Entrepreneurs find growth, mutual support across Dayton community

A group of Dayton-area entrepreneurs came together Friday to agree that there’s no better place to blaze your own business trail.

“I will go to the mat and say there is no better place in the world to be an entrepreneur than Dayton, Ohio,” said Betsy Westhafer, owner of Dayton business-to-business advisor The Congruity Group.

Westhafer joined Jeremy Turner, owner of Apply Pressure Washing and Restoration LLC, in being awarded the Winsupply Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, presented at a Dayton Area Chamber breakfast meeting at the NCR Country Club.

A panel of local business owners — Anthony Head of Chicken Head’s Ghost Kitchen; Andrew and Tanor Banks, owners of Performance Wraps; and Westhafer — shared stories of how support from mentors and fellow entrepreneurs got them through their most challenging times.

Panel members were asked about their toughest decisions. Head recalled how vandalism of a previous business location in February 2021 forced a temporary closure of his restaurant.

Head was heartbroken, particularly for his employees. But he started a GoFundMe account and was soon swamped with calls and support from Eaton food equipment producer Henny Penny and others. “Don’t worry about stuff; we’ve got your back,” he said he was told.

“I wept. I literally had tears because I could not believe the amount of support that I had,” he recalled.

“It’s great to see how everyone supports their tribe,” said Chris Kershner, chief executive and president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Others spoke of their own heady steps toward financial independence. Tanor Banks said the “worst case scenario” for entrepreneurs often isn’t as bad as they fear it is.

“As all the entrepreneurs in the room know, you make no money at all in the beginning,” Andrew Banks said.

“The biggest risk you take is on yourself,” said John McKenzie, president of Winsupply Inc.

Winsupply is built on networks of entrepreneurs who co-own their businesses in the area of construction goods wholesaling to contractors and installers. Local owners take an equity stake in the business, while Winsupply acts as majority owner, offering know-how and financial heft.

McKenzie joined others in touting the value of mentoring new business owners. “The mistakes you’ve made are the mistakes they’re about to make,” he said.

Westhafer has mentored University of Dayton entrepreneurship students for five years. “I’ve heard them say, ‘I’ve never even considered staying here in Dayton after graduation.’ So they’re starting to think like that. They realize what we have here.”

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