Barger was surprised when a professor encouraged him to pursue a career with the David J. Joseph Company, a Cincinnati-based division of Nucor Steel. It was a good fit as he crisscrossed the country for 10 years while gaining knowledge and experience for his startup.
Following a stop in St. Louis where he opened that area’s top fitness center, a family emergency brought him back home to the Columbus area where the next phase emerged.
Barger used his steel industry experience to form Champion Trading Group, a third-party purchasing and sales division for customers in the steel and metals recycling industry. He said the thinking was to work with the suppliers and go in on their behalf.
He sees it as a way of helping the little guy, with many such businesses going under or bought out after the 2008 financial crisis. Barger is also proud of the emphasis on being a green company.
Its first year saw management of $250 million with three traders and two administrative staff currently. CTG is in 30 states, but works with four or five on a daily basis and expanding out in 2018.
“Our footprint is in the Midwest right now but we’d like to step outside it,” Barger said.
While that focus is going outside the area, Barger is very much sticking to the Columbus area for his new Make-A-Day Foundation, aimed at helping the city’s homeless population.
Inspired by a grandfather who passed away when Barger was young, the foundation provides blankets and other essentials and offers grooming services for the less fortunate.
It’s where he finds the most satisfaction, doing pop-up events every six to eight weeks.
“It’s like we get to have Christmas every two months. There’s no better feeling than giving back and it’s captured my heart,” said Barger.
A future goal is to start a charity for sick kids.
Barger still appreciates Wittenberg and Springfield in being formative for where he is today. CTG works with Cohen Recycling in the city, and he’s also giving back to the university’s business department.
He recently met with Wittenberg students about his entrepreneurial work and experiences to hopefully inspire them. That’s just the start.
In February 2018, Barger will team with two other alumni to do a variation of the popular television series “Shark Tank,” calling it Tiger Tank in tribute to the school mascot.
Students will be able to pitch an idea, concept or charity in hopes of earning internships. Barger will also be looking for students who may be a potential fit with CTG.
Some students have even driven to Columbus to volunteer at Make-A-Day events, and could see that program reaching Springfield.
With a young family, successful businesses and goals, the future seems unlimited. But Barger still has to step back at times to reflect.
“It’s all still new,” he said.