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Posted by: Steve Kimmel 7 days ago

The Exchange, 201 N. Wayne Street, Warren, was the location of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce’s third entrepreneurial gathering ‘Meet & Greet.’ The event was held in partnership with Historic Warren Main Street on February 26 with over 40 entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs attending.

Steve Kimmel, executive director of the Chamber, began the evening by welcoming those in attendance and explaining the Entrepreneurial Leadership Council under the direction of the Chamber. Jeff Souder of Historic Warren Main Street also welcomed those in attendance to The Exchange building, which was donated to Warren by the former PNC Bank. He explained the building was constructed in 1887, and he and wife Becky have been instrumental in its restoration. He thanked the Town of Warren, the Huntington County Commissioners, Huntington County Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington County Community Foundation for their support of the project.

Kimmel said “The goal of the Council is to grow entrepreneurial wealth, and encourage more entrepreneurs to open businesses or to attract more businesses to open in our county.” He continued, “New businesses help to bring growth and development to the community with the support of residents and existing businesses; in other words, we grow the community.”

Kimmel then introduced John Niederman, director of the Fortitude Fund through Elevate Northeast Indiana. Niederman explained the Fortitude Fund and its support of entrepreneurs, “We have helped 270 entrepreneurs with $1,000 grants, and we like to connect people. There are entrepreneurs we have helped in the room tonight.” To learn more or apply visit Fortitude Fund.

The Wagon Wheel and Son-Rise Bakery, both Warren area businesses, provided the food for the evening. Created Décor, a Warren retail store located at 123 N. Wayne Street, provided the handmade centerpieces for the tables. Created Décor features home décor, gifts and handcrafted items, and is owned by entrepreneur Candy Smith. Follow Created Décor on Facebook or email at

Brady Smekens

The entrepreneurial ‘Meet & Greet’ featured two entrepreneurs who spoke about their businesses. Brady Smekens, co-owner of Smekens Education Solutions, Inc. along with wife Kristina, thanked the Chamber for coming to Warren, and gave kudos to Becky and Jeff Souder for transforming the space used for the evening.

Smekens explained that Smekens Education Solutions provides services to public and private schools. He said, “Teachers need to learn updated strategies to connect with kids to produce stronger readers and writers. Schools hire their company and they share strategies to help teachers implement what they learn.”

He continued, “We have over fifty books and professional tools to help teachers do a better job. We have six consultants hired to go into elementary schools to implement our strategies.”

According to Smekens Education Facebook page, “For more than a dozen years, they have been helping to boost achievement in reading and writing by providing practical and engaging professional development for teachers. During that time, they have worked with hundreds of schools and thousands of teachers to equip educators with their practical innovative literacy strategies.”

Smekens Education Solutions is located in the former Eckman building at 123 E. First Street in Warren. Brady and Kristina were both involved in education as teachers and in administration when beginning the business. He explained that the business began as a corner desk in the Smekens home, moved to their garage and eventually to the Eckman building. He is grateful for the local partners who helped the business, “We feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be in the right place with the right people.”

For more information visit their website, see Facebook, email Smekens Education at: or call (888) 376-0448.

Krysta Fornal

Krysta Fornal, co-owner of Son-Rise Bakery along with husband Cory in Warren, is also grateful for the community support of their business. Originally from Warren, Krysta attended college in Indianapolis and returned to start Son-Rise Bakery on November 1, 2016. Located now at 114 N. Wayne Street, Son-Rise Bakery was originally located at 204 N. Wayne Street when Krysta learned that the owners wanted to sell the business.

Krysta said that she loved to bake and was interested in beginning a bakery, met the owners, helped them out for a few months to see if she wanted to start a bakery and eventually bought the business. She explained that she made many changes, used her own recipes and made a business plan. She then moved the business and created a café style atmosphere. She wanted the bakery to be a place “where you could meet with friends or use a laptop.”

Son-Rise Bakery has a complete line of breakfast items and serves hot breakfast items all day. A lite lunch is offered such as ham/cheese Paninis, grilled cheese and chicken salad croissants. A cup or bowl of soup is also offered. Sweet treats include cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, a variety of muffins, cookies, cupcakes, pies, scotcharoos and assorted candies/treats.

Krysta went on to describe the custom cakes and cupcakes made to order. Cold drinks, house coffee, hot chocolate, tea, chai, expresso specialty drinks (hot or iced) are also on the menu. Farm fresh beef and pork and farm fresh eggs are available from the refrigerated area. Online sales can be arranged through Facebook or Instagram.

Son-Rise Bakery is open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. or sell-out. Phone orders can be made at (260) 375-4616.

If you are an entrepreneur, aspiring entrepreneur, own your own business or are thinking about starting a business consider attending the next ‘Meet & Greet.’ For more information contact