Fleegle helping fellow entrepreneurs find their way

 In News, Somerset County

[Published by the Somerset Daily American on April 28th,  2020 as reported by Bruce Siwy. See original article: https://www.dailyamerican.com/news/local/somerset/now/fleegle-helping-fellow-entrepreneurs-find-their-way/article_6411c906-83cd-11ea-a8cc-6bbd6040416c.html ]

Blake Fleegle (far right) at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., with his stepdaughters, Lexi, Alysson and Alyssa, and wife, Sara. Photo taken in July.

Blake Fleegle didn’t know what he was in for when he signed the papers for the Westwood Plaza Theatre in June of 2009.

“Probably the biggest surprise is the amount of work,” the Westmont resident said of becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 23. “The reality is that you can pick your own hours, but it’s going to be 100 per week.”

Not that he regrets it.

Fleegle, now 34, is the owner of a second theater and also works as an entrepreneur coach for Startup Alleghenies. As such he reassures and assists would-be business owners in securing capital, navigating bureaucracy and making that first leap into the world of self-employment.

A 2004 graduate of Somerset Area School District, Fleegle earned a degree in business from Duquesne University.

Immediately after finishing college, he moved to Nova Scotia, Canada. Shortly thereafter he heard that the Westwood Plaza Theatre in Westmont was up for sale.

“It just kind of fell right into my lap,” he said.

For Fleegle, entering this industry made a lot of sense. He loved movies and had worked for five years as a teen at the Palace Theatre in Somerset.

“That was pretty much the only job I ever had,” he said.

Fleegle finalized the purchase of the Westwood Plaza Theatre on a Friday and began receiving training from employees that same weekend. He had to instantly learn the aspects of the job he didn’t know or remember from his previous time as a theater employee.

That weekend, he said, began a six-month stretch of nonstop 16-hour workdays.

“It was a lot of work, but it’s fun work,” he said. “When you’re doing it for yourself, it’s fun.”

Since becoming an entrepreneur coach in June, Fleegle has made it a priority to share these exciting, yet difficult, realities with those who dream of opening a business in Cambria or Somerset County.

Among his most recent “students” was Dawn Will, who is opening a beer distributor in Somerset. This business, according to Fleegle, could be open within weeks.

“I (wanted) to be a coach because 10 years is a long time to be an entrepreneur,” he said.

“I have a lot of experience and want to help other people.”

In June of 2012, Fleegle had purchased his second business: the Latrobe 30 Theatre.

Though the prior owners were turning the keys over for free, Fleegle characterized this as a “big investment” at the time. The movie industry was going all-digital, so he had to buy a new digital projector and also install a brand-new kitchen.

Because of his new gig at Startup Alleghenies — which is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, a regional economic development agency first created by an act of U.S. Congress in 1965 — Fleegle has cut back at hours at both theaters.

Two individuals, he said, were promoted to help manage those businesses. He spends four days a week in his entrepreneur coach role.

“I’m still going hard at 60, 70 hours a week, but it’s not 100 like I was,” he said.

As for hobbies, Fleegle said his busy work life means that he simply likes relaxing with his wife, Sara, and three stepdaughters: Lexi, Alyssa and Alysson.

He added, however, that he’s a big fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. Each year he plans a trip to a different ballpark.

Last year, he said, they went to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and this year they plan to make it out to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

“So that’ll be a big deal. I just try to take advantage of (opportunities to) spend time with my family.”