Workforce Development Spotlight: The Forge Marion


Marion is home to a community of driven and innovative business owners. As America’s Workforce Development Capital, we’ve worked hard to implement programs that support both large and small businesses while fostering an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the community.

One of these programs is The Forge, a small business accelerator that emerged from Leadership Marion. With a concept similar to the television show Shark Tank, this program provides additional education and resources for local small business owners.

“We wanted to start The Forge because we felt we were a community of employees and not entrepreneurs,” said Lars Olson, Marion Can Do board chair. “Entrepreneurship is a key driver of wealth in any community, so we wanted to create more entrepreneurial mindsets in Marion.”

To do this, The Forge partnered with Marion Technical College staff and held their first small business competition in 2017. Participants were able to submit a brief business plan, which would later be judged by a panel of local entrepreneurs.

“The business plans were judged on five criteria, including the probability of success and positive impact on the community in terms of job growth,” said Olson. “The winning entrepreneur was awarded a $2,500 cash prize they could use to start their business.”

Expanding on their partnership with Marion Technical College, The Forge was able to offer free classes for those who participated in the competition. For four weeks, entrepreneurs were able to engage in topics like refining business plans and creating a cash flow statement.

However, with any first go-around, there is always room for improvement. When only eight entrepreneurs came to participate in the classes, The Forge felt that restructuring the next competition would allow for increased class attendance.

“This year, we held the contest after the free classes so the entrepreneurs could better formulate their business plans ahead of time,” said Olson. “The first night we had 28 people in the class — a huge jump from last year.”

Olson praises these classes along with the staff at Marion Technical College for their willingness to answer questions and provide feedback for participants throughout the competition.

“A large percentage of small businesses fail in the first few years of operation,” said Olson. “Through the outstanding guidance of Marion Technical College, hopefully, we can beat those percentages with students from The Forge.”

After seeing the success of and insightful proposals brought forth during the recent competition, Olson is thrilled to see the innovative and diverse ideas Marion community members have to offer.

“It’s very exciting to see that the entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive and well in Marion, Ohio,” said Olson. For more information, visit