New downtown location offers opportunities for small businesses

BRITTANY BLUTHARDT | STAFF REPORTER | bbluthar@butler.edu

The Speak Easy opened a new location last month in downtown Indianapolis where small businesses and Butler University students can interact.

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The Speak Easy is a nonprofit membership-based organization that leases office space to small businesses.

Students will have a chance to connect with emerging Indianapolis business owners through internships, networking events and class-led initiatives. The company already works with Butler.

For example, guest lecturers visit business classes to teach students about the business world, specifically in the Real Business Experience course.

Danielle McDowell, executive director of the Speak Easy, said the partnership between The Speak Easy and Butler will continue to grow.

“I think there could be a lot of ways this could take shape, and we are excited to begin exploring how the partnership unfolds,” she said.

The Speak Easy chair Andy Clark is a Butler MBA graduate. Three people from Butler are on the advisory board. Recent Butler graduates, Josh Gaal and Tim Valentine, currently lease space for their video production company Train918.

Butler students have access to the space for events, classes, speaker panels and collaboration between the companies within the Speak Easy. The university has a designated office in the downtown location. Students can get involved with events held by the member companies.

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Melissa Beckwith, interim VP of marketing, communications and strategic communication at Butler, serves on The Speak Easy advisory board. The organization provides students with an opportunity to collaborate with and learn from local entrepreneurs and their growing companies, she said.

“The Speak Easy believes it’s essential for businesses to have access to the expertise housed within a university,” Beckwith said. “The goal is to develop relationships with the companies so they begin to offer opportunities such as mentoring, internships and post-graduation employment for Butler students.”

The Speak Easy’s first location opened in 2011 in Broad Ripple with a volunteer board of directors and a mission to “create the healthiest entrepreneurial ecosystem, anywhere.” The organization grew and opened its new location in the Morrison Opera House. It houses micro-leased private offices for small businesses to experience “next level growth” with a joint community of 350 members.

Businesses begin with around two to four employees, and continue to expand, McDowell said.

A celebration held in late October included community members, Indianapolis VIPs and Butler President James Danko.

“The Speak Easy partnership leverages top quality Butler programming and growth resources for the benefit of its members while providing an innovative environment where our students, faculty and staff can engage with Indianapolis’s entrepreneurial community,” Danko said in a press release.

The new location provides small businesses that do not need larger office spaces with short-term leasing opportunities. It offers them the opportunity to network with other businesses, access programming and search for potential investors, Beckwith said.

“This next expansion will allow the community at large to have a wider net and greater opportunities to collaborate, create, and learn,” McDowell said.

The Speak Easy Downtown holds business meetings, retreats and other public and private events at its new location.

“We are excited to move into this next phase alongside Butler University and are excited to see what emerges,” McDowell said.

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