In John Lennon’s song, Beautiful Boy, there is a line that says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Morgantown native Jon Speer was making plans when he went to Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1998 with a degree in...
For the last 25 years Kenny Costin says deep down, he has wanted to be Mayor of Martinsville. However, he says, timing is everything and now was the perfect time. “In retrospect,” Costin said, “I was not ready to be mayor when I was 25-years-old. I needed more life experiences.”
The time was right for his business. He and his wife, Debbie, have co owned the Costin Funeral Chapel since 1985. Over the last several years, staff has been expanded to include his son-in-law, Austin Purkey, and his cousin Dawn Reagan-Vail both of whom are licensed funeral directors. Even though both his wife and mother previously told him they would quit if he ran, Costin said God has a plan for getting prepared and when the day came for him to announce his candidacy, they stood shoulder to shoulder with him in support.
“As business owners, my family and I have a vested interest for our city to maintain and grow.” Costin said. “It’s not just as a business owner, but as a resident, too. Our community needs to grow as well.” The fact is that he wants to do his part to make sure his grandchildren have a vibrant community to come back to and live in.
In John Lennon’s song, Beautiful Boy, there is a line that says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Morgantown native Jon Speer was making plans when he went to Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1998 with a degree in chemical engineering. But life threw a curveball. He found no job for the career path he intended in chemical engineering. Several of his friends had offers from Cook Industries in Bloomington and they encouraged him to apply there. He applied and was hired as a product development engineer. “It was not my intended field,” Speer said, “but it was fascinating. I would literally get a drawing sketched on a cocktail napkin and be asked if I could design it.” In the beginning, the job was just that, a job.
THE SPARK OF PASSION GETS LIT
Then, about a year and a half into the job he was asked a question. He was developing a new product that would be used during surgery for cardiac patients. He was asked if he would be interested in being present the first time the new product would be used. “I was going to be present at the first use of a product I had designed and tested,” Speer said. “Being present was exciting and then it became terrifying. I had the sudden realization that the human on the operating table having the procedure is a real, live human person and the product I developed would impact that person for the rest of their life.”
That was the moment the lightbulb went off for Speer and he began a passionate pursuit of the medical device industry. “I realized that the things I do as a product developer could have a great impact on the quality of human life. That idea became my North Star.”
Many times, the work of business people, especially business owners, is connected to their skill set or what they enjoy doing. Some-one interested in computers might have an IT managed services business or a computer repair company. It is easy to see what businesses might be started and run by gardeners, mechanics, cooks, or people who love working with children.
While that is relatively true of Jen Staggs, what truly makes her successful in her business and life is her desire to make connections, build relationships and help make others – and her community – successful. Her eyes light up and her speech gets a little faster when she is talking about how someone around her has achieved one or more of their goals.
Jen Staggs is the regional sales manager for Lenders Escrow & Title Services (LETS), a company based in Carmel. That declarative sentence is true but does not really explain any-thing about her.
Start at the beginning
Since she was eight-and-a-half years old, Staggs has called Martinsville home. In fact, she and her husband, Rick, reared their two children; Eric, now 27, and Brian, now 26, in the same home she lived in as a child. They purchased the home in what she calls “a little piece of heaven” in the Lake Edgewood area from her parents and refurbished it. Her mother has lived with the family for the last 18 years.
Not interested in following the crowd to college after graduating from high school, Staggs attended Southeastern Academy in Kissimmee, Florida pursuing an associate degree in marketing and advertising. She says she stumbled upon the school and program but that it has made a huge difference in her life. “It gave me the business sense to know what it takes to grow a business, market a business, and to market myself,” Staggs said. “It gave me the background and opportunity to go into any business.”
She was a little girl who rode her bike to the department store downtown Martinsville and dreamed of one day being a business person who could wear all the beautiful clothes she saw there. With her degree in hand, she returned to Martinsville honestly believing she would follow in her dad’s footsteps and work in sales for a trucking company. “But then I started having kids,” Staggs said, “and I decided to stay at home for the next fourteen years.” She did not actually just stay home. Instead she started a residential cleaning company and ran it to supplement their income for more than a decade.
What she calls her first job was selling ads for the local radio station, WCBK 102.3. After about a year, she left to join Roger and Patty Coffin working at Action Title. She worked there until it closed eight years later after Patty passed away.
But what she discovered during that time was that she loved the business and the people. “I learned I love helping people get what they want out of life,” Staggs said. “helping people succeed in buying a home. Purchasing a home is one the steps every person goes through and where people truly become adults.”
The business of a title company is to secure the transaction and insure the property being purchased against liens, encumbrances, and encroachments. It provides a clear title so that there are no surprises that crop up in the future.
Work is personal
Staggs explains that it is an emotional business, too. She shares the story of an older widower who brought the amortization schedule from his original purchase to the closing. His long-time home was being sold to a couple buying their first home. The man had ticked off every payment on the schedule and written the check number from the payment next to the checkmark. This simple act showed how much his home meant to him and illustrates that a title closing is more than a simple business transaction.
“It is so exciting watching first-time home-buyers get the keys to their new home,” Staggs said. “They talk about what they are going to paint and where their furniture is going to be placed.” To Staggs her business, and her life, is about people and the community. It is personal.
After Action Title closed, she joined Lenders Escrow & Title Services (LETS), as did her colleague, Shannon Wiggins, who was an experienced search and examiner. The company already had branches in Carmel, Pendleton, and Shelbyville and mobile closers to service the entire state.
Shannon Wiggins knew the title business inside and out. She was also from Martinsville and had been a long-time friend of Staggs’ mother. Together, along with owner and attorney Candace Broady, they floated the idea of bringing LETS to Morgan County. “We already had the rapport, trust, and knowledge to build branches in Morgan County together,” Staggs said. “I knew with the connections and good relationships we both had in the legal community and in the courthouse, LETS could be successful here. It just made sense.”
The Martinsville branch opened in 2017 and a year later, the branch in Mooresville opened. “We had enough business flow that we needed both branches,” Staggs said. True to her personality, it is important that the people they do business with here in Morgan County know that not only will they get a quality product from LETS, they will be treated like family and be of the utmost importance at the moment they call.Read the Full September 2019 Edition Here
Many times, the choices we make in life as adults reflect our experiences as children. For one person, Dr. Jay Arthur, in his first year as Superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, it was his experiences with a cousin that fed his passion and purpose. “As a young man I had a cousin with significant disabilities that grew up in a world that was kind to him,” Arthur said, “but he definitely didn’t have the same opportunity as me.”
The experience had a profound influence on Arthur. In high school, he was paired up with a student with disabilities in a peer tutoring course. “I learned about different aspects of working with people that are different from you,” Arthur said. He was also paired with students with disabilities that he supported during the school day. It was in high school that Arthur made the decision to pursue education as a career.
Arthur was born and grew up just south of Morgan County in Bloomington. He went to college at Ball State and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education K-12. “I focused on students with significant disabilities in particular,” Arthur said.
You might already know that The Martinsville Candy Kitchen is celebrating 100 years in business this year. There will be a big community celebration on April 6, 2019 with kids’ activities from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and an Open House at the shop at 7 p.m. True to form being an historic tradition in Martinsville, there are plans to have former owners there and lots of surprises.
You might also already know the history of the shop. Greek immigrant, Jimmy Zapapas opened the business in April 1919. He produced candy canes and other sweet treats. His original recipes as well as his original equipment and tools have been passed down from owner to owner through the years. The store has actually moved several times along the street on the square. Hundreds of families both local and from far away have made candy from The Martinsville Candy Kitchen, especially candy canes, a tradition stretching across generations.
What you might not know is that the Candy Kitchen came perilously close to closing its doors after 85 years. It was Martinsville residents John and Pam Badger that rescued the shop fifteen years ago.
B. J. Pendill learned early in life that what a professor said, “Hard work is the path to success” was true in every aspect of life. It was, by the time that professor began repeating it to him daily as B. J. cleaned his horse stalls, already part of what he calls his DNA.
For him and his four siblings, it was the Bloomington family’s culture that everyone pitched in to take care of home and each other. His mother was very ill and spent a great deal of time in the hospital. “We had to grow up fast and be responsible,” B. J. said. In fact, he said, he was mowing the grass when he was only tall enough to steer it from the brace bar below the handle of the mower. He was not tall enough to reach the handle and propel it any other way.
That regular lawn-mowing experience at home turned lucrative for B. J. and his brother, Nathan. They began a lawn mowing business. “It was gratifying, and by college, we had a great business,” he said. The brothers did not leave it that. Their business evolved into a logistics transportation business. “We did a lot of commercial projects and went to school full-time,” B. J. said. “We loved the ability to go out and do something productive and then step back to see what we had created.”