INDIANAPOLIS — If you want the inside scoop on LiftOff Creamery, just take a look around.
“LiftOff Creamery is an aviation-themed ice cream shop,” said Owner and Founder Ryan Lynch, “Why is that? It’s because of my background and my profession as a commercial airline pilot that I’m still currently in.”
The aviation décor is a nod to Lynch’s 16 years working as a commercial airline captain, but it’s also a reflection of his passions for traveling and sweets.
Beyond that, his business also serves as an opportunity for area youth. Lynch runs a non-profit aimed at teaching kids about aviation jobs and careers, but also through LiftOff Creamery, he runs an after-school work program that allows youth the chance to work underneath him and get a hands-on experience into entrepreneurship and what it takes to run a small business.
“We all have to get started somewhere, as I tell my students,” he said. “We have to look at what are the resources, how do we get started in owning a business, what are the pathways, what is the process with that?”
Lynch also factors in his own experiences as a small black-owned business, which he said came with challenges while opening his doors in 2020.
“Just some funding, just getting access to some resources as well there too, being able to get into that inventory list and being able to help your business grow, get started and moving forward into the right direction,” he said. “Sometimes that’s kind of challenging if you don’t have some of that information in the beginning.”
However, despite the challenges, Lynch sought support in becoming certified through the city’s Office of Minority and Women Business Development.
On Friday, LiftOff Creamery was recognized as the city’s first “Certified Vendor of the Month”, a new initiative through the OMWBD that highlights certified minority, women, veteran and disabled-owned businesses in Indianapolis. Every month, organizers will choose a certified business for their work and impact on the community, award them with a plaque, visit and pictures with Mayor Joe Hogsett and a month’s worth of free promotion for their business from the city. To be considered, the business, regardless of industry, must be certified through the city’s OMWBD.
“We want to highlight businesses that we feel are doing outstanding work in whatever their particular field is,” said David Fredricks, director. “We also want to look at businesses that we think are trying to have a positive impact on the community, and hopefully, those businesses that may be underrepresented.”
Fredricks said the platform is meant help boost diverse business owners and connect them to needed resources and opportunities while also promoting the benefits of XBE certifications, which are already recognized by local organizations and businesses.
“The certification can help you in terms of getting in front of audiences and individuals that you probably normally wouldn’t be able to get in front of, the resources that our office brings to the table, as well as the connections, the ability to hopefully either open some doors or to do some introductions that will help the local minority businesses succeed,” Fredricks said.
Fredericks said being certified by the OMWBD can also unlock guidance and support through their office and network, including one-on-one business coaching and potential opportunities to get involved with projects in the city.
“The vast majority of businesses that we certify are either start-ups or very small businesses, and so we assist them with whether it’s putting together a business plan, a marketing strategy, helping them to identify lending resources,” said Fredricks.
“We also work pretty heavy when it comes to making sure they are aware of all the opportunities that are funded and supported by the city of Indianapolis,” he added. “We try to make sure and keep them abreast of any opportunity, whether it’s a city of Indianapolis project, an Indianapolis Airport project, IndyGo, if it’s a local sourcing opportunity, we push that information out.”
Right now, Fredricks said the city has about 775 business certified as minority, women, veteran or disabled-owned. That’s along with another 50 to 60 currently in the pipeline. He said the goal is to reach more than 800 by the end of this year.
The certification process takes an average of about 60-90 days depending on your business and the industry it’s in. By spreading the word of the already certified businesses in the community, Fredricks hopes it’ll not only bring more people through the doors of the featured establishment, but also their office to inquire about opportunities and support through OMBWD.
“A lot of times, we’re able to do outreach and marketing that some of these businesses may not have the budgets to be able to do themselves,” said Fredricks. “Hopefully, the goal will be that we will introduce their business to some new audiences, who may not have heard of their business or may not be aware that there’s a diverse business in that particular space.”
“Then, at the end of the day also, hopefully engage and give some more folks information about our office and what we do, so that we can help other businesses get certified and hopefully in the near future be one of our vendors of the month,” he said.