FastTrac Graduates Honored for Entrepreneurial Achievement


From left: City of Berea Business Development Director Danny Isaacs facilitated the FastTrac NewVenture program, and at the recent recognition of participants, he was joined by Carolyn Sexton, Jessa Turner, Justin Dean Burton, Tim Wade, Mayor Steve Connelly, Jonathan Dazo, Gina Dittmeier, Michelle Ramsay, Brian Ramsay, MACED President Peter Hille, Rachel Myers, advisor Jennifer Reis, Susan Watson, advisor Steve Meng, and Berea Tourism Director Kerri Hensley. Four of the graduates, Burton, Wade, Dazo and Dittmeier, attended FastTrac as part of the Gallery 123 Arts Accelerator program.

Last week 10 local entrepreneurs were recognized for completing the Kauffman FastTrac NewVenture program, a 10-week study course that helps prospective business owners turn their ideas into viable commercial enterprises. The series was co-sponsored by the City of Berea, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), the Small Business Development Center at EKU, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.


FastTrac graduate Carolyn Sexton views the work of artist and fellow program graduate Jonathan Dazo.  

MACED President Peter Hille and Mayor Steve Connelly addressed the graduates during a brief ceremony, highlighting the important role entrepreneurs play in the economy.

“It’s great to see what you all have accomplished and where it’s going,” Hille said. “The opportunity to create your own job and your own business is still the best way to prosper in America.”

Now in its fourth year in Berea, the FastTrac series mentored participants in developing several different business models, ranging from operating craft businesses, to sewing, technology services, healing through hiking and outdoor activities, and quilting.

Brian Ramsay has developed a business model for making technology available to customers, allowing them to benefit and learn that technology without having to make a large personal investment in equipment. The business would provide access to technology such as a 3-D printer, laser engraver, and other tools that are not yet common in households. Ramsay said starting up his operation could be two years away.


Brian Ramsay explains the concept for his technology business to Berea City Councilman Steve Caudill, who was on hand last week to congratulate graduates of the FastTrac NewVenture program.

Meanwhile, another would-be entrepreneur in the Ramsay household is Michelle Ramsay, who has had some early success with her quilting business. “It’s for anybody that has memories they want to preserve, said Ramsay, who recalled when her mother sent her a bunch of school T-Shirts. “I realized then what value there is in having a quilt with all of those memories on it, and this is for anybody that has memories they want to preserve.”


FastTrac NewVenture training enabled Michelle Ramsay to explore ways to turn memories into money with her T-shirt quilting business.

One of the businesses honored last Tuesday, That’s Sew You, actually made a sale at the Acton Folk Center when Mayor Connelly bought a $5 pillow made by Lily Howard, 7. Lily helps her mother Rachel Myers, and grandmother, Susan Watson, both of whom graduated from FastTrac.


Lily Howard, 7, celebrated her very first sale to Mayor Steve Connelly when she sold him a Star Wars pillow.


Connelly said nurturing entrepreneurs and new businesses in Berea is an important facet of building a strong local economy because it keeps money circulating locally, and it can create opportunities for younger Bereans to stay and work in town. In concluding his remarks, Connelly encouraged FastTrac graduates in their next big step forward.  “This is not the end of your journey. This is just the beginning,” Connelly said.



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