A partnership between Indy Idea Hub and the City of Independence has brought forth a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurs in our region. The last few years have seen the creation of several supportive programs including networking events, assistance programs, startup weekends, and more. Recently, Indy Idea Hub acquired USDA grant funds for a shared-use commercial kitchen housed within the Indy Commons co-working space.

Kate Schwarzler, owner of Indy Commons and Executive Director of Indy Idea Hub, has been at the forefront of these successes. Her passion, hard work, and dedication to Independence’s local economy are unparalleled.

“We’re giving people steppingstone options to explore opening a business,” said Schwarzler. “If nothing else, we’ve given them a safe place to try it out without risking everything.”

Originally from the remote timber town of Alsea, Oregon, Schwarzler understands firsthand how negative attitudes towards local economies can severely impact the morale of its residents.

“The message was you need to leave this community to go find a good job,” shared Schwarzler.

Not only did this frustrate Kate, but it filled her with a zeal to help build the contrary here in Independence. [A group of people posing for a photo outside a building Description automatically generated with medium confidence] Schwarzler has since created one of the first coworking spaces in rural Oregon, paving the way for Indy Idea Hub to take shape.

Indy Idea Hub is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that partners with the City of Independence on providing relevant programming for entrepreneurs in our community. Indy Commons is the private LLC that serves as the physical meeting space for these programs. These two entities exist separately while sharing a common goal: creating a healthy and vibrant economic ecosystem in our city. This is exemplified best through the shared-use commercial kitchen.

The facility, nicknamed Indy Kitchen, was conceptualized as a one-stop-shop access point for customers and restauranteurs alike to gain educational programming while utilizing the space to realize their business goals. Through our combined efforts, entrepreneurs now have access to funding for licensing fees, connections to COVID response grants, and even technical assistance programs for businesses seeking to pivot to the digital landscape. In addition, 66% of these business owners were either minority or woman-owned, an illustration of the far-reaching capabilities initiatives like this creates. Success stories like this could not have been possible without the partnered support from the City and Indy Idea Hub. And there is much more on the horizon.

Throughout March, Indy Kitchen will be hosting a training for Spanish-speaking individuals to learn how to build, market, and grow a foodservice business. This program will serve those who want to own their own food service business as well as those who want to improve their current enterprise. Like all of Indy Idea Hub’s programs, this event will be free to the public.

As previously mentioned, Indy Idea Hub partnered with the City of Independence to distribute technical assistance to over 30 businesses in the Monmouth-Independence area. This technical assistance program arrived in the form of new websites, social media campaigns, marketing strategies, and more, to businesses struggling to make the transition to a more digital format. The focus was on providing clearly defined services that created a tangible outcome and could be implemented quickly. Businesses also received a review of their digital footprint to better understand how they show up during an online search. As an added benefit to our community, Indy Idea Hub hired local service providers to perform the work. The results speak for themselves.

“Due to COVID, our tourism-driven business halted almost entirely,” stated MaMere’s Guest House officials. “I was at a loss for how to market a business that is rooted in travel. My instinct initially was to stop marketing entirely, but I also didn’t want people to forget we existed. I also had no revenue to pay for any type of marketing. This technical assistance grant came at just the right time! I am excited to implement our social media plan and learn some new skills that will positively impact my business now and post COVID.”

Among its accomplishments, the partnership between Indy Idea Hub and the City of Independence has produced the Growing Rural Oregon (GRO) program which is funded by the Ford Family Foundation. This program recognizes entrepreneurial talent in Independence and helps identify the tools needed to support and uplift these individuals. This program aims to identify areas of opportunities, and ultimately strengthen our city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by providing relevant programming, networking, and resources.

“I think a lot of if it—for me–comes down to a personal mission,” shared Schwarzler. “I am deeply invested in rural resiliency and innovation, and helping this community be able to grow.”

Through continued private-public partnerships like this, our community’s mission of creating a healthy and prosperous economic ecosystem is a horizon that ceases to be labeled elusive.

To learn more about the partnership between Indy Idea Hub and the City of Independence, visit their website:


Indy Idea Hub members