La PORTE – A La Porte County entrepreneur has teamed up with a Valparaiso small business owner to start a new venture with a somewhat unusual business plan.

The new business, known as The Collective, is the brainchild of Mandy Krickhahn, a Michigan City native now living in La Porte; and Gabrielle Pazour of Valparaiso.

"At it’s core, it is a community to support small business owners/entrepreneurs while giving back to the community," Krickhahn said.

And in that vein, they will be hosting their first artisan market – "All of our vendors make or upcycle the products they are selling," Krickhahn said – on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, 1001 Ridge St., La Porte. Admission is $5 for guests 13 and over.

"With each market we do, we will also be facilitating a fundraiser for a non-profit organization," she said. "At our first event, we will be raising money for Lakeshore Paws, a dog rescue in Northwest Indiana."

Several of the vendors will be donating 10 percent of their sales from the day, while The Collective will be donating 10 percent of entry fees.

As another tasty enticement, "We’ve also teamed up with Michigan City's Burn ‘Em Brewing and brewed a beer with them that they will bring to the market. The owners of Burn 'Em donated a keg to the event, and all proceeds will go to Lakeshore Paws," Krickhahn said.

Attendees will also be encouraged to bring donations (monetary, dog food, treats, etc.); and Paws representatives, and some adoptable dogs, will be there with information on how to get involved.

"Each market will have over 50 local small businesses involved as well as a different non-profit we will be supporting," Krickhahn said. Future markets, also at the Civic Auditorium, will be Aug. 17 and Nov. 23.

While it may not sound like the most lucrative business plan, that's not what the founders had in mind.

"At The Collective, our goal is to empower entrepreneurs through workshops and events that will provide them with meaningful connections and useful information to help them succeed," Krickhahn said.

And it all goes back to Krickhahn and Pazour's own experiences in starting their own small businesses.

They met in 2017, shortly after Pazour opened her "brick and mortar boutique, Aster + Gray," Krickhahn said.

Seeing an opportunity to showcase her own home-based business, Krickhahn approached Pazour about carrying her skin care line, The SpOiled Housewife, in the shop. After trying out the products – and loving them – Pazour decided to give it a shot.

"During her first drop-off at the shop, Mandy quoted 'Mean Girls' and compared Aster + Gray to Rose Apothecary from 'Schitt’s Creek' a show we both obsessively watch and quote, and we knew we were destined to be friends," Pazour said on The Collective website –

"The SpOiled Housewife products were really well-received with customers, so, reorders and product drop-offs became more and more frequent," she said. "These drop offs started off as quick interactions but eventually turned into hour-long chats about merchandise, the shop, small businesses, wine and, of course, 'Schitt’s Creek'."

Both said they were passionate about supporting small, local businesses and giving back to the community, so they decided to plan their first joint event in 2018 – Mimosas+Makers, a mimosa crawl in Valparaiso held in conjunction with an artisan's market. It helped support nearly 75 small businesses in the area, and raised money for a local women’s shelter, and they're planning a second such event for June 22 in Valparaiso.

"Realizing we each had our own strengths that worked really well together while planning the event, we decided we wanted to figure out some sort of partnership that could support small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits in Northwest Indiana," Krickhahn said.

While hashing out an arrangement, and figuring out ways to empower the small business community, they ran into a problem.

"There weren’t many resources to support these small businesses, and there weren’t a ton of opportunities to get them together on a regular basis," Krickhahn said. "It was at that point that we decided to create an organization that would solve that problem."

But they didn't want it to feel “stuffy,” she said.

"We decided it needed to feel more like a community that’s tailored to entrepreneurs – and that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of suit-and-tie business professionals – and empowers them to succeed through resources and a collective effort to support one another."

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