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Young alumni open businesses despite pandemic

It’s tough enough opening a small business in any climate, but doing so in the middle of a pandemic is even more challenging. Yet inventive, determined people, such as the three young alumni featured here, continue to turn their ideas into money-making ventures for the sheer love of sharing their passion with the public. Their businesses range from a part-time hobby to a large-scale sporting adventure club.

Monetizing a crafting hobby
Becca Hellinger ’15 has always loved to do crafts. At Providence her favorite classes were art, and she loved spending time working on various projects. But once she began nursing school at Indiana University Southeast, her studies kept her from spending much time at. After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in May, she promised herself she would return to doing things she loved as a personal reward, she said.

She started making decorative badge reels and epoxy tumblers for herself and then for friends as a way to destress after her night-shift job as a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Norton Children’s Hospital. Coming home after a long shift and working on craft projects has become her favorite way to unwind.

“I love how I can go into my basement and start working on something and everything else in my mind melts away,” Hellinger said. “I lose track of time and stay up way too late quite often, but it’s worth it to me to have that outlet to unwind at the end of each day. I also love the happiness and excitement on people’s faces when I deliver their items. I love being able to make something personal for them to bring a little more joy to their day when they see it. Their excitement makes my heart happy.”

The idea for selling her creations came when friends who received her gifts suggested she sell them. In June, she started a Facebook page, Becca’s Craft Creations and Personalizations, and began taking orders. Since then, she’s had a steady stream of orders from coworkers and friends. For now, she plans to limit her orders to local delivery to avoid shipping.

She spends a couple hours each day either crafting for herself or working on orders. It takes five days to complete an epoxy tumbler because of the curing process, and she can make up to eight at one time, thanks to additional turners her dad made for her.

Hellinger said she plans to continue nursing full time and maintain her business as a hobby. Even though she loves crafting, she loves her career too.

“This is a tough job (working in the Pediatric ICU), but I love how rewarding it can be,” she said. “I not only care for children during some of their worst days, but also for their families.

Being able to see the kids go from very critical to walking out our doors is definitely a highlight I love. I can’t see myself working in another profession.”

Turning family tradition into marketing opportunity
Collin Rauck ’15 also is turning his hobby into a business. Whitetail Bloodline, which he co-owns with a friend who shares Rauck’s passion for hunting, “is a hunting brand that aims to promote hunting and conservation that has been passed down throughout our bloodline,” he said.

The business is still in the early stages of development and for now offers a merchandising line of hats, hoodies, shirts, and decals. Next up, Rauck and his business partner, Gavin Sodders, plan to post videos of themselves hunting to the Whitetail Bloodline YouTube channel. Future plans include starting a podcast focusing on hunting tips and strategies.

Rauck and Sodders began formalizing their longtime dreams of owning an outdoor company just as the spring quarantine began. Despite the shutdown, the two moved forward with their plans. Merchandise sales opened in late August, and the pandemic has meant shipping delays, but orders are coming in. The two continue promoting the brand and their love of hunting and the outdoors on the business’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

Although it may seem like a crazy time to start a business, Rauck said he and Sodders were ready to launch their business despite the climate. After all, hunting can be a solo sport, and they are both looking forward to the fall season opening soon.

“We’ve both been hunting since we could basically walk, and we both are very thankful for our dads being the biggest influence in getting us into hunting and the outdoors,” Rauck said.

Old family farm now a sporting club
Jack G. Koetter ’14 also has launched an outdoor activity business, but of the three profiled here, his is the only full-scale business. The Sporting Club at the Farm, located on 740 acres along the Ohio River on River Road in New Albany, offers a variety of outdoor activities, mainly focused around shooting and archery, with plans to expand into hiking, corporate outings and more.

Koetter left his job as foreman with his family’s business Koetter Construction in order to launch The Sporting Club. As assistant manager, he oversees daily operations and handles property management. It’s been a busy year for Koetter and his business partner, Bobby Brooks, who is a cousin to Koetter’s wife, Catherine (Emerson) ’14.

Brooks shared his vision for the river-bottom land one of his relatives was selling, and Koetter saw the potential for the old farm. The two began work on the property in July 2019, and The Sporting Club opened this past June – delayed from the original April opening because of the statewide quarantine. He also is using his former construction business skills to restore the nearly 150-year-old farmhouse into a pro shop and clubhouse.

“It has been seven days a week, daylight to dark getting us to where we are now,” Koetter said. “And I have to thank my wife, Catherine Koetter, for allowing me to spend countless hours away from her and our three young kids,” Summer, 4; Jackson, 2; and John Kayce, 8 weeks.

Business has gone well this summer, with families, individuals, and organizations coming out to enjoy clay target shooting, archery, fishing, and hiking. The facility also offers events, banquets, and weddings.

“These are some of the things we do to keep the lights on but our mission and our ‘why’ is to get kids in the outdoors,” Koetter said, noting that organizations such as the National Archery School Program and Scholastic Clay Target program use the facilities. “(We want) to get kids that maybe aren’t the star quarterback or pitcher or maybe don’t have a father figure in their life to get them outside and teach them that there is more to life than just video games and give them a chance to be a part of a team or talk about God. That’s something that is very near and dear to our hearts.”

Koetter said that despite the full-time effort needed to launch a business, he is grateful to see how families and children are enjoying the farm and its offerings.

“The opportunity to bring the business to our community that has an economic impact and to share our passion for the great outdoors has been a dream come true,” Koetter said. “I have to thank my business partner, Bobby, for including me on his idea and to give the glory to God for putting our families together and assembling our team to get this business to where we are now.”

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