John Bonsib was always actively looking to expand on an idea, whether the idea was focused on his advertising clients' needs, his vision for cable television, or the entrepreneurial biographies of local leaders.
"If it was something I could help with, that's what I wanted to do," John Bonsib says of his lifetime of entrepreneurship and community service. "It has all been a lot of fun."
John's career started early. At six years old, his drawing of a rabbit was incorporated into a child's mirror manufactured by a client of Bonsib Inc., his father's advertising agency. Then came college, military service during World War II, and two years of study and some work in advertising in New York.
"I came back to Fort Wayne in 1948 to work at Bonsib agency," John says. "I was always asking clients 'how can we expand this?' I helped Eckrich expand into a national brand through efforts that promoted its name as well as its products, and I worked with the local Ford dealer to help start a driver training effort with teachers."
He was also thinking about how television could be expanded. After 25 years at Bonsib Inc, which included leadership roles as President and Chairman, in 1972, John founded Citizens Cable Company.
"I left the advertising agency when cable television was just being talked about. But no one was making it happen," he says. "After lots of work, my wife Patricia and I were overjoyed when we received approval in June 1978."
Later that year, Citizens Cable Company won the Fort Wayne franchise and opened with 19 programmed channels.
"When we first started we built our own movie channel, programmed several channels with local people involved, and sold perhaps the first advertising commercials on any cable system," John says. "We were the first system outside of the Boston area to program ESPN, and we were one of the first to carry Black Entertainment Television. We established five channels for local use, and we paid for the library's TV studio."
John took the company public a few years later, and it was one of the first cable companies to be listed on NASDAQ American stock exchange. In 1986, the company's cable system was sold to Comcast, allowing John time to pursue his many other interests.
Among those other interests were new business ventures, including Page Alert, a paging system covering Allen County, and Vertical RealEstate, Inc., which built communications towers.
John was also interested in the entrepreneurial spirit of others. In 1999, he chaired the Allen County Public Library's efforts to develop entrepreneurial histories. That led to John's founding of the Entrepreneurial Institute, Inc, in July 2001.
"I always loved to write, and the entrepreneurial studies are writing I am very proud of," John says. "There is so much to tell about the many founders of businesses in our community, and I'm still working on it."
In addition to his dedication to advertising, cable television, and entrepreneurial studies, John gave time to numerous community organizations. For example, he chaired the 1980 Allen County Public Library fund drive, and he helped create Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities. He also served on the board of directors of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, Civic Theater Association, League for the Blind & Disabled, and Better Business Bureau. John also championed business opportunities for African American citizens. As a member of the Jaycees, he supported the building of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and he suggested a training program for the blind.
John served on the board of the Fort Wayne Advertising Club, which he pioneered. In recognition of his nearly 25 years of advertising successes, he was given the Silver Medal Award for lifetime achievement from the Advertising Federation in Fort Wayne.