"This is a hometown community that supports the arts. We can build here and participate here and receive genuine support."

Entrepreneurs often are credited with being creative, but creative types aren’t always credited with being entrepreneurial. In Elkhart County, however, artists seem to have embraced entrepreneurism wholeheartedly.

In fact, if you sit down with a group of area artists, conversations about their latest creative efforts likely will be spiced with discussions of start-up funds, branding and business development.

“When it comes to business and the arts, it’s not an ‘either-or’ thing,” says Jerry Peters, who serves as sales manager with RedPost and also is involved in Goshen Theatre Inc., the GoShakes theater company and Arthouse. “You have to think ‘both-and.’” 

Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall, a GoShakes co-founder, offers herself up as an example of the artist-as-entrepreneur. An actress, writer, and producer, she manages and curates for her artist husband, David Kendall, has been involved in a number of creative start-ups and also worked as a production coordinator for Navy Pier Entertainment in Chicago and as a professional facilitator for corporate groups.

Bland-Kendall has lived all over the world, but happily moved to Elkhart County when Goshen Schools offered her husband, a job. He now is an Associate Professor of Film and Communications at Goshen College. They love how Goshen combines a comfortable, small-town vibe with creativity and a passion to prosper. “This is a hometown community that supports the arts,” Bland-Kendall says. “We can build here and participate here and receive genuine support.”

When she was forming GoShakes, Bland-Kendall says, she intentionally sought out business people to be on the board because, like Peters, she believes in “both-and.” She was delighted by the response, finding local businesspeople to be excited about how the arts can enhance life in Elkhart County.

Gina Leichty shares that mindset. As director of Downtown Goshen Inc., she heads up the group that organizes Goshen’s First Fridays, downtown festivals where arts and business routinely join forces. A partner with Eyedart Creative Studio who also serves as president of Goshen Theatre Inc., a nonprofit organization working to restore Goshen’s early-20th century movie house, Leichty says the “creative class” so desired by growing communities favors places where art and business work hand-in-hand.

One artist who has found the community supportive is Brian Whirledge. A teacher and painter of icons, Whirledge has appreciated how businesses partner with artists during First Fridays, and how the entire community sees arts support as integral to the community’s prosperity.

Bland-Kendall concurs, and adds, “I think there’s something that is ingrained in this community – a raise-the-bar attitude – that makes everything better.”

Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall | Gina Leichty
The Art of Entrepreneurialism

Elkhart County, IN Entrepreneurs​
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