Message from Bobby Dutcher, President of Lake County Chamber of Commerce

“On October 23, Sabrina Andrus, Dennis Darling, and I were judges at the annual Hands Up Lake County Business Competition. This year there were 19 local entrepreneurs from a wide variety of business types. Two of them were not able to attend. Trying to choose the 5 finalists from 17 dedicated, hardworking business owners proved to be a very difficult decision. I was extremely impressed with every single one of the competitors. These ranged from a teenage baker trying to afford commercial equipment to a retired fishing lure designer who wants to expand in order to hire local young people to pass his business on to. At the end of the competition, it took the 3 of us over 30 minutes to agree on the 5 finalists. The competition was so close we all had different finalists in mind.

When I was in high school, I made up my mind to run my own business. As soon as I graduated from college, my father and I started a timber harvesting business. Luckily banks would loan him money, so we started out with a debt load I wasn’t sure we could ever pay off. The first few years were 7 day work weeks, sometimes 20 hours a day. Things you never expect and are out of your control almost ruin you, seems like you can never relax and let your guard down. Even though that, I never had to deal with a pandemic, power shut-offs, and I actually made quite a bit of money fighting fires when they broke out. Small business owners here have had an unfair series of disasters to overcome the past few years. Listening to the stories of small business owners on October 23 reminded me of my struggles early on. It was really difficult narrowing the field down to 5 finalists, I wish we could have given all of them $20,000 (our top prize).

Lake County has some incredibly talented, dedicated business owners. I’m very grateful that I was asked to participate in such an outstanding program. The Lake County Chamber of Commerce has always encouraged local residents to spend their money locally. That seems even more important to me after meeting 17 of our local small business owners. “

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