

Fischer said the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., named BEAM as one of the top four innovative programs in the nation. The others are located in northern Ohio, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Puget Sound, Wash. BEAM was awarded a $5 million grant by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is known for his support of business enterprise.
Another challenge facing Kentucky’s two largest cities is the loss of tax revenue that they generate but lose to other areas of the state. Fischer said Louisville and Lexington combined make up 2 million of the state’s 4.3 million population and generate 60 percent of the state’s tax revenue. But much of the revenue is redistributed around the state. “This redistribution of tax revenue has made it difficult for the two cities to keep up with maintaining our infrastructure – roads and bridges.”
The luncheon drew a record crowd of 260, according to chamber officials, and was followed on March 10 by the daylong business expo open to the public at the YMCA Soccer Complex.

Back to April 2012 Articles.



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