Category: News

Featured Member – Plopper & Partners

What do you think of when you think about visiting an attorney’s office? You may often envision a stuffy, up-tight attorney sitting behind a big desk in a tall office tower with their practice name on the side of the building. In many cases, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. The team at Plopper & Partners is mixing it up in a very traditional industry and setting their own standards.

Licensed attorney, Nick Plopper, and Legal Assistant, Sara Jenkins, didn’t set out to break the mold of the traditional attorney office space. But that’s exactly what they did when they joined zWORKS last month. They made the decision based on a series of factors that led them to believe now was a good time to consider an alternative arrangement:

  • Along with most of the business world, they learned from remote work during COVID. 
  • Nick’s father and firm partner, Stephen Plopper, is nearing retirement.
  • The expiration of their office lease in Carmel was looming.

“Sara and I both live in Zionsville, so we thought it would be great if we could find something closer to our homes,” says Nick. “We no longer needed an office, but we still needed a space to meet with clients. zWORKS was a great compromise with being able to reserve the space when we need it and meet with each other to get work done.”

Plopper & Partners has over 60 years of combined experience helping clients protect their futures through business law, real estate law, and estate planning. This also includes small and medium-sized business counseling and startup formation to help set a solid foundation from the start.

Their most rewarding work is in estate planning because it allows them to get to know their clients, help them prepare for the future, and ensure that their vision is carried out as they wish. Everyone can benefit from an estate plan regardless of family dynamics or financial status. This plan is a collection of documents that specifies how you want your assets distributed. 

The biggest advantage of estate planning is to avoid conflicts and disputes at death, which can lead to lengthy court battles and headaches. Disputed estates often take time, money, and cherished assets away from the loved ones or others you intended. Planning can eliminate this challenge for loved ones during a time when emotions and stress-levels are already high.

End-of-life planning may seem morbid, and clients may have difficulty thinking about their mortality. Once it is all completed, they often sigh relief because they know they’ve taken steps to protect their assets. Given the subject matter can be delicate at times, Nick and Sara were cautiously optimistic about how their clients would perceive their new office arrangements.

“We were definitely a little concerned how our clients would feel no longer going to our dedicated office,” says Sara. “But to be honest, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback, and no one has even batted an eye. It has even allowed us to say, “we can come to you, or we can meet you for lunch in the Village.”

Nick also mentions the other advantages they have already realized by joining the zWORKS community. Aside from walking to lunch and taking advantage of other Village businesses, it helps them grow their own business.

“It was like getting an instant raise, and we can invest that money in other ways,” says Nick. “We no longer have to worry about the overhead of the office. Sara no longer has to figure out why the internet isn’t working, or the printer is broken. Those things are taken care of at zWORKS.”

Sara agrees the move has been great for clients and the business.

“It has really increased our productivity. When we are together in a conference room, it creates a forced efficiency,” says Sara. “We meet with a client and then use the rest of our time together to accomplish a lot, then we can separate when we go home and get our jobs done.”

One final thought from Nick: “Go for it. Do it. You won’t regret it.”

Plopper & Partners is excited to be a part of the zWORKS community and they look forward to meeting the many members. They would like to extend a special invitation to all zWORKS members and supporters to receive a discounted estate planning package. Please reach out to Sara to set up a time to get started at

Fun facts about Nick:

  • Nick recently became a blended family of two sons and two stepdaughters. 
  • Plays the didgeridoo
  • Once a member of a Ween cover band

Fun facts about Sara:

  • Sara recently celebrated 20 years of marriage and enjoys her two daughters
  • Enjoys traveling, and her favorite trip so far was to Hawaii for her 20th anniversary
  • Loves to cook

Featured Member – Intelligent Living Solutions

The age of smart home automation technology is well-rooted in our lives, and many people are incorporating these comforts and conveniences into their homes and businesses. From safety and security to custom lighting and audio solutions, smart home automation technology has found a place in our homes and in Zionsville’s Village.

“When zWORKS moved out of the space on Cedar Street, we were thrilled to see that zWORKS member, Intelligent Living Solutions, would be moving in and transforming the former coworking space into their new Smart Home Experience Center,” says zWORKS Executive Director, Vickie Hall. “This is truly our mission in action and exactly what we hope for when startups come to zWORKS and grow into their own spaces”

Showcasing the options and opportunities to incorporate smart home technology, Intelligent Living Solutions has come full circle from a coworking space startup to zWORKS graduate. This idea that turned into reality was a long time in the making.

Instead of playing with GI Joes as a kid, Intelligent Living Solutions’ owner Dan Killinger says he took apart radios, phones, and any electronics he could get his hands on. He then figured out other ways to put them back together to make them work. Dan owned and operated his own handyman business while in college at Ball State University, where he earned a degree in landscape architecture. He worked in the construction, home renovation, and landscape design industries and owned his landscape and pool design/construction company.

“Many of my clients were requesting more technology in their outdoor living spaces, so I was doing a lot with outdoor lighting and audio,” says Dan. “As the technology got more sophisticated, I realized there was an opportunity to do more. I enjoyed applying the same concepts to indoor spaces, so I decided to focus my new business on smart home automation and include both indoor and outdoor solutions.”

Dan founded Intelligent Living Solutions in 2013. Over the last ten years, he has expanded commercial and builder partnerships to include customized automation designs for new builds and renovations. The Intelligent Living Solutions team has grown to include ten professionals.

Dan didn’t always envision the Smart Home Experience Center, but he knew he had to start small before growing into a space of his own. zWORKS allowed him to keep his overhead low and build the business while giving him a space to meet with clients.

“We needed a space that would allow us to meet with clients and show them the possibilities,” Dan said. “The relationships I built at zWORKS allowed me to become a part of the Zionsville Village community and access resources that ultimately helped me succeed and build my business.”

As the business has grown, so has the technology powering these solutions. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s at work behind the walls or in the ceiling. That’s the mission, according to Intelligent Living Solutions. Installation of smart home technology by unskilled hands isn’t necessarily attractive. Even in small quantities, cords and equipment can be disorganized and unsightly. At Intelligent Living Solutions, the team uses wireless solutions and behind-the-scenes installation, offering effective and beautiful solutions.

This is why the Smart Home Experience Center is so helpful in showcasing the possibilities. You get to see the technology at work, especially when it is installed professionally by an Intelligent Living Solutions technician.

“I had been thinking about how valuable a place like the Smart Home Experience Center would be to showcase the technology, and one day I came to work out of the zWORKS space and saw a for rent sign in the window,” Dan mentioned. “It was the first time I got excited about a space and could envision the Smart Home Experience Center coming to fruition. After starting our business out of zWORKS, it was serendipitous that we could take over this pace and make it a reality.”

Each room of the 1,500 square-foot Smart Home Experience Center is fully decorated and features the most innovative technologies available for home and business owners, including:

  • An access control system.
  • Fully automated lighting control customized for the time of day, season, and mood of each room.
  • High-tech, audio-visual systems, including hidden speakers.
  • In-shower television system.
  • Safe room and gun safe programmed to open via automation.
  • Wall mounted and kitchen island keypad controls.

The Smart Home Experience Center will open on September 21. Tours are typically by appointment only, so you get undivided attention and see all the possibilities you can incorporate into your new or existing home. Fortunately, zWORKS members and guests get a sneak peek at the zWORKS September Happy Hour on September 28 at 4:30 p.m. If you can’t make September Happy Hour or want a more in-depth tour, you can make an appointment online.

Featured Member – Amanda Cook, Marketing Simplicity

Any entrepreneur will tell you that starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart. They all agree that you must have a certain level of “crazy” to get comfortable going on your own. Or at least that’s how Amanda Cook, founder and CEO of Marketing Simplicity, describes it.

“I didn’t really entertain the idea of owning my business much, but people kept asking me why I don’t own my own company yet,” said Amanda. “I am fairly risk-averse, and it did seem crazy that I could build something. I didn’t even think it was a possibility – until suddenly something clicked, and it became something I just knew I was ready for.”

It all changed after seeing the inner workings of a marketing agency, giving Amanda a perspective from the side she hadn’t seen before. Most recently, she served as a fractional CMO and marketing director for a growing marketing agency. When Amanda was in previous roles, she had hired agencies like the one she worked for to manage large-scale projects, events, and product launches. Working for an agency gave her a whole new perspective and an understanding of both sides of the coin.

“I understood what a client wanted because I was one at one time, but I also understood how an agency operates and makes money, so marrying those two views turned into Marketing Simplicity,” Amanda said. “At the core, though, was simplicity. I didn’t want to over-complicate anything. Everyone wants less complexity and simple solutions. Whether doing business with each other or creating marketing strategies that work.”

Amanda grew up in Richmond, Indiana, and went to Ball State University. She thought she wanted to be an attorney, so she got a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. After spending time with lawyers, she quickly realized it was not a good fit for her personality. She went on to get a Master’s in Marketing and Public Relations.

After graduation, she started her marketing career in property management, development, and new construction in Seattle, Washington. After four years, she returned to Indiana. She spent the next decade learning the ins and outs of association management as the Director of Marketing for several non-profit trade associations. During that time, she also obtained her Certified Association Executive (CAE) certification, an esteemed credential in the association industry. She credits her experience in association management as giving her a strong foundation for strategy development. 

“Associations live and die by their strategic plans, so going through so many planning experiences and seeing what works and what doesn’t helped shape my experience in strategic planning. I also had a lot of really great mentors that pushed for autonomy and growth during that time,” notes Amanda. “Creating the strategic plan for an organization and then design marketing around the overall goals is how growth and scale happens.”

Following that, Amanda spent some time managing the marketing portfolios for a commercial real estate firm, including well-known properties, like Salesforce Tower and the development of Midtown Carmel. To gain a global perspective, Amanda moved on to a growing manufacturer with North American headquarters in Indiana as the North American Marketing and Brand Director. This experience gave her a global perspective. And finally, most recently, at a marketing agency.

“I think I have a valuable background because I’ve tactically handled so much marketing but also the strategy and global experience,” says Amanda. “I finally feel like I have enough of a holistic perspective about business and marketing that starting my own marketing firm seems to make sense now.”

Amanda has collaborated with zWorks for three years now and often works out of the Pine Street location. Getting to know zWORKS startups and graduates has highlighted the struggles many startups face – not only in marketing but from a business lens. This has helped her on her own journey.

“Startups and small businesses in growth mode have unique challenges. They need to grow fast, but they don’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles or the money to do it,” Amanda notes. “That’s where I think simplicity really resonates. I like to start simple with a crawl, walk, run approach. I like to meet companies where they are and help them reach the next level with simple, easy activities that can drive results.”

She recommends nailing down your business goals and identifying where you want to take your business next before contracting for any marketing services. Many marketing leaders can help with strategy, but Amanda mentions a real challenge facing companies today is the lack of strategic planning and dialogue. Plus, it’s important that the marketing serves the larger business needs. She recommends a marketing strategy consultant to help outline your needs. Then find a partner to take the next step.

The people Amanda has met through zWORKS have added tremendous value to her personally and professionally. Now that she is a startup and small business owner, the network at zWORKS has been a launching pad for her success. Access to people who were once in her position has been helpful so that she doesn’t make similar mistakes.

“I have marketing and strategic planning expertise, but I don’t have a business background or know all I should about starting a business. I can unequivocally say that the relationships I have built through zWORKS helped launch my business,” says Amanda. “I have gained several new clients through referrals, know who to turn to for financial guidance, rely on other small business owners to bounce ideas off of when I come to a dead end, and seek guidance from others that I consider mentors.”

When Amanda isn’t focused on building her business or helping clients, she spends most evenings as a taxi service to her two sons and watching them play sports. She has a passion for travel, and she can be found planning her next trip before the trip she is on is over.

Amanda is accepting new clients for both strategy and execution. Please contact her or refer her to colleagues if you want to learn more about her marketing consulting services and strategy development.

Fun facts:

  • My favorite trip this past year was to Mexico to see Dave Matthews Band play three nights in Riviera Maya.
  • My favorite US beach is Clearwater Beach. I started going there in grade school with my parents and have visited every year since.
  • I’ve been a tourist to 45 of the 50 states and will hit the remaining 5 in the next few years.

zWORKS Graduate Spotlight – Chris Jackson and Glampfitter

Connecting people to nature. It’s a simple idea and the genesis for zWORKS member Chris Jackson’s start up, Revival Recreation, founded in 2019. Some might remember the company name when Chris won the “People’s Choice” award at the inaugural zWORKS Pitch Night. A win he calls “proof of concept.”

Chris was first introduced to zWORKS through his close friend, zWORKS Board President and ongoing business mentor Paul Dreier. Paul encouraged Chris to join, so he could utilize the community, resources, and opportunity offered by zWORKS. The membership has proven invaluable to Chris’ journey.

Chris says “entrepreneurship is a lonely endeavor” and discovered the community zWORKS provided him resources needed for the twists and turns (known and unknown) ahead. His business isn’t the traditional tech-related, coworking, zWORKS startup. A retired US Air Force explosive ordnance disposal team leader, Chris wanted to create a glamping experience for the non-camper. His original idea was to simply set up a glamp site for his customers and take it down when they were done.

After retiring from the military, Chris earned his bachelor’s degree in leadership psychology and a graduate degree in outdoor recreation, while also completing the Syracuse University Veteran Entrepreneurship in residence program at Purdue University. This business foundation told him his idea was good, but the question remained: how do I scale it?

Chris consulted fellow zWORKS members including The Growth Coach Bob Paden and TRG Web Design. He formed a board of advisors that includes Dreier and zWORKS member, Jon Sheedy, founder and principal of Bull Capital. Chris says he “leaned on the support of the community to fail fast, learn, and succeed.”

In the fall 2019, he also met with Zionsville resident Hunter Smith, former Colts punter and owner of WonderTree Farm over breakfast. Chris remembers they talked for hours, a conversation that foreshadowed his future.

With fellow zWORKers input, advice, guidance and a small stipend from his People’s Choice win, Chris got to work shifting his business model to develop Glampfitter LLC, a campground outfitting company dedicated to partnering with existing campsites by outfitting glampgrounds nationwide at KOAs and other locations. The 2020 New Year would be the official launch.

In February 2020, Chris brought Glampfitters to the Indianapolis Boat Sport and Travel show where over 100,000 people experienced his Glamp setups over the course of one week. With the assistance of advisory board member’s Jon and Paul, they left the show with over $250,000 in contracts ready to be finalized at the end of March. Startup was feeling successful.

Then bam—COVID19 began closing the country. The orders were cancelled, and Chris was back to square one. What could he do with four glamp setups in a country quarantined during a historic pandemic?

On a whim, Chris called Hunter at WonderTree Farm to see if he was interested in outfitting a few glampsites (Chris’ display merchandise) during the summer. The two met. What was supposed to be a 30-minute conversation turned into a six hour vision-casting session. They discovered a mutual vision: connecting people to nature and the land.

Hunter started WonderTree farm to build something for his family for generations to come. Growing up on a ranch in Texas, he understood and believed in regenerative farming practices. He wanted to create a system with processes to prove how effective farming benefits the land while bringing fresh food options to the community. Chris was ready to focus and streamline many business operations of the farm while bringing people to the site for a glamping experience.

Four glamp sites were set up and sold out at WonderTree farms in 2020. The glamping experience allowed people to experience the farm while gaining insight and education to regenerative farming practices that benefits community, quality of food, and life of the animals. Overnight guests book a site and get to order fresh eggs, bacon, meat and other items to cook (grills included) during their stay.

Chris and Hunter poured entrepreneurial energies into operations by updating the point of sale system, creating business processes, installing new freezers, and managing costs by finding ways to partner with local farmers and business owners.

Ultimately, the two have developed a shared vision for an AgrilPark model, dedicated to becoming a food staple provider for people living in the surrounding 10 miles and creating job opportunities for the community. WonderTree Farm includes Indiana’s first drive-through farmers market that allows community members to visit the farm and purchase fresh meat, eggs, raw dairy and other food items.

When Chris reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, he credits zWORKS saying, “My successes in this community are solely based on my connections at zWORKS.”

About WonderTree Farms

  • Located at 2280 US 421 Zionsville
  • The glamping season opens April 15. Get rates, options and book a stay on the website.
  • The WonderTree Farm Market is open Tuesday to Friday. Hours vary

About Regenerative Farming

  • Regenerative farming focuses on building soil health. This allows farmers to invest in their farmland for future generations.
  • Regenerative farming is good for the environment. Regenerative farming practices help to decrease CO2 emissions.

Featured Startup: Jewelr

Co-founders unite passions

One co-founder loves jewelry and one loves startups. And together – Natalie Whitmore and Richard Crowe are combining their passions to start Jewelr – a software management company for retail jewelry stores.

Whitmore worked in wholesale and retail jewelry for several years. Whether it was failing software, frustratingly complicated software or simultaneously juggling eight software programs, Whitmore had experienced it all.

When people asked what software she recommended, she had no good answer.

Featured Member: Daryl Knecht

A career of tech trends

To say one zWORKS member stumbled into the world of technology would be inaccurate. It was more of a calculated stumble.

From computer-aided manufacturing to data analytics to low-code technology, this is the story of an engineer-turned-sales-techy who has made a career of anticipating the next tech trend.

The year was 1999 and Daryl Knecht saw an opportunity.

He started out as a mechanical engineer in the computer-aided design and manufacturing world. During the five years in that industry, he received one too many offers to convert to the sales world and finally acquiesced.

“Ultimately, I married the engineering background with sales and got into the technical sales arena,” he said.

The year was 2009 and Knecht saw an opportunity.

Featured Startup: PerfectFit Software Solutions

zWORKS programmer turns hobby into career

It’s a tale as old as time. Or should I say, a tale as old as the late 1900s.

There’s three integral parts to this tale. First is an ‘80s kid. Second is a computer in some basement somewhere in America. Third, mix the first two together and – shazam – it’s a future tech genius in the making.

One zWORKS member’s story started like so. Matt Metcalf is the co-founder of PerfectFit Software Solutions and his tale is currently in the software startup chapter.

“I grew up with computers in the house and I was fascinated with them,” he said.

Featured Member: Jordan Morrissey

zWORKS member finds passion through design

It has been a 10-year journey for one zWORKS member from Bluffton, Indiana to owning an interior design company in Zionsville.

Jordan Morrissey came to Indianapolis to study interior design. After working for two designers, she decided to take a different route into space planning.

During one client visit with her mentor, Morrissey said she didn’t think she wanted to do interior design. A few years later and she’s telling a different story.

“Now if I see my mentor, she tells me I totally ate my words,” Morrissey said.

Featured Member: Eric Siemers

zWORKS member dedicates life to Alzheimer’s research

One zWORKS member was one of thousands to take Lilly’s retirement package in 2017.

Dr. Eric Siemers spent two decades researching Alzheimer’s disease at Eli Lilly and is continuing his life work as an independent consultant.

He joined a group of five other former Lilly employees and set up shop at zWORKS to support each other in their individual quests.

“What’s interesting about Alzheimer’s is that even people at other pharmaceutical companies – we’re all rooting for each other because everybody just wants a success,” Siemers said.

Featured Member: Jordan Hollingsworth

zWORKS member makes safety cool

Safety is the new black and Jordan Hollingsworth knows it. He’s making work environments safer one project at a time.

It all started with a seasonal college job with a utility company. Sometimes it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know, and Hollingsworth met someone in the safety management department. That person became his mentor and the rest is history.

Over a decade later and Hollingsworth has been working at Safety Management Group for 12 years.