Ten finalists selected in Chain Reaction project

Cleveland Chain Reaction has reached the next step in the economic development project that will bring five new businesses to Slavic Village. A group of 10 local businesses have been named finalists, whittled down from the initial 24 companies chosen in June to compete.

The 10 finalists represent a variety of industries serving both current and emerging markets with products and services that range from food to hard goods manufacturing and distribution.  Each were selected for their potential growth and impact on jobs and investment in Greater Cleveland.

The 10 finalists are: Baby Munch, DistinctCLE, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, Inca Tea, Lina Wines LLC, Metro Croissants, T-shirt and hoodie manufacturer Midwest Basics, Ray’s Sausage, Revival Body Care and Sides to Go BBQ.

Five finalists were announced on Friday’s Fox 8 morning show Kickin’ It With Kenny, with host Kenny Crumpton announcing the other five finalists this morning.

“Each of these businesses bring a unique and interesting story to this process,” says Jeff Kipp, director of neighborhood marketing for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), one of the Chain Reaction organizers. “We really want to let these businesses grow in the Slavic Village neighborhood.”

Now the competition moves into its final stage, where the 10 finalists will showcase their companies around town. Ultimately, five companies will be chosen to open storefronts in Slavic Village.

Inspired by the success of the CNBC 2016 series Cleveland Hustles, which helped ignite Gordon Square’s budding retail scene, Chain Reaction organizers wanted to build on the momentum and spark a new wave of business support. The series kicked off on April 3, although organizers had been in the planning stages for six months prior to the premier.

“We did everything we could to pull this process together,” explains Kipp. “We followed Cleveland Hustles, but put out own Cleveland step on it.”

The first phase involved selecting a neighborhood to invest in, says Kipp, so CNP reached out to all of its neighborhood partners to apply. Officials then chose four neighborhoods to compete as the host neighborhood:  Clark Fulton/La Villa HispanaNorth Shore/CollinwoodSlavic Village; and St. Clair Superior.

The public had a say through voting for their favorite neighborhood, but ultimately officials chose Slavic Village. “We selected Slavic Village as the best neighborhood where we thought we could make the best investment,” says Kipp.

The economic development project, which is a cooperative effort between CNP, COSE and GlazenUrban, includes five investors — Fred Geis, owner of Hemingway Development; Andrew Jackson, owner of Elsons International; Lillian Kuri with the Cleveland Foundation; Justin Miller, owner of CleanLife Energy; and Claudia Young, owner of Citizen Pie — who have each pledged a minimum of $130,000 toward a $1 million investment in Slavic Village.

The finalists will now go on tour, in a way, showcasing their companies at the Shaker Square North Union Farmers Market this Saturday, July 22, at the Slavic Village Market on Monday, July 24, and at AsiaTown’s Night Market Cleveland on Friday, July 28.

Kipp says the process is really moving along at this point. “This is where the rubber meets the road,” he says. “We’re identifying locations in the Slavic Village neighborhood and making real estate transactions.”

While the investors will have the final say on which five businesses will be chosen for investment, the public can also vote on their favorites. The final five businesses selected to open in Slavic Village will be announced on Thursday, Aug. 10.

Even the five finalists who are not selected will benefit from the Chain Reaction experience, Kipp says.  “They are still successfully operating businesses,” he explains. “We want to see them grow and they may ultimately end up [opening] in a different neighborhood.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.