Northeast Indiana lawmakers: Free program helps Hoosier small businesses build online presence

Posted by: Allison Vanatsky and Jake Thompson  | Monday, August 3, 2020

STATEHOUSE (Aug. 3, 2020) – Area lawmakers encourage Hoosier small-business owners and entrepreneurs to apply for a free program that provides direct technical support to help build their online presence.

"Turning to online sales and communication can be daunting at first, but with the right tools it can be a critical part of your business model," said State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn). "As Hoosiers use the internet to complete their shopping or find services, it is more important than ever for small businesses to stake out their digital territory."

The Indiana Small Business Development Center launched Project HOPE and recently partnered with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business to support long-term economic recovery of Hoosier small businesses and entrepreneurs. State Rep. David Abbott (R-Rome City) said through the program, eligible companies may apply for no-cost assistance to help establish or increase their online presence through website development, e-commerce support, and other digital tools and services.

"Many small businesses are looking for ways to make up lost revenue after the pandemic shut down much of our economy," Abbott said. "Expanding online is a great way to market your products or services to a broader audience, and differentiate yourself while building relationships with new customers."

To be eligible, Indiana small businesses must meet the following criteria:   

  • Be an Indiana SBDC client;
  • Have been in business as of Feb. 15, 2020; and
  • Be able to demonstrate a negative impact from COVID-19. 

State Rep. Denny Zent (R-Angola) said Kelley School of Business students and recent graduates can receive paid internships through this program to assist Hoosier companies with creating or modifying websites, building e-commerce platforms, improving cybersecurity frameworks, migrating data and more. Interns are overseen by faculty members, and projects are completed within two weeks. According to Zent, more than 75 student interns have participated in the program and are providing more than 8,000 hours of support to 97 small businesses in 28 counties.

"E-commerce is the next frontier for entrepreneurs interested in growing their business," Zent said. "Hoosiers can explore new technologies with the support of a trained and skilled intern ready to help you succeed. If you're a business owner struggling because of COVID-19, don't skip out on this free assistance."

Through the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the Indiana SBDC approved $150,000 in federal funding provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration through the CARES Act to support the statewide launch of Project HOPE. To learn more about COVID-19 resources and no-cost counseling available to Indiana entrepreneurs and small businesses, visit


State Rep. David Abbott (R-Rome City) represents House District 82, which includes all of Noble County and portions of Allen, Elkhart, LaGrange and Whitley counties.

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State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) represents House District 52, which includes all of DeKalb County, and portions of Steuben and Allen counties.

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State Rep. Denny Zent (R-Angola) represents House District 51, which includes most of LaGrange and Steuben counties.

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