When the 38th District Republican Club met on Monday, Nov. 23, it wasn’t to discuss politics.
Instead they gathered at the South Coastal Library for an Entrepreneur Symposium — an event designed by club President Drew Sunderlin to encourage young people interested in one day owning their own business by introducing them to some of Sussex County’s most successful entrepreneurs.
“This is an apolitical event,” Sunderlin explained. “The idea is I wanted to bring in the young members of our community and introduce them to three very successful entrepreneurs — I wanted to do something for the community where we show them what it took for these guys to get where they are.”
To do that, Sunderlin sought out area success stories, including restauranteur Steve Hagen of the Off the Hook Restaurant Group, Miken Builders President Mike Cummings and Barton’s Landscaping founder Phil Barton — all of whom eventually went on to turn their ideas into thriving businesses in Sussex County.
“Drew asked me if I could come up here and share my story and answer some questions, and I was honored to be able to do it,” said Hagen. “Hopefully, my story can inspire young people to go start their own American dream. I hope they get that enthusiasm to think, ‘Hey — I can do this, too.’”
“Hopefully, it will show some of the young kids thinking about becoming an entrepreneur that we’re just regular people — we’re not people that came from big-money families,” added Cummings. “It’s great to be able to share our stories so that, hopefully, other people can do the same thing one day and make Sussex County a better place to work and live.”
Throughout the evening, the three speakers made themselves available for question-and-answer sessions about how they got where they are and what it takes to run a successful business, sharing their personal stories along the way.
Questions from the audience ranged from future business professionals looking ahead to current business owners looking for some advice, but even with the event’s initial success, Sunderlin said that he hopes for a bigger turnout from the area high schools for upcoming symposiums.
“This evening was a wonderful opportunity for any youngster to get the chance to see and talk to three people that are incredibly successful in Sussex County. Unfortunately, we did not get a really good turnout from the three high schools that we invited, but we did get a really nice turnout from local [Boy Scout] Troop 281,” he said.
“I think that this is something that, when we go to do this again in the future, it would be extremely beneficial for the high schools. We just want people in Sussex County to know that we as a club really care about the youth. We want them to be able to get good direction from good people.”
For more information on the Entrepreneur Symposium or information on future events like it, contact Drew Sunderlin at 38thDRCP@gmail.com.