Another Successful Pioneer Event

In Focus with Stéphane Frijia

Dear Friends of Northeast Indiana,

Today, I would like to highlight our Pioneer Starts Here platform and our second annual Pioneer Event that took place last Thursday evening at The Forum at Electric Works. First of all, many thanks to 300-plus of our closest friends who joined us in this annual celebration!

We took the momentum from last year’s successful launch and decided to expand it to make it bigger and spotlight more pioneers from our region … and it was a success!

This year’s awards include three category winners – Brand Champion, Social Impact and Entrepreneur. We had a tie in one of our categories. The award winners for Brand Champion, in a tie, were Cathy Brand-Beere, Founder and President of DeBrand Fine Chocolates, and Tod Minnich, President and CEO of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment. Our winner for Social Impact was Cote Godoy, Director of Musical Conexion. Our winner for Entrepreneur was James Khan, President and Owner of ObiCai Restaurant Group

Through live voting during the event, Khan was chosen as the 2024 Pioneer of the Year award winner.

Pioneering is not new to Northeast Indiana. The people of this region have a long history of breaking new ground – physically and figuratively. Our goal was to develop a movement for the region that would be much bigger than a campaign. NEI would be the stage and the megaphone for Hoosiers to narrate their own stories.

This is a people business, and the most powerful medium is storytelling. So we’ve built a platform that is designed on purpose to advance individual storytelling, layered with corporate storytelling. It’s how this becomes the thing and how we evolve economic development to a place where storytelling is a collective effort.

Organic storytelling is a way to listen to the people of the region and hear what they have to say about the region, the state and the Midwest as a whole.

We have built a strong foundation to build upon for people to come in a organically tell their story, starting with the NEI Pioneer Podcast and Pioneer Video series leading up to the event. This will only continue to grow and become a fruitful resource for those who live in Northeast Indiana and those who are looking to move here.

It takes a lot of work to grow a community. It takes a lot of work to grow and develop an economy. But the key to all of that is in developing “partnership” across all the communities that make up Northeast Indiana. Pioneer Start Here pulls it all together. It brings complex ideas and puts them all together with a simplified approach and makes it more actionable.

It’s been a challenge that I’ve been looking to solve for quite some time and now we have that platform, and it’s working.

The Pioneer platform reflects the best of everything Hoosiers do in Northeast Indiana, and most importantly in their own words. Our region has a rich history and is a treasure trove of stories. We plan on continuing to highlight and share the stories of resilience and persistence.

I’m proud of what we built with the Pioneer Starts Here platform. This year’s event is a testament that we can do bigger and better here in Northeast Indiana.

Warm regards,
Stéphane Frijia

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