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.