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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox Hosts First Ignite Your Fire Entrepreneur Conference

The Knox College Bastian Family Center for Career Success hosted the two-day Ignite Your Fire entrepreneur conference on April 28-29 at the Orpheum Theater in Galesburg. The event marks the beginning of an annual series that coordinators Executive Director of Career Development Scott Crawford and Associate Director of College Engagement Levi Morgan hope will continue for years to come. 

“We want this to be an event that brings together Galesburg and Knox's entrepreneurial energy," Crawford said. 

Crawford says the idea for the event was inspired by Galesburg's strong business community. He says that students constantly come forward with ideas, but don’t always feel that they have a place where they can gather to flesh them out. Crawford believes that Ignite Your Fire, as well as other Knox business opportunities like StartUp Term, could be the catalyst for strengthening the connection between Knox students and the Galesburg business community.

“Students in all departments want to explore opportunities to create something in their careers," Crawford said. “We want to create a space that helps them pivot in the right direction.”

Ignite Your Fire featured two days of entrepreneurship panels, pitch critiques, and discussions. Ben and Jessica Ketchum, owners of Innkeepers Fresh Roasted Coffee, held a fireside chat focused on their business on the opening day of the conference. Day two saw a range of guest speakers, including Mike ’89 and Heather ’90 Acerra, who created the local science toy company Lux Blox. In addition, Nicole Havelka ’95, owner of Nicole Havelka Consulting LLC, gave a presentation on burnout in work culture.

Nikki Malley ‘98, who recently opened a specialty foods store in Galesburg, spoke at the event on a panel of local business leaders. She expressed excitement for the event and hopes to see it grow and foster further business collaborations in the future.

“There is so much talent and wisdom right here in the Galesburg community. Any effort the College can support to connect students, faculty, and staff to these resources will certainly benefit everyone involved,” Malley said.

Naysha Jain ’26 pitched her science-based space website to a group of three moderators, who guided her on how to correctly pace the pitch and what information to share. Jain was one of a number of students who took part in the event, hoping to gain insight into how to best present their ideas. 

“I want to learn life skills and how these business owners adapted over time,” Shubham Nian ’25 said. "Entrepreneurship has a lot of benefits. It can be fun.” 

"I enjoyed this conference. There is a lot to learn,” Liam Gallagher ’24 said. “I plan on starting my own business and I can take these experiences and apply them to the real world.”

Looking ahead, Morgan says they hope to bring in voices from around the country to speak, expanding the scope of the event. Ultimately, the most important goal of the conference is to aid budding entrepreneurs. The center has discussed involving other local schools including Monmouth College, Carl Sandburg College, and possibly reaching out as far as Peoria. 

Morgan believes that the more voices available to guide, the better. 

“Why can’t it be a conference for the entire area?” Morgan wondered. “There are many opportunities here and entrepreneurs to engage with.”

The Knox Ignite Your Fire entrepreneur conference is part of the John D. Carlin Career Bridge annual series.

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Printed on Wednesday, June 12, 2024