By Jenna Bertsch—
MUNCIE, IN—Every other month, southside business and nonprofit leaders gather at Rosebud Coffee House to discuss the community, learn about resources, and connect about operating in Muncie. The 8twelve Coalition started these 7 a.m. gatherings — fueled by coffee and hearty breakfast options — to connect businesses with each other and the city they serve.
8twelve Director Jena Ashby said, “knowing people and being known” is essential to building community. These meetings, she added, create synergy among the southside’s anchor businesses and nonprofits.
“Our local businesses are also neighbors, and alongside residents, their vision and feedback are important to our work to improve the quality of life in Muncie,” said Ashby, who guides the coalition — a team of 25 nonprofits, businesses and neighborhood associations working to improve the quality of life in the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods. “Many of the businesses have been in the neighborhood for decades and have remained committed to the area through ups and downs.”
Willco Wholesale Dist Inc., for instance, has supplied HVAC and electrical supplies and more from its 8th Street facility for 50 years. Owner Rick Williams attends most 8twelve Business Breakfasts. The Muncie native said the gatherings have led to a renewed sense of connection and pride among fellow owners and friends.
“It’s nice to talk about issues and needs with people who get it,” he said. “Our businesses are all different, but many of us face the same challenges. We offer each other ideas, learn about new approaches, and celebrate each other’s successes.”
The roughly 20 in attendance at the April meeting congratulated Jeremi Dobbs, owner of Versatile Metalworks, on the completion of the Muncie Memory Spiral in Heekin Park. Dobbs led his team at Versatile to build the shade structure and 23 sign pedestals that contain images and text about events and themes in the region’s history.
“I am from the southside, and I own a business in the South Central neighborhood, so I want to do all I can for this community — both as a business and as a neighbor,” he said. “These meetings create another avenue for me to be connected to and contribute to my hometown.”
MaryBeth Lambert, owner of Your Private Gardner, has attended the 8twelve Business Breakfasts since 2021. The Muncie resident, who specializes in horticultural services, seasonal containers and landscape design, said she greatly values the meetings’ speakers.
“WorkOne Central Indiana came to talk about its internship program, and that helped me hire and train new crew members while saving me the expense of paying them during training,” she said. “It made a major difference in my ability to add employees, and I wouldn’t have known about this opportunity without the 8twelve Business Breakfast.”
Jessica Satterfield, a human resources generalist at Arrowhead Plastic Engineering, Inc., said the meetings are a great reminder of all that Muncie can be: “Each meeting is a reminder of the passion that businesses have for our area of Muncie,” she said. “The community is of shared importance for all of these business leaders.”
Ashby agrees, and it’s why the 8twelve invests in the coffee and muffins that draw these leaders together. “There is something special,” she said, “about gathering people together in person.” She opens each meeting with a meaningful prompt to deepen the conversation, and people often linger long after the meeting concludes.
To learn more about the 8twelve Business Breakfasts, email Ashby at email@example.com or call 765-273-0513. Connect on socials @8twelveCoalition on Facebook.