Indiana State University Newsroom

Development center in Federal Hall guides start-ups, young businesses

September 26, 2012

For Stacey Thacker, Saturday night was intended to be a time to relax with family.

She reserved the evening for artwork with her sons, then 2 and 6 years old. One night, as she and the boys muddled in clay when an idea flashed into her head: couldn't this become a business?

"Art Totality is something that nobody's ever done before," Thacker said of her idea-turned-Terre Haute business reality. "It's something completely and utterly different."

Though she conceived of the idea for the company that creates art projects and lessons during family friendly gatherings, it was not immediately ready to start. She created business plans before talking with Heather Strohm, regional director of the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center housed in Federal Hall with the Scott College of Business. Though Thacker knew of some of the tasks that she needed to do to get her business up and running, Strohm provided the detailed roadmap to get there.

"Heather is still to this day a phenomenal business coach," Thacker said. "Before I go and dive into something, I have her review it first before I jump, and make sure that I see something clearly."

The center in Federal Hall is part of the statewide Small Business Development Center network, which provides a variety of services and support to small business start-ups and to promote job growth throughout the state. Strohm's office provides services to for-profit businesses in the Wabash Valley; the center also provides educational programming such as seminars for business owners to learn more.

"We don't want to see businesses just start," Strohm said. "We want to see them grow and add jobs in the Wabash Valley."

Indiana State also works closely with the center. In addition to housing the organization, ISU provides one-third of the center's annual budget. The office also has a position typically filled by a student in a Scott College graduate program. Strohm and others in the center will work with student classes and organizations, such as the Sycamore Business Advisors capstone course, to provide additional learning opportunities.

"The Small Business Development Center is a great resource for the community, and it also has provided high quality learning opportunities for our students," said Brien Smith, dean of the Scott College. "It is great for the Scott College of Business to have a role in an organization that plays such a vital role into job growth and business development in the region."

Thacker received help to become a legal business entity, along with support for her logo and website. The business she created now partners with other Wabash Valley companies to provide art events that families and groups of friends can attend.

"One family gets to know another family, and it builds from there communitywide," Thacker said, "and artists connect with other artists too."

Business owners in an array of different fields seek support from the development center. The office provides some services, such as research, advice and business plan reviews, while also providing references to other companies providing different functions a company needs, including banks for loans and attorneys for legal advice.

Robert Garzolini, owner of Terre Haute Helicopter, learned about the center after hearing Strohm talk at a local event. He spoke with her about the steps needed to get a loan for his business idea, in which helicopters would provide agricultural services such as spraying fields and pollination.

"They reviewed the information and felt it was a viable entity," said Garzolini, whose company now operates in multiple states, including Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. "Without Heather and the Small Business Administration there, we would never have gotten this business started."

Garzolini's business, which started in 2009, earlier this year received the Indiana Small Business Development Center Edge Award for Established Businesses.

"It's vindication of the process and the theory that I had," Garzolini said, "It also is very good for the Small Business Development Center because they saw the potential of it."

The center at ISU helps about 200 businesses each year, Strohm said. More than a quarter of those companies receive support multiple times through the year.

"It's very rewarding," Strohm said, "to see these companies start and be successful."

Photo: (Submitted photo)People work on art projects at Art Totality's Going Green with Artwork event. Stacey Thacker started the company after receiving assistance from the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center at Indiana State University. The center provides a variety of consultation services to small businesses in the Wabash Valley.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Sycamore Sam near Art Totality's booth during Indiana State University's Earth Day festivities. ISU provides a third of the funding for the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, which features Art Totality as a client. The development center is housed in ISU's Federal Hall, which is also home to the Scott College of Business.

Photo: (Submitted photo)One of the helicopters used by Terre Haute Helicopter. Robert Garzolini, owner of Terre Haute Helicopter, received services and support from the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, which is housed in Federal Hall at Indiana State University.

Contact: Heather Strohm, regional director, West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, 812-237-7676 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or