At StartUp Hutch, we believe in connecting a community of entrepreneurs. Sharing our stories is one of the best ways to create collisions, share ideas, and make the most of our skills, talents, and resources in Reno County
Eric Spurgeon is a serial entrepreneur.
"I've always had the inclination to own a business,” Spurgeon said. “From the time I was 12, raising chickens and selling eggs to teachers at school, I have enjoyed being my own boss.” Spurgeon currently runs two businesses; one is established and growing, and the other is an early start up. Tarhun 3D is an engineering design firm that works with smaller startups and companies to help them move their products through the design process from prototype to market. Iron Hedge is a startup with a new take on barbed wire fences.
Spurgeon owned and operated a barbed wire fence company when he was in high school. While working in the engineering industry after
college, he noticed that his expertise as a previous business owner brought a unique viewpoint to his engineering projects that made things run more smoothly. In 2017, he decided to combine those skills, and he started Tarhun 3D.
Mentors have been a great resource for Spurgeon. “A mentor told me that people often negate their natural strengths,” he said. “We live with ourselves everyday so we don't think about what we are really good at.” His mentor suggested looking at what he was good at and finding two skills that may not seem to match up. Then consider how those two skills combined could be more valuable than a single skill applied. Spurgeon realized that there aren’t that many people who have his experience building barbed wire fences who also have expertise in engineering - and they enjoy both processes.
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Spurgeon leveraged what he already knew from Tarhun 3D about helping clients create products when he started Iron Hedge. Now he’s working through the design process he created at one company to take the other to market.
“It was especially helpful to get involved and meet people when I was new to the community. You never know what meaningful relationship you will stumble into.”
It was while Zac Kitson was still working as a high school employee that Barbara Didlo casually mentioned selling the business to him.
“I didn’t feel I was in a place to purchase the business as a high school student, but as the conversation went on my parents walked into the shop. Now we operate this as our family business, my parents and my wife and I.”
Metropolitan Coffee is now one of the premier stops for coffee, tea, espresso, and baked goods in Hutchinson. Beyond the food and beverages – Metro is known as a place for connections. Not only is it great for meetings, hang outs and study groups, but the business displays pieces from local artists, hosts special events such as Swing Dancing night, and is a great place to catch local music.
After the success of their 17th and Lorraine location, The Kitson’s expanded into Downtown Hutchinson’s Wiley District in 2016.
“The grace we’ve offered to our customers has been reciprocated and they’ve been loyal supporters,” said Kitson. “We couldn’t do what we do without the people of Hutchinson.”
'We couldn't do what we do without the people of Hutchinson.'
Holly's Sweet Treats
Holly Thomas has been baking for as long as she can remember. Yet her first attempt to elevate her hobby - by decorating a cake for her cousin's wedding shower - was "awful."
"I wrote on it three times," Thomas laughed. "It was all smeared. But it tasted good."
A guest at the shower asked Thomas to make her wedding cake. She started making cakes and treats for family and friends hosting parties and special events. After a while, Thomas found her career in the nonprofit sector making way for a new side business for her longtime hobby, which pushed her to broaden her skills, upgrade her equipment, and perfect her craft.
Now, that side gig has taken up residence in one of downtown Hutchinson's anchor storefronts - the corner of Avenue B and Main Street. There, Holly's Sweet Treats has increased its capacity to serve the needs of the community, from custom cakes to unique, handcrafted treats, to lunch and take-home meals, and gifts that can't be found anyplace else.
"I call what I do feeding people joy," Holly said. My hope is that people come in, hang out, watch me decorate and feel like this is a place they want to be."
The Wool Market
& DIY School
The sign above The Wool Market & DIY School only partly describes what's inside.
While owners Andrea Springer and Steve Snook offer wool and all the supplies one would need to take up knitting, the space at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street in Hutchinson is also a gathering space where you can watch a bad sci-fi movie one night, hear a New York Time best-selling author on another, and hone your skills the next day at a knitting class or group.
"It's amazing to get people together who would otherwise never meet around the table," Springer said. "The retail part always felt like a secondary goal. We wanted to create a welcoming space for meeting people - but how does that look in a business plan?"
The couple transitioned from established nonprofit and medical careers to create new pathways for their futures and to invest in downtown Hutchinson. In the process, they've found new friends and new creativity, sparked by the connections that have been made.