Blog Posts

Portage County Farmers Market

PCBC Business X-Change Program Creates a Win/Win/Win for 3 Local Organizations

Written and submitted by Clearly Simple Business Consulting

When Aaron Marx and Heidi Corcoran started their consulting firm Clearly Simple a couple years ago, they didn’t know what the future would bring.  They only knew that they wanted to bring the expertise in business and marketing they had developed through running two small businesses of their own to a client base who needed it to help them improve their own companies.  Heidi says “We noticed people were listening to our advice about business in all sorts of areas, from marketing to hiring, systemizing to social media, and everything in between.”  Aaron notes “Running a business is such an all-consuming activity, and you need to master countless skills to do it successfully.  Having done this really allows us to look at a business that is somehow not meeting its potential and connect the dots to find the root problems.”  Heidi and Aaron, who are not only partners in business but marriage, knew this was a talent they were being called to offer to a wider community, and Clearly Simple was the result.  Heidi says “Clearly Simple is the brand we created around my and Aaron’s skills and traits that allow us to do this work so effectively for other businesses.”  Aaron adds that he knows the process of branding and messaging about themselves has been a successful one because he has noticed business owners who approach them for help are immediately comfortable talking about their problems.  He continues “It’s like they’ve already gotten to know us from our website, social media, and other content, and so we can jump right into the work that matters and immediately start to make a difference for them and their goals.”

While Heidi and Aaron didn’t know exactly which companies they would end up working with through Clearly Simple, they could see that membership in the Portage County Business Council and engagement with its unique business community-focused programming was an essential piece of their marketing plan.  Heidi says “We knew from many of our relationships with fellow business owners that the PCBC attracts members from all over the Stevens Point region who are committed to enriching the community through excellent service, economic growth, philanthropy, volunteering, and other kinds of involvement.  These are definitely the kinds of people we want to work with to help their efforts be more effective.”

Aaron says “One component of the PCBC that really appealed to us is its focus on education, particularly the Business X-Change program.”  In this monthly series, members have the opportunity to choose a topic related to their company and create an informative presentation for the benefit of anyone who attends.  The topics are wide ranging and diverse, covering everything from team-building, to employment law, to marketing, to industry-specific technical content.  Karen Myers, who coordinates the Business X-Change program, says that PCBC members love the opportunity to learn about these topics from local experts and network with other members in the process.  “It truly is a program that sets the PCBC apart within the chamber of commerce community and brings energy, vision, and fellowship to our members.  Plus I learn something new and interesting from each presenter, which makes the job really fun for me.”  The Business X-Change program has become very popular for members who wish to present, with dates booking as far as a year in advance.

Aaron, who has strong presentation skills, knew the Business X-Change program was a valuable opportunity for him and Heidi, and they have taken every possible opportunity to present to the PCBC membership.  Aaron says “It’s great.  I really enjoy sharing our expertise through presentations and the PCBC offers more opportunities to do this than any other chamber in our region.  Every time we present we have people reach out to talk about working with us.  Sometimes you have to be patient because it can take people months to finally give you a call, even if you made a strong impression on them.”

At the January Business X-Change in 2020, Aaron gave a presentation about Facebook marketing, which he knew was a hot topic, and drew the largest crowd the PCBC has ever seen for that program.  Karen says “On one hand we couldn’t believe the response, but on the other hand we know that Aaron and Heidi are well regarded in the business community and they always have great content, so it made sense.  It was a joy for all of us at the PCBC to see the room so full and the audience so engaged.”

Two of the attendees were Jeff Ebel and Leon Ostrowski, the co-leaders of the Wisconsin River Business Angels, which is Central Wisconsin’s only angel investment group.  Its membership is open to accredited investors, and allows them to collaborate as a team to provide capital and mentorship for exciting new companies that are innovating in the marketplace with the aim of yielding a high return.  Jeff says “We were intrigued by the outline of Heidi and Aaron’s presentation.  We knew that marketing and communication was an aspect of our organization that we wanted to improve and in many ways we were simply waiting for the right firm to come along.  While we had a solid group of committed investors, our goal was to grow the group to a much larger size and we knew the right partner would help us to clarify our marketing message and find the right channels to promote it.  A central message I truly believe in is that you should know your strengths and weaknesses and find good team members to cover the weaknesses.  It’s a core message we continually stress to the entrepreneurs we invest in and so we knew it was important to take our own advice.”

Jeff and Leon, impressed with the expertise presented throughout the Business X-Change, decided to approach Heidi and Aaron about a working relationship.  Heidi says “We could tell that Jeff and Leon were the kind of people we wanted to work with.  They have a big vision and are about so much more than the transaction.  We believe in their mission to create a dynamic and fast-growing economy in Central Wisconsin through innovative startups.”  Aaron adds “We were both really impressed with the incredible detail of Jeff and Leon’s due diligence process for evaluating investment companies and could see that its benefits deserved to find a much wider audience than they currently had.”

The Wisconsin River Business Angels decided to work with Clearly Simple and the relationship is still going strong.  Leon says “I am impressed and pleased with the way Heidi and Aaron work on so many levels.  They have a way of drawing out our unique perspective on angel investing, which has been shaped by many years of experience, and transforming it into messaging that is incredibly clear and persuasive.  Every time I talk to them they find something new in our approach that we hadn’t thought to promote, and that’s exactly what we need.  This allows us to focus entirely on finding new investment companies and subjecting them to the high level of due diligence we perform to ensure we are providing the most profitable possible investments to our angel group.”

Jeff adds “They’re really knocking it out of the park, and they have helped us grow our investor group more in one year than in multiple past years.  It’s inspiring, and we notice that we speak with more energy and passion about the WRBA than ever before.  They really knew exactly what to do in order to elevate our brand and its digital presence.  In a way, it’s like they have sold us on the value of what we bring to our investors, and this allows us to be even more effective in the work that we love.”

Todd Kuckkahn, the executive director of the PCBC, says this is exactly why the organization exists.  “Ultimately we are here to serve our members and create economic growth in the region as a result.  The collaboration between the Wisconsin River Business Angels and Clearly Simple, facilitated by the Portage County Business Council, is a perfect example of that in action.  Heidi and Aaron’s practice grows, Jeff and Leon attract more committed investors, their portfolios increase in value, young companies create economic vitality, and new products are brought to the marketplace.  It’s a win on too many levels to count, and that is exactly why we do what we do.”

Learn more about the Business X-Change program at

Learn more about Clearly Simple at

Learn more about the Wisconsin River Business Angels at