Ben Orcutt has been living in Anderson for over 12 years now. He is an active community member, small business owner, husband, and father. Based on his history of volunteerism and civic engagement, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him step forward and run for local office.
In the fall of 2006, Ben moved to Anderson from his home of Cincinnati, OH to attend Anderson University. After completing his first year of school, he opted to stay in Anderson over the summer to intern at The Mercy House, a church (now closed) located in the old Shadeland Elementary School on west 14th Street. This experience helped him understand that the city of Anderson is much bigger and more diverse than life on Anderson University’s campus and helped him feel more like a citizen of this community. Throughout the rest of his tenure at AU, Ben stayed connected and involved as a citizen. He lived off campus, stayed in town through the summers, worked in local businesses, and started the non-profit Shadeland Bicycle Collective.
In the spring of 2011, Ben graduated from Anderson University with a degree in Fine Arts - Sculpture and Ceramics. He also studied and earned a minor in Spanish and Peace and Conflict Transformation. Just a week after graduation Ben invested further in Anderson by purchasing a building, just west of downtown Anderson, which is now home to Buckskin Bikes. The 110 year old building required enormous energy to renovate and is still something of a work in progress. This incremental growth pattern demonstrated on west 11th Street, the slow and steady progress, is emblematic of Ben’s work ethic and perspective on change. Nothing can be accomplished overnight, sustainable growth takes time.
After 3 years as a the non-profit Shadeland Bicycle Collective, Ben’s bicycle advocacy project transitioned to a more traditional for-profit business model and changed it’s name to Buckskin Bikes. The goals of the original organization; education, advocacy, and repair, were able to be realized in a more sustainable way as a business than they could be as a non-profit. As a small business owner, Ben was able to create jobs, grow a customer base, and have a greater positive impact on his neighborhood. By building relationships with the White River Bicycle Coalition, Spoke & Wheel Club, Rangeline Nature Preserve and the City of Anderson, Buckskin Bikes has been able to be a key contributor to local bike month activities, help implement bicycle lanes, and create the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee via a safe cycling ordinance.
After college Ben met his now wife Hannah, a young lady who shared his vision for a self-sustaining life, one where we are more connected. More connected to each other, our neighbors, our land, and our food. They spent their first few summers married bringing their coffee cart downtown to the Farmers Market. Hannah made the syrups and served drinks every weekend while Ben towed the cart. Their weekend side business grew and was soon selling coffee everyday in the bicycle shop. They have lived above the shop since they were married but have just bought another fixer-upper house just around the corner where they will soon move with their 3-year-old son Charlie.
As the neighborhood and business grew, there came an opportunity for Ben to partner with Josh Stafford and open Jackrabbit Coffee in it’s own location. Ben had been serving coffee in the bike shop, at farmers markets, and downtown in front of the courthouse for a number of years and was very excited to launch it has a stand alone business also on west 11th Street. The old building, fondly remembered by many as the Hotdog Circus, right next door to Buckskin Bikes, became Jackrabbit Coffee just over a year ago. Through this second business, Ben has been able to create more jobs and help build the local economy besides creating a much needed Third Space for neighbors to gather and connect with each other.