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Microlending Success : Development News

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From West Africa to West Boulevard: an artist's journey

Born in Accra, Ghana, West African artist Harry Larweh uses African mahogany and Rosewood for his craft. He reimagines the beautiful wood into meticulously carved tables, wall hangings, chairs and both small and enormous works of art. Touring the vast inventory throughout his garage and backyard workshop in his West Boulevard neighborhood home, Larweh explains a simple premise for his artistic process, “All these creations, I see the wood and I just start creating.”
 
Young and with a passion to travel, Larweh moved from Ghana to Holland where he met his wife. In Holland, Larweh continued to explore his love of woodworking. Visits to antiques shops and galleries reaffirmed a passion that he'd nurtured his entire life.

“I didn't realize when I started, I just grew up doing it,” Larweh notes of his journey into the arts. After a decade in Holland, Larweh returned to Ghana and then finally made the move to Cleveland to be with his wife, who had moved to Ohio to be closer to family.
 
Most of Larweh's family still remains in Ghana, and his passion for his homeland is apparent. “I am a self taught artist," he says. "I have very good people back home.” After an eight-week visit earlier this year, Larweh arranged to have a freight container full of Mahogany planks shipped to the United States. “It is difficult and expensive”, he describes of the delivery.

The move was enabled in part by the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), and allows him to use materials from his homeland, keeping him focused and excited to create. ECDI relationship manager Rebecca Mayhew, who worked directly with Larweh, explains, “I love Harry's work. It is just marvelous, that here we are in Cleveland, and we have an artist carving this amazing African mahogany furniture...Not everyone is in the position for a bank loan, and that is why ECDI is so important. We help the individual start a business or continue their business with our loans.”

ECDI, a statewide SBA lender, started in Columbus in 2004 before expanding to Cleveland in July 2012 and Akron in November 2014. Since 2004, ECDI has benefited local communities with small business loans throughout the state of Ohio, and assisted over 8,500 individuals - people like Larweh.

Not only does ECDI provide loans to small business owners, but they also provide contact and network information to the clients. Mayhew continues, “We are hoping to connect him (Larweh) to the appropriate contacts so he can find potential markets for the raw wood planks and his art.”
 
Even with the assistance, Larweh says it can be difficult to find a niche and earn enough to make a living in the art community, but he has found an audience. “I do things differently, I just create … I am finding people who are admiring a lot.” As Larweh explains, however, making a living as an artist is a challenge of its own, “It is early. As for the art, I knew it wouldn't be something that would be selling just like that.” He soldiers on nonetheless, continuing to design his own pieces and looking forward to providing high quality materials to his fellow artisans.
 
Larweh's work is available for sale on etsy.

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Historic century building in Old Brooklyn soon to house artisanal cheese shop

After spending 16 years in London as a chef, Michael Januska decided it was time to come home. He grew up in Avon Lake, and his family still lives in the area, so he settled in Old Brooklyn.

“The cost of living in Central London is one of the highest in the world,” he says of his overseas home. “My two younger sisters are having kids and I decided it was the rat race or quality of life.”
 
Januska discovered the art of making cheese while living abroad and decided Old Brooklyn would embrace a quality cheese shop. By the end of October, Januska will open the doors to Old Brooklyn Cheese Company, 4138 Pearl Road.
 
“Cheese is simple, but it’s still complex,” Januska says. “I love using only milk and one or two other ingredients and making something quite exquisite and unique.”
 
Januska turned to the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) for assistance in finding the perfect space for making his cheese and serving his customers. Eventually, he secured a 1,200-square-foot storefront in the historic 1895 Krather building in Old Brooklyn’s Design Review District.
 
Januska was particularly attracted to the glass front and 15-foot ceilings. He got a loan to help with financing the shop and started plans to open. “The support from the City of Cleveland and Old Brooklyn has been amazing,” he says.
 
The feeling is mutual from OBCDC. “For us, Old Brooklyn Cheese Company is the kind of business we know residents want to see in the neighborhood, so it is important to us that [local businesses] feel well-supported and connected to the assistance they need so that they can focus on running a thriving business,” says Rosemary Mudry, OBCDC director of economic development, adding that they were able to connect Januska with small business support services and low-interest financing to establish the company.
 
“By building great relationships with entrepreneurs in the community, we are excited to continue to attract new business to the neighborhood that meets the needs of residents and provide additional amenities so that Old Brooklyn continues to be a neighborhood of choice in the City of Cleveland.”
 
As one of only two licensed artisanal cheese makers in Cuyahoga County, Januska will offer an assortment of his cheeses after they have been aged properly for at least 60 days –sometime in December – as well as from Ohio cheesemakers and artisanal cheeses from around the country and world. His first cheese will be an aged Gouda, available in December.
 
In the basement, Januska is building a 14- by 12-foot aging cave, where he will age his hard and alpine cheeses. He has room to build up to five caves, each for different types of cheeses requiring different humidity levels for aging.
 
“When I’m done with that one, I will build another one for stinky and soft cheeses,” he says.
 
Furthermore, Januska is one of only a handful of cheesemakers in the country who ages cheese for other cheesemakers. “It gives them control because the quality is still there,” he explains. “Once it’s vacuum packed and sealed for distribution, the flavor is choked out. I’ve got commitments from other cheesemakers in Ohio, Maine and San Francisco to age their cheese.”
 
Januska is perhaps most excited about his twist on cloth-banded cheddar – an English technique in which the cheese is wrapped in a cloth dipped in butter or lard before aging. His cloth-banded cheddar will be aged with bacon fat.
 
“I call it the Old Brooklyn version,” he quips. The cloth-banded cheddar will be aged for 12 months before it’s ready for sampling.
 
The shop will feature deli-style glass display cases for the cheeses, which will include an assortment of Januska’s cheeses organized by type – washed, or “stinky;” fresh;  soft; semi-hard to hard; alpines; and blues.
 
At the front of the shop will be two big commercial tables where customers can sit down and sample cheeses, as well as Ohio honeys, bread from Blackbird Baking Company, almonds, dried fruit and locally cured meats.
 
Patrons can choose three to five cheeses from a selection of 15. The experience will serve as a chance to try some new varieties before buying while also socializing with friends.
 
“It’s a happy place to go in because no one goes in angry to a cheese shop,” Januska says. “If they’ve never heard of this and taste it and say ‘hey, I like that,’ or if they say ‘I don’t like it, it’s too funky or salty,’ they can try something else.”
 
Januska says he's thinking of installing a back patio next spring.
 
Even if customers know exactly what they want, Januska wants Old Brooklyn Cheese Company to be a welcoming place. “It’s a nice, relaxed place to enjoy your cheese with a friend and just relax,” he says. “The tables are casual where everyone can have their cheese and gets to talk and share.”

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

New Women's Business Center launches, offers tools for entrepreneurs

While Womenable’s April 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report shows that women-owned firms are outpacing the national average in both job creation and revenue generation, just 27 percent of all firms in Ohio are owned by women, compared to the national average of 38 percent. Additionally, the report indicates that women are half as likely as men to start a business. 

The Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) decided to do something to boost those numbers. In January 2015, the Cleveland ECDI opened a satellite office of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) in Columbus.
 
The satellite office was so well received that ECDI decided to open a full-fledged Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio in order to serve the entrepreneurial needs of women starting a new business.
 
“We were seeing so much demand, we went to the Small Business Administration (SBA) with a grant proposal and officially launched in October 2015,” explains Carrie Rosenfelt, the WBC director. “Since October 2015, we have provided training to over 150 women, one-on-one coaching to over 50 and created nearly 20 new jobs.”
 
The SBA granted the Cleveland center a total of $750,000 in financing – $150,000 a year over five years. Per the agreement, the center must raise a 50 percent match over the first two years and then match 100 percent of the grant in the final three years. ECDI’s two WBCs are the only two SBA-funded women’s business centers in the state.
 
The WBC is located one floor down from the ECDI offices at 2800 Euclid Ave. The 1,205 square-foot space may be small, Rosenfelt says, but it’s designed to be completely focused on women. “We wanted to have a space that is women-centric,” she says. “Something happens when you put a bunch of women business owners in a room together.”
 
Now more than 200 members have access to a resource library, computer lab and free wireless internet; copy, fax and notary services; business coaching/mentoring and one-on-one counseling; training and workshop programs; networking opportunities; and access to small business loans through ECDI.

“It’s been a very quick ramp up for us,” notes Rosenfelt. “We want to be accessible to all women. When you fuel women entrepreneurs, when you invest in family and community, you’re investing in small business and economic development.”

The center has five computer stations, a project or conference room, co-working space and a training center. One entire wall is a white board, while the opposite wall serves as a projection screen. “We designed it that way so women would be forced to work around the room.”

The WBC also received funding from the Business of Good Foundation, Citizens Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First Merit Bank, Huntington Bank, KeyBankU.S. Bank, and, notably, the Cleveland Foundation, which helped the center meet its matching requirements.
 
“We’ve had overwhelming support from our business partners,” says Rosenfelt. “Even women in the business community who are not necessarily entrepreneurs but want to support us.”
 
The WBC of Northern Ohio had an official launch party on April 19 at Ariel International Center attended nearly 200 people and county executive Armond Budish. On Monday, May 2 at 8:30 a.m. the center will have a ribbon cutting ceremony.
 
The free event will feature representatives from the national SBA, who will present the Woman Owned Small Business of the Year Award, as well as WBC of Northern Ohio advisory board, staff, members and funders. The SBC Volunteer of the Year awards will also be presented. Registration is required.
 
The ribbon cutting also kicks off National Small Business Week. Following the event, the WBC will host two free seminars presented by Fifth Third Bank. Banking Services and Credit Reporting for Small Business runs from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and includes lunch. Then on Wednesday, May 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the WBC will host two more free seminars presented by Huntington Bank, Financial Management for Small Business Owners and Planning for a Healthy Business.

The ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.

Sabor Miami offers up authentic homestyle cuisine, warm atmosphere

When Mariela Paz opened the doors to Sabor Miami Cafe in Old Brooklyn on March 31, she knew she had found her calling. The restaurant, which features Latin inspired dishes amid the flair and décor of Miami, was a result of Paz’s desire to put her love of art and cooking into an entrepreneurial endeavor.

“I’m so happy because this is me,” she says of her new restaurant at 4848 Broadview Rd. “It has a full commercial kitchen, art and artwork and my paintings on the walls.”
 
Originally from Honduras, Paz came to Cleveland to be closer to family after working for 13 years as a graphic designer for a silkscreen company in Miami. She previously operated the former Café Miami just down the street while battling uterine cancer, undergoing surgery just four months before its opening. Then she began thinking about running her own restaurant.
 
“I loved my job [in Miami] but I worked at a computer all day,” she recalls. “Everything happens for a reason. For me now, it’s just enjoying the little things. I want to help with art and I want to get involved in the Cleveland community through my art.”
 
The 35-seat café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast options include the bistec a caballo, a popular Miami dish of steak topped with sautéed onions alongside eggs, home fries and Cuban toast. Lunch and dinner items feature Paz’s signature Latin favorites such as vaca frita (fried cow), ropa vieja, (the translation for which is "old clothes," but fortunately, the dish itself is one of stewed beef and vegetables) and an assortments of empanadas.
 
Good coffee and coffee drinks are a must for Paz. The drinks menu includes Cuban coffee, Mayan mocho (a blend of espresso and milk) and Coco Beach latte (iced coconut coffee con leche and whipped cream).
 
“You have to have a good cup of coffee,” says Paz, “because sometimes you go to a place and the food is the best food, but the coffee is not good.”
 
Paz renovated and redecorated the café herself. “The kitchen is good and the place is nice and homey,” she says. It's also where she does all of the cooking herself while her mom, her niece and a friend help run the café. “I am so lucky because I get paid for what I love to do,” she says. “I put my heart into my cooking. It’s a lot of work for me, but I have no complaints.” She plans to hire staff as business grows.

Ahead of opening, Paz joined the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), which helps small businesses such as hers succeed by providing tools, technical assistance and support, and took advantage of the organization's business training classes. ECDI also gave her a $750 loan to launch the venture and build her credit. Rumor has it ECDI staff will drop in for a plate of Paz's homemade eats on occasion.
 
Customer reviews of Sabor Miami so far have been few but stellar, Paz says, adding that she’d like to eventually offer some Honduran dishes. “I want people to come and feel like you’re a family or you have a friend here,” she says.
 
Or bring your family. To that end, Paz has already started hosting “Painting with Mom” coffee, tea and canvas parties. The first two events were so popular that she will hold another one on Sunday, April 24 from 3 to 6 p.m. The cost is $45 per mother and child pair and includes all painting materials, sandwiches, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, flavored lemonade and pastries. Call (440) 714-0202 for reservations.

Paz plans to host similar events in the future and add community outreach programs, like feeding the homeless, to her repertoire. “I have many ideas in my head,” she says. “Because that makes me feel good. I don’t want material things. I’m a good person. You have to keep going when people tell you, ‘you can’t do that.’”

Sabor Miami Café is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.

Bloom Bakery opens on Public Square

Sour dough bread, sticky buns and English sausage rolls are just a sampling of the items available at the highly anticipated Bloom Artisan Bakery and Café, which opened earlier this week at 200 Public Square. In addition to the bakery items, Bloom also offers a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. Try homemade hummus with red capsicum peppers, house-roasted garlic and olive oil on your choice of bread alongside a cup of French onion soup and a beet salad. Top it off with a chocolate pecan brownie, spice cookie or slice of Madeira pound cake.
 
There is, however, much more to this story than just a mouth-watering menu.
 
Made possible by a collaboration between local organizations including the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), the Business of Good Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation and Towards Employment, Bloom Bakery is dedicated to employing low-income and disadvantaged adults from the Greater Cleveland area.
 
"Bloom Bakery's partnership with ECDI is bound by a shared passion for benefiting local Cleveland communities," said Logan Fahey, general manager of Bloom Bakery in a statement. "Their support for our social enterprise has been instrumental in our efforts to give those with barriers to employment a second chance.”
 
Before being hired by Bloom, potential employees go through a Towards Employment’s career readiness course. They also learn baking skills from the best. Internationally-renowned artisan baking specialist Maurice Chaplais, who is based in the United Kingdom, is here training the first group of bakers and the head baker. After he returns to England in April, Saidah Farrell, head baker, will be in charge of training. The aim is to give employees access to meaningful work, achievement, and self-sufficiency through the art of exceptional handcrafted baking.
 
“We wanted to create a business that is scalable,” Fahey told Fresh Water last year. “The hope is that once they graduate from the bakery they will move on to jobs with higher wages and use the skills they’ve learned.”
 
The second Bloom location at 1938 Euclid Ave. in the Campus District is the operation's production kitchen. Bloom previously used the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, an incubation kitchen and accelerator, also funded through ECDI.

The Economic and Community Development Institute is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.
 

first-ever pay-as-you-go commercial kitchen set to open its doors on euclid avenue

The final inspections for Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen take place this week, and a customer is planning to come in the next day. The organizers behind Cleveland's first-ever shared commercial kitchen hope that's a sign of good things to come.

The kitchen's goal is to help local food entrepreneurs bring products to market. With so many food truck owners, caterers, urban gardeners and budding chefs making their products in cramped home quarters or church kitchens that aren't always available, the group behind the venture hopes to fill a growing need.

"We're a food launchhouse," says Carolyn Priemer, whose family-owned real estate company is a partner in the project, along with Tim Skaryd of Hospitality Marketing and Sales and the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI). "Ours is the only facility in Cleveland that you can pay as you use."

The facility allows entrepreneurs to lease time for $18-24 per hour. The kitchen, which was built by Cleveland State University before it moved to the new student center, has stations for baking, catering, canning, thermal processing and dry packing. The venue also has dry storage and walk-in coolers and freezers.

ECDI is available to offer loans to food entrepreneurs, and the partners plan to offer classes as well. Hospitality Sales and Marketing is a food brokerage, and Skaryd says he will help customers with small-scale canning and labeling.

So far, prospective customers that have expressed interest include food truck operators, an ice cream maker, tea maker and granola bar maker, among others. Priemer says that she's gotten inquiries with only word-of-mouth marketing.

The facility is available for use 24/7, and has its own security system and key card access. Users do not have to sign a lease, but must sign a basic user agreement.

Will it be profitable? Priemer says that will depend on the amount of usage, and right now it could go either way. However, she hopes entrepreneurs will see the value not only in the space, but in networking opportunities with other startups.

"There is no food hub for businesses," she says. "This seems to connect a lot of areas of the food industry here. We're planning to hold networking events to bolster the local food community, including bringing in some guest chefs."

Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen is located at 2800 Euclid Avenue.


Source: Carolyn Priemer
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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