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Microlending Success : Innovation + Job News

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Bad Girl Ventures 'launches' new crop of grads, marks five years

Bad Girl Ventures' Cleveland location is celebrating its fifth anniversary by doing what it does best - giving area women business owners a financial boost for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
 
Last month, BGV awarded two $15,000 loans to a pair of graduates from its fall 2016 LAUNCH group. The loan recipients, Liza Rifkin of Liza Michelle Jewelry and Angelina Rodriguez Pata of Blackbird Fly Boutique, were part of an eight-member class that underwent nine weeks of training at Baldwin Wallace University's Center for Innovation & Growth.
 
Liza Michelle Jewelry offers custom-made, eco-friendly pieces, while Blackbird Fly Boutique brings customers contemporary apparel, footwear, accessories and locally made gifts. Both Ohio City store owners displayed the business-minded strength and acumen BGV seeks when choosing its awardees, says Northeast Ohio marketing manager Reka Barabas.
 
"These two are dedicated to growth and getting new revenue streams into their businesses," Barabas says. "We had a strong cohort of participants this fall, but there's only so much we can do with our funding."
 
The loans, awarded in  partnership with the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), will be used by the respective businesses to purchase inventory or expand a marketing campaign.
 
This is the first cohort to graduate under the new LAUNCH curriculum in Northeast Ohio, which is designed for established, majority women-owned enterprises that have been making sales for at least a year, says Barabas. Most program participants aim to tighten operations, discover new growth opportunities and learn about funding options.
 
"The loan can be a motivator, but it's often the icing on the cake," Barabas says. "Many people come to us because they realize the power of a structured program. They love being part of a supportive community of female entrepreneurs."
 
BGV Cleveland has graduated 18 classes since its establishment in 2011. Founded in Cincinnati and expanded since to markets throughout Ohio and Kentucky, the program overall has lent $220,000 to business owners. BGV Cleveland program grads, meanwhile, have attracted an additional $800,000 follow-on funding from non-BGV sources.
 
"We've grown up in these last five years," says Barabas. "Raising the profile of female entrepreneurship very much touches on our mission."
 
The nonprofit is already looking ahead to next year's iteration. Women business owners from any industry can apply online for the 2017 LAUNCH program by February 28. Barabas is excited to welcome a new class into BGV's hard-working fold.
 
"We're excited to be part of this ecosystem in Northeast Ohio," she says. "We want entrepreneurs to thrive in the community." 

"Dealership Debut" set for this Thursday in Shaker

The Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) and the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) have partnered to create The Dealership, a co-working, event and office hub that will be unveiled to the community this Thursday, Dec. 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. during the “Dealership Debut" at its location, 3558 Lee Road. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.
 
The innovative new space will offer its members short- or long-term office space rental amid 16 offices and a co-working area for up to 50 members. They will also have access to lighting-speed fiber optic Internet and will be able to host meetings in three conference/training rooms. The facility will be available to them around the clock.
 
As for the ECDI partnership, SHDC sought out to find an organization with a proven track record to operate the co-work space and conduct programming.
 
"We talked with a handful of qualified potential partners and ECDI rose to the top of the list," says SHDC Executive Director Nick Fedor, adding that they maintain a consistent presence at The Dealership, with ECDI's marketing and communications coordinator Alexis Coffey staffing the space five days a week. The organization's relationship managers and trainers also work out of the iconic Lee Road building on a regular basis. 

Known as the largest non-profit economic development organization in the state, ECDI will provide The Dealership's members with services addressing all stages of business development. That includes training, one-on-one technical assistance, advice regarding networking events and access to capital services.
 
"To my knowledge," says Fedor, "there isn't another co-working space in the region that is operated by a small business lending and technical assistance provider such as ECDI."
 
And ECDI's track record spells success. It has provided more than $35 million in startup or expansion capital to small businesses in Ohio since its 2004 inception. With the organization’s help, more than 1,680 loans have been disbursed to innovative entrepreneurs over that time, creating or retaining 6,100 jobs in Ohio.
 
Fedor believes ECDI’s partnership will benefit future tenants and Shaker’s business community at large. He adds that the early response to the venture has been strong, with more than half of the office tenants remaining when the property transitioned earlier this year from LaunchHouse to The Dealership.
 
"Since then, two new office tenants have leased space and three new co-work members have joined," says Fedor. "There is a robust pipeline of potential office tenants and co-work members."
 
Of the transition, he adds that continuing to provide a flexible office solution and co-work space for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Shaker was important. The move has also included some freshening up in the funky space, with updates such as new furniture, interior paint colors, a new coffee bar and an entrepreneurship resource library provided by the Shaker Library.
 
The SHDC-ECDI partnership’s dedication to the area’s business community will be on full display at the Dealership Debut event. Shaker Heights businesses that met a Nov. 15 deadline will compete in a pitch contest, presented by Huntington Bank. The most convincing entrepreneur will receive a $2,500 first-place prize. Second place will receive $500.
 
The Dealership’s name plays on the building’s history as the former site of the old Zalud Oldsmobile dealership.
 
"The name came from a brainstorming session," says Fedor. "We hired the branding and design firm Little Jacket to develop the branding and they did a great job. We are very happy with their work."
 
The venture is part of the effort to revitalize Shaker’s Moreland District as an emerging neighborhood in the city and region.
 
"A vibrant co-working hub is important to SHDC's broader vision for the Chagrin-Lee commercial district," says Fedor. "The Dealership provides a jumping off point for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start – and hopefully grow – their businesses into other buildings on Lee Road and in Shaker."
 
The City of Shaker Heights and ECDI  are both members of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.
 
Erin O'Brien contributed to this article.

Old Brooklyn business competition winners aim for steady growth and progress

It's been more than a year since the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) held a unique business plan contest that worked one-on-one with participants to determine how their ideas fit into the neighborhood.
 
The three winners of the 2015 Business Competition - Cleveland Jam, Connie’s Affogato and JAC Creative - have grown since being selected from a pool of 10 finalists. While not all developing at the same pace, these ventures are finding their entrepreneurial footing through new storefronts and other upgrades, says Rosemary Mudry, OBCDC's director of economic development.
 
"Each of these businesses has taken a different path," says Mudry. "Our role is helping them wherever they are in the process."
 
During the competition, finalists received Small Enterprise Education Development (SEED) training from the Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI) and met with OBCDC staff to discuss possible locations for their enterprises. Mudry helped them hash out their pitches over a period of several months, an education now paying benefits as entrepreneurs settle into the community.
 
Before the contest, Cleveland Jam was displaying its jams made from locally sourced beer and wines at trade shows, online and at Great Lakes Brewing Company's gift shop. Today, the business is refurbishing a retail space attached to a greenhouse, which also has an outdoor garden where they can grow the fruits and vegetables used to concoct their tasty products.
 
Located at West 11th Street and Schaaf Road, the business's retail portion is 750 square feet. Owner Jim Conti is readying his new digs for a November 19 opening.
 
"They have a website, and still have a partnership with Great Lakes Brewing Company," Mudry says. "It's a great time for them to expand their brand while securing a space."
 
Meanwhile, JAC Creative, a design and marketing firm founded by Gabriel Johnson, Andrew Sobotka, and Mike Caparanis in 2012, used funding from the competition to lease office space and are now considering expansion, reports Mudry.
 
The business contest's third winner, Connie’s Affogato, sells a concoction of espresso and locally-made ice cream via bicycle. The mobile storefront - a mindchild of Jason Minter - is currently acquiring permitting with help from OBCDC.
 
The manner in which all three concepts have progressed is illustrative of the development corporation's core mission of creating jobs and filling vacant spaces. Mudry is already looking ahead to Old Brooklyn residents enjoying the fruits of a year's worth of hard work.
 
"The ultimate success is having these businesses open and operating," she says. "This is a place where entrepreneurs are supported, and there's a network of like-minded entrepreneurs here working to better the community." 

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

Bakery with Latin flair set to open in Brooklyn Centre

"If you don't try anything, you never know what will happen."
 
Such is the mindset of Lyz Otero, owner of Half Moon Bakery, a soon-to-be-opened seller of traditional Latin pastries and empanadas. Otero took the leap with a little help from the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), an organization that in August announced more than $530,000 in loans to 21 Cleveland-area businesses.
 
Nineteen of those loans were to new minority- or women-owned ventures, with Puerto Rico native Otero receiving $50,000 for equipment and improvements to her 1,200 square-foot space at 3800 Pearl Rd. Otero and husband Gerson Velasquez are using the funding to pay contractors and architects, as well as buy stove hoods and other gear. ECDI also provided the couple with financial management and computer classes.
 
Otero is aiming for an early November launch for a bakery offering a dozen types of empanadas. The new entrepreneur looks forward to stuffing the half-moon shaped pastry turnovers with endless combinations of meat, vegetables and fruit.
 
"It will almost be like a pizzeria, but with empanadas," says Otero. "Everything you put on a pizza can go on an empanada."
 
Vegan and gluten-free empanadas will be on the menu, joining Latin cuisine like rice and tamales. Fresh bread, cupcakes and other delectable confections round out the selection. Otero will create the bakery's pastry products, with her husband serving as chef. During the next month, she expects to hire on two cashiers and an additional cook.
 
While the smaller space will focus on take-out orders, patrons can eat inside on stools along the window. Outdoor seating, meanwhile, is a possibility for warm-weather months.
 
Opening the business has been both exciting and nerve-wracking. Though no stranger to the restaurant industry - past employers include Zack Bruell and Michael Symon - there's nothing for Otero like working for herself. Friend Wendy Thompson, owner of A Cookie and a Cupcake, encouraged her to start a bakery with a unique Latin flair.
 
"We're focusing on gourmet empanadas, which nobody else around here is doing," says Otero. "You never see a place like this where there's so many different kinds of empanadas."
 
Ultimately, Otero wants to leave a delicious, profitable legacy for her three children, ages 4, 6 and 7.
 
"I've always dreamed to do this," she says. "I had to step up and follow my dreams, because nobody was going to do it for me." 

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

The sweetest startup - with frosting

Susan Manfredonia and her mother, Rita, ran a licensed in-home bakery for 22 years, whipping up a custard frosting that had been in their family for generations. With help from local entrepreneurial resources, Manfredonia now seeks to sell her delectable homemade frosting to a wider audience.
 
As owner of Squeeze n' Easy, Manfredonia runs her food-focused startup out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK), a pay-as-you-go commercial space and program of nonprofit micro-lender the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI).
 
Manfredonia has worked out of the space for three years, producing an egg- and nut-free custard concoction packaged in a simple-to-use, freezable pastry bag. Aided by two part-time employees and business consultant Frank Cullen, Cleveland's unofficial custard queen also pedals cannolis filled with her homespun artisan goodness.
 
"Our product is so good I want the whole world to try it," says Manfredonia.
 
Squeeze n' Easy frosting, currently available at five Northeast Ohio stores in chocolate, vanilla and almond, can be applied to most any cake, pastry or cookie. According to Manfredonia, her family's recipe surpasses canned or boxed product as well as any sugar-laded buttercream frosting you can shake a fondant rose at.
 
"I changed the recipe to make it all-natural," says Manfredonia. "It's gluten-free, too."
 
The entrepreneur returned to the frosting fold four years ago after taking time off to raise her three children. A Bad Girl Ventures finalist in 2012, Manfredonia joined CCLK a year later, harnessing the food-business incubator's mentorship support along with advice on marketing, product development and regulatory processes. 
 
"The kitchen was a very good place to start because of everyone's input and knowledge," Manfredonia says.
 
The proprietor is currently searching for a manufacturing space with cold-storage capabilities for her cannoli product. Manfredonia also aims to hire a few people to demonstrate her wares at local grocery stores.
 
"Part of our marketing is in-store demos and reaching out to ask the consumer questions," says Cullen, a company investor and friend of Manfredonia's. "We found out that the most important things for our customers are taste, convenience and affordability."
 
Delivering old-fashioned luxury frosting at a fair price is Manfredonia's joy, a feeling she looks forward to bringing to a new generation of gourmands.
 
"I'm so excited about this I want to jump out of my skin," she says. "I've done this for so many years, I just want to share it with everybody." 

To help S&R Bakers stomp out bad frosting, they invite frosting activists to sign their "I want my store to carry Squeeze n’ Easy" petition.

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

 

Bloom Bakery raising 'dough' to help others

"Creating jobs is our secret ingredient."
 
Such is the slogan of Bloom Bakery, a downtown entity that offers premium pastries and breads as well as opportunities for Clevelanders facing employment barriers. Now the social venture is asking for a little extra "dough" to continue its mission.
 
Last week, Bloom Bakery launched a $25,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to provide capital for its Campus District location at 1938 Euclid Ave. (The bakery has another shop at 200 Public Square.) Funding will go to hiring additional staff, says Logan Fahey, Bloom Bakery co-founder and general manager.
 
"Our reason for doing (crowdfunding) was to get the community involved," says Fahey. "We rely on the consumer to find us and appreciate the mission."
 
Supporters can pre-purchase coffee, lunch, corporate catering, and exclusive baking lessons before the campaign ends June 10. Bloom Bakery is a benefit corporation - essentially a hybrid of a standard corporation and a nonprofit - owned by Towards Employment, a Cleveland nonprofit that offers job training and placement as well as removal of employment barriers for people previously involved in the criminal justice system.
 
All revenue from Bloom Bakery goes to Towards Employment's job readiness programs. Meanwhile, the bakery educates, trains and employs low-income and disadvantaged adults for work as bakers, baristas and other positions. Entry-level jobs pay $8 to $10 hourly, with opportunities available for upward mobility within the company.
 
"Our sole purpose is to give a second chance to individuals who otherwise wouldn't get one," Fahey says. "These jobs can be resume builders or allow people to move onto supervisory positions here."
 
Bloom Bakery currently has 15 staff members, ranging in age from their 20s to early 60s. New employees are vetted through Towards Employment programming, then undergo another month of training at the bakery.
 
As of this writing, the social venture's crowdfunding effort has reached 10 percent of its goal. Fahey and his fellow staff members will spend the next couple of weeks pushing the campaign via social media and word-of-mouth. The ultimate goal is to become the state's best bakery while continuing to operate as a "business with a heart."
 
"There's a large segment of the population in need of an opportunity," says Fahey. "If we become the best bakery, then we can create as many jobs as we want." 

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

County announces continued support for ECDI small business lending

Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish renewed the county’s commitment to making sure Cleveland small businesses get the funding they need for success. At a recent press conference at Toast wine bar, he announced a $2 million commitment by the county to the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) for the continuation of the partnerships in the Cuyahoga County Microenterprise Loan Program.

“When I began my term I made it clear jobs are my top priority,” Budish said at the press conference. “Most jobs are created by small businesses, which struggle to grow because they can’t get funding.”
 
Budish cited Toast as one such business that has thrived because it received a small business loan from ECDI to open and then later expand. The restaurant and wine bar has created 13 jobs since opening.  “We need more businesses like Toast, so we are continuing our commitment,” he said.
 
With its initial funding from the city, ECDI has been able to provide 52 loans to 38 businesses in Northeast Ohio since it opened an office in Cleveland in 2013. “In 2013, the city provided a $550,000 investment to create a revolving loan fund,” explains ECDI vice president of lending and lending operations Greg Zucca. “With that money we were able to leverage an additional $1 million in lending capacity. Since then, we’ve exhausted those funds.”

ECDI founder and CEO Inna Kinney introduced Budish, thanking him and Cuyahoga County for the continued support.

The Cleveland Foundation also renewed its financial commitment to ECDI at the conference. “The Cleveland Foundation played a significant role in bringing ECDI to Cleveland in 2013,” says Cleveland Foundation president and CEO Ronn Richard. “Today, I am pleased to announce a $175,000 grant for lending.” The foundation has invested $1.6 million in ECDI since 2011.

In 2011, the Cleveland Foundation and the Business of Good Foundation studied the demand for microloans in Cuyahoga County, which found a $38 million gap in financing that was not being addressed by traditional banks. With that, ECDI Cleveland was established and the city of Cleveland helped the nonprofit organization establish a loan fund.

The money will fuel ECDI’s microloan program. “Really, it’s going to allow us to grow and expand our lending capacity in Cuyahoga County,” says Zucca. “This will give us the ability to bring on additional relationship managers and issue more loans.”

The County’s $2 million commitment will help boost the region’s economy by giving ECDI leverage to secure further funding, Zucca says. “It helps the city tremendously to have a much larger impact in helping small businesses by allowing us to work with banks and other funding institutions,” he says. “It has a much larger impact on the community.”

Many of the business that found funding and support through ECDI were present at the conference. Zucca then presented Jordan Oryszak, owner of the soon-to-be Plum Café and Kitchen with an oversized check for $33,000.

Citizens Bank gives ECDI a $1 million line of credit to help grow businesses, create jobs

Citizens Bank is giving the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) a $1 million line of credit to help finance loans to new and expanding businesses. ECDI provides loans between $500 and $350,000 to business owners and entrepreneurs trying to start or grow their businesses who might otherwise not be able to secure a loan.
 
ECDI's Cleveland office will receive the majority of the money, says Eric Diamond, executive vice president of ECDI Cleveland. “We will have a little more than 50 percent in this area because our loan volume is pretty high,” he says. “We expect to see a 30 percent increase in loan volume this year over last year.”
 
ECDI and Citizens have regularly worked together on securing loans for ECDI clients and have formed a good relationship, Diamond says . ECDI works with the SBA in addition to a variety of banks when funding a loan.
 
“Without us getting funding, we couldn’t fund other people,” says Diamond, adding that their average loan is about $25,000.
 
ECDI, which also has offices  offices in Columbus, Toledo and Akron, is the fourth largest SBA micro-lender in the United States and a U.S. Treasury-designated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Since the organization was started in Columbus in 2004, ECDI has assisted over 5,000 entrepreneurs, loaned over $25 million to over 1,200 businesses, and created and retained over 4,500 jobs across the state.  
 
The Cleveland ECDI office alone has funded approximately $5.3 million to more than 130 businesses since it started in 2012. “Citizens really understands CDFIs and they’ve spent a lot of time with us,” says Diamond. “They really know business and they are a class act to work with.”

ProtoTech event focuses on product startups and investors

When the Incubator at MAGNET launched ProtoTech last year, the event was a pitch competition for product-based start-ups competing for $25,000 in prize money. This year, organizers have shifted focus a bit with ProtoTech: INVEST – a networking and pitch event that is all about investment in growing companies.
 
“Last year it was a pitch event for really early stage companies,” says Dave Crain, the Incubator at MAGNET's executive director. “This year we’re more about connections and networking than it is of a contest. It’s for presenters who are looking for $500,000 to $2 million in investments.”

There will be pitches, but in a less formal setting without voting or prize money at ProtoTech: INVEST. Fifteen to 20 technology based start-ups with a focus on products will showcase their companies to investors at the event. “It’s an opportunity to get the right people in the room to make connections, network and find funding,” says Crain, adding that ProtoTech: INVEST is the next step in pitch competitions.
 
“It’s just a part of the evolution, part of maturity,” Crain says. “There will always be pitch competitions, there always should be pitch competitions. We’re just building a pipeline. This is the next level of maturity as these companies grow up.”
 
Crain says the shift came in response to feedback from both sides involved in startup fundraising. “What I’m really hearing from both the star-ups and investors is while Ohio has made a lot of progress, no one is doing this locally – this is something successful ventures cities are doing.”
 
Some of the companies already registered are Cleveland Whiskey, Vadxx, Biolectrics and Everykey.
 
ProtoTech: INVEST will be held at the Metropolitan at the 9 on Thursday, June 4. Registration and pitches will be from 2pm to 5pm; dinner and networking at 5pm. Presenters can register here; investors can register here.

JumpStart launches Growth Opps to help scale-ups grow their businesses

After 10 years of helping startup organizations get their footholds and develop their companies, JumpStart’s leaders saw a new need in Cleveland’s economic climate: to help the region’s "scale-ups." These growing small businesses are too big to qualify for start-up funds and expertise from business accelerators but too small to be able to secure loans from banks.

So JumpStart announced last Thursday, April 23rd the launch of Growth Opportunity Partners to help those scale-ups grow their business and hire employees. Growth Opps, as it is being called, will work with banks and other resources to serve as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). It will focus on thriving companies of all kinds, not just tech companies, in low to moderate income (LMI) neighborhoods. It will provide loans between $250,000 and $1 million, with the average loan being $250,000. Growth Opps companies will also have access to JumpStart’s services.

"I’m proud to say Northeast Ohio’s startup tech ecosystem is in a much better place than it was when we started,” said JumpStart CEO Ray Leach at the announcement. “When we started in 2004 the whole region was distressed. Today, many established businesses in Northeast Ohio have great opportunities to create jobs if they have the assistance. It is so important to create opportunities to drive job creation and join neighborhoods that have been disconnected to the Northeast Ohio economy.”

Leach introduced Michael Jeans as president of Growth Opps. Jeans has more than 20 years of banking experience. “We want to focus on minority business owners located in low to moderate income neighborhoods, and create meaningful wage jobs,” Jeans said. “Meaningful wage jobs pay above a living wage and have a career path within an organization. JumpStart is our parent company, but we have the same purpose, the same goals and objectives.”

Jeans stressed that Growth Opps will work with banks and other regional organizations to assist scale-ups in their growth. “The goal is to create three meaningful wage jobs for every loan we make,” he said. “We’d like to see that number grow as we grow. We’re funding growing companies.”

Jeans also announced Growth Opps’ first client, Leon Anderson, president of Beachwood-based Sports and Spine Physical Therapy. Sports and Spine was actually referred by veteran healthcare banker and senior vice president of Citizens Bank Rufus Heard. Anderson has grown his company to four locations in Northeast Ohio and North Carolina. Anderson says he was attracted to Growth Opps offerings of cash flow management, strategic planning and funding structured solutions.
 
Also at the event was Sports and Spine COO Andre Russell, who started with the company at age 13 cleaning out the storage closets. He will earn his MBA in healthcare from Ohio University this week.
 
Growth Opps board chair Ndeda Letson and Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish also spoke at the event. “I am a strong believer in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Budish. “Northeast Ohio has been a hub of innovation for decades. We have people doing great things.”

food buggies to start rolling through cle streets (and buildings)

The Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a nonprofit micro-lender, and the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK), a pay-as-you-go commercial kitchen, are making mobile food options more accessible to downtown diners with their new food buggy program. If all goes well, the first two buggies will hit office buildings at the end of February.

ECDI purchased two food buggies – smaller, more affordable and portable versions of their larger food truck counterparts. “They’re very cool looking,” says Eric Diamond, ECDI executive vice president for lending. “They have a full working kitchen with a cooktop and plumbing. The idea is you can get into buildings and it’s a lot cheaper than a food cart.”  
 
The two buggies initially will carry standard lunch items made by CCLK kitchen staff, such as soup, salad and sandwiches. Organizers are identifying buildings and areas that employ about 600 people to locate the buggies. The first two buggies will test the operation – sales, price points and location. Eventually CCLK plans to have 15 to 20 buggies operating throughout the city.
 
The two buggies will at first only carry food prepared by CCLK users, and the staff there is busy prepping food in the kitchen this week. Diamond says they want operators to eventually add their own creations to the mix and perhaps have cuisine themes for each day of the work week.
 
The operators, who lease the buggies from CCLK, will pay a percentage of their profits to CCLK, which in turn takes care of licensing and business training. The CCLK will also help find locations and execute contracts with those locations.
 
The CCLK will sell buggies and help with financing for those entrepreneurs who want to peddle only their own creations. “We would hope they would use CCLK as a prep kitchen and promote what’s going on in the kitchen,” says Diamond, adding that the buggies will feature some of the products turned out by CCLK chefs.
 
The buggies are not competition for Cleveland’s thriving food truck scene, says Diamond. They will sell lunches on the budget end – about $8 – and stay away from most truck events like Walnut Wednesday.

“There’s a market for both,” Diamond says. He adds that the buggies, in addition to going inside, can easily be hauled to suburban little league games or other more remote events. They attach easily to the back of a car, like a U-Haul trailer. “It’s an affordable option for people who want to get in the business but don’t want to spend the money on a food truck.”

Diamond says the program should create 25 jobs, including the operators and prep staff. “For us, it’s all about creating jobs, creating access to the market,” he says. “It’s a good living for someone.”

women's business center, food buggy program to launch in midtown cleveland

After operating a successful Women’s Business Center in Columbus for the past two years, ECDI is about to open its own center in Cleveland. The women’s business center is designed to give women entrepreneurs the resources they need to get a business idea off the ground.
 
“Women start businesses for different reasons than men do,” explains Eric Diamond, executive vice president of lending at ECDI Cleveland. “The issue really is understanding the way women open businesses and the resources they need.  Men typically start businesses for wealth and power. We see women opening businesses for passion, creativity and to create a work life balance.  Also, we have found that men take the attitude of ‘go it alone’ when starting businesses, where women enjoy being part of a group of other women also creating their own businesses.”
 
With these factors in mind, the WBC created a center around women and the way they operate. Members of the business center have access to shared workspace, laptops and printers, while also accessing training and workshops, mentors and coaches and referrals to loans and grants. “We’re teaching women the big plans and strategies of an idea,” says Diamond.
 
The Columbus office recently received the SBA Award of Excellence and a five-year contract. Due in part to the organization’s outcomes and programs we initiated and the new programs planned. “Our Professional Advisory Network (PAN) connects experts in the community who volunteer time to assist members with their specialty areas, such as legal, marketing, and accounting,” says Diamond. “Programs such as those for women veterans, PEARL for formerly incarcerated women, and specialized training programs with proven curriculum are just getting underway.”
 
Diamond adds that testimony from members who regularly use the center for their office space meeting rooms, printing and computing needs also lead to the SBA recognition.
 
With the Columbus center’s successes, ECDI decided to open a similar office in Cleveland. “We figured out that it’s easily replicable,” says Diamond. The Cleveland Foundation recently awarded a $70,000 grant to ECDI, some of which will be used in the business center.
 
The Cleveland center, which will be located in Suite 620 of ECDI's current building at 2800 Euclid, will start with five entrepreneurs in a soft launch. If all goes well, ECDI will launch a full program in January with a four-week training program.

Meanwhile, ECDI continues its involvement in the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK). To help food entrepreneurs get their products on the market, the CCLK is considering starting a private label brand that would be distributed to area grocery stores.
 
ECDI purchased two food buggies – smaller, more affordable and portable versions of their much larger food truck counterparts -- last week to further help the food entrepreneurs. Participants would go through the CCLK’s food accelerator program and then have the opportunity to lease one of the buggies. “It’s a great way to test the market,” says Diamond. “It’s a great year-round business because you can bring the buggies into lobbies.”
 
The program would start in early spring 2015. Right now, potential participants are being identified. “If it’s going well, we will sell the buggy to the entrepreneur at a discounted price,” says Diamond. “Then we’ll go out and buy another one.”

who's hiring in cle: blue bridge networks, cleveland 2030 district and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series. Twice a month, we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.
 
BlueBridge Networks
Over the past 10 years, BlueBridge Networks has emerged as a state and regional leader in data storage, becoming the first-of-its-kind Ohio-based data center facility with facilities on different national power grids.
 
With data center cloud computing facilities in Cleveland, Mayfield Heights and Columbus, BlueBridge has launched what it calls the “Ohio Cloud," offering data center services, cloud computing and infrastructure solutions across its networks.
 
BlueBridge has grown both in size and capabilities since its formation in January 2004. “BlueBridge is in the business of keeping businesses and institutions in business through multiple data center services,” says Kevin Goodman, managing director and partner. “BBN is about best-in-class data centers where high availability, reliability and security are paramount.”
 
Today, the company has experienced rapid expansion and boasts big name clients like the Cleveland Museum of Art, which hired BlueBridge to build a cloud-based storage solution that would provide long-term archival preservation of the institution’s digital assets.
 
As a result of its record growth and expansion, BlueBridge is looking to fill several positions:
 
Network administrator to analyze, install, configure, maintain and repair the BlueBridge network infrastructure.
 
Systems engineer to ensure the stability, integrity, and efficient operation of the in-house information systems that support core organizational functions as well as any external customers.
 
Data center sales engineer to work directly with the sales team to provide technical assistance and design validation during the data center sales process.
 
To apply, send a resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.
 
The Cleveland 2030 District
The Cleveland 2030 District (C2030D) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create high-performance building districts throughout Greater Cleveland, with the goal of dramatically reducing the environmental impact of building construction and operations while increasing Cleveland’s competitiveness and building owners’ return on investment. The organization is looking for an executive director to execute overall day-to-day operations and effectively manage staff and contractors and lead marketing initiatives and public relations communications. For more information, click here. To apply, send resume to cleveland2030job@gmail.com
 
Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI)
ECDI, whose mission is to invest in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change, needs to fill two positions. The manager of the women’s business center in Cleveland will be responsible for developing programming that provides for the technical assistance and training, and developing connections in the community which will help foster these businesses.

The lending manager at ECDI Akron will oversee start-up activities, including hiring and managing staff, and building relationships with local funders to provide monetary support to ECDI. This position will evaluate and recommend approval of business loans, and will provide technical assistance to applicants while reviewing the application materials and documentation. For both positions, send resumes to Renee Jordan, human resources manager.
 
Bostwick Design Partnership, Ohio City Incorporated and more
Bostwick Design Partnership, an architecture design firm with a focus on collaboration and creativity, has two open positions in its Cleveland office. The firm needs an interior designer with five to 10 years of experience. Bostwick is also looking for an architect with a focus on specifications and codes. In their Erie, PA office, the firm needs a licensed architect with a focus on healthcare to service as the director. Applicants for all positions should send their resumes to Rick Ortmeyer, principal.
 
Ohio City Incorporated needs a Near West Recreation manager to use Near West recreation programming as a tool to attract and retain families to Cleveland’s Near West Side neighborhoods. Send cover letter and resume to the hiring manager with a subject heading of Near West Recreation. Deadline to apply is Friday, November 7.
 
The Cleveland Foundation needs a program officer. To apply send cover letter, including salary requirements, and resume to resumes@clevefdn.org by Monday, November 17.
 
Beck Center for the Arts needs a part-time accounts payable clerk. Send resume and cover letter to Hope McGuan.
 
Because I Said I Would, a social movement and nonprofit in Lakewood dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept, has two open positions: the executive coordinator to the founder and the fulfillment and product manager. For either job, send resumes to the HR manager with “Fulfillment & Product Manager Application” and your name in the subject line.
 
The Music Settlement needs a maintenance assistant to help the director of buildings and grounds with electrical, plumbing, carpentry, landscaping, event build-up and tear-down, and more. Retirees encouraged to apply. Using the form on the Music Settlement’s website, send a cover letter explaining why you feel you are a good fit to join our team, along with your resume.
 
Trinity Cathedral, the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Cleveland, needs an events and hospitality manager. To apply, send letter of interest, resume, references, and salary requirements with a subject heading of “Events & Hospitality Manager Search” to the HR department.
 
The Keep it Local Project needs a business member representative and a part-time scheduler. Email Keep it Local to apply.
 
Providence House has several positions open, including a family advocate and a crisis nursery coordinator. Visit the organization’s careers page for a full listing and application instructions.
 
Have hiring news you’d like to share? Email Karin at Fresh Water Cleveland and send us this information or career links!
 

red lotus offers delicious nut-based vegan alternatives to dairy

Jeanne Petrus-Rivera became a vegan seven years ago, partly for health reasons. She quickly learned that one of the things vegans miss most is dairy. So she set out to create a tasty, healthy alternative. With that, Petrus-Rivera started Red Lotus Foods, making a variety of cashew-based products that are tasty, healthy and wildly popular at local farmers markets in Northeast Ohio.

“As a vegan, I found a lot of people who are interested in going vegan, but found it hard to give up dairy products,” says Petrus-Rivera. “Most non-dairy products are disappointing.” Cashews, on the other hand, are lower in fat but loaded with monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and other good things. Petrus-Rivera discovered that they also make a great substitute for dairy.
 
Red Lotus produces vegan flavored cashew spreads, cashew sour cream and a sweet cashew creme. “They’re really so flavorful and delicious,” she says. “I think this is the way to go to make vegan more accessible.” Flavors range from sun dried tomato and black garlic to the new spirulina bleu.
 
Petrus-Rivera participated in both the Bad Girl Ventures and Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen business programs earlier this year. She operates out of the CCLK with one employee, her husband, and sells her products at farmers markets. More recently, she’s been dropping samples by local restaurants in hopes of forming partnerships.
 
Petrus-Rivera’s dream is to form a cooperative out of Red Lotus. “We’re really just at the beginning of something that’s part of a whole paradigm shift,” she explains. “I have a huge vision and I hope to achieve it in the next three or four years.”

new collaboration aims to support entrepreneurs who focus on social enterprise, sustainability

Three organizations -- LaunchHouseCivic Commons Ideastream and Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) -- have come together as the lead partners in supporting entrepreneurs with ideas to improve their communities.

SEA Change, a Social Enterprise Accelerator, provides up to $50,000 in funding, coaching and connections to eligible candidates trying to make a difference in Cleveland neighborhoods. “We’re funding people who have ideas to improve their communities in a sustainable way,” says Mike Shafarenko, Civic Commons director. “A number of organizations came together last November to discuss how to revive development and support of social enterprises in Northeast Ohio.”
 
Seven other groups are also involved, including JumpStart, Foundation Center Cleveland and Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU). SEA Change is funded by the Business of Good Foundation, the Generation Foundation, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the George Gund Foundation.
 
Shafarenko says SEA Change emerged as the involved organizations saw a need to support the growing number of social enterprises in Cleveland. “We have a tremendous amount of talented, active people in Northeast Ohio who just don’t have the means to execute their ideas,” he explains. “The entrepreneurial spirit needs a little bit of coaching and support to take it to the next level.”
 
Examples of existing successful social enterprises include Edwins Restaurant at Shaker Square, which employs former inmates, Tunnel Vision Hoops, which manufactures and sells hoop houses to extend the growing season, and From the Blue Bag, which converts recyclables into works of art.
 
Sea Change will host training sessions on Friday, June 13 and Friday, July 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The events will provide training, one-on-one consultation and networking to help participants get social enterprise ideas off the ground.

 
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