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Pike Street Comes Alive With Hundreds of Entrepreneurs

Pike Street has possibly not seen this much foot traffic since Downtown Covington's heyday as a commercial shopping center in Northern Kentucky.

Hundreds of people who could potentially assist in returning the region's original outdoor shopping mall to its famed past glory flocked to the block between Madison Avenue and Washington Street for UpStart, a showcase of entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

Some in attendance are already small business owners while others came for inspiration and advice from existing companies, lenders, and advisers. 

UpStart was spearheaded by UpTech, the technology company incubator that recently announced a move to Covington. Its second class of developing businesses will move into the former Pike Star building in the coming weeks.

Amanda Greenwell, program manager at UpTech, welcomed the large crowd to the event that featured free beer by West Sixth Brewing, live music by various artists (even Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Steve Stevens took to a drum for a set), and a street full of tables lined with information about how to start, finance, and grow a new business.

Banks, business organizations, community groups, and professionals who specialize in start-up creation, greeted visitors along Pike Street, book-ended by the live music and food trucks.

Tony Lamb, the CEO of Kona Ice, was the keynote speaker.

He shared the story of Kona's origins after offering the crowd his product free for an hour.

Several years ago, after Lamb's family had just moved into a Northern Kentucky subdivision, an ice cream truck rolled down the street. The truck was beat-up and the driver appeared to be an undesirable specimen. "The driver looked scary," Lamb said, "but my daughter ordered anyway."

"I thought, that's pretty amazing that she was terrified but did business with him anyway."

The experience clicked a light bulb in Lamb's mind that turned into the shaved ice business that is now available in forty-two states. Lamb was inspired that UpStart could pave the way to produce the next generation of successful entrepreneurs.

"I know in this crowd we're going to solve a lot of problems, start a lot of businesses, hire a lot of people and live in this great country," Lamb said, "and it's going to be fantastic."

Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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