Entrepreneur alert: Applications open for Cleveland Chain Reaction

Greater Cleveland Partnership’s (GCP) Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) is now accepting applications for the seventh season of Cleveland Chain Reaction, the small business pitch competition to help entrepreneurs build their businesses in Cleveland neighborhoods.

The competition connects entrepreneurs to capital and mentors with the mission of building a prospering small business community in the city and creating jobs. Saidah Farrell was last year’s Chain Reaction winner, with the Marshmallow of the Month Club, and the company is going strong under Farrel’s brand, Olivia Rose Confections.

“It was a wonderful, wonderful win,” she says of the experience. “It was a wonderful surprise. Just wonderful.”

Saidah Farrell, last year’s Chain Reaction winnerSaidah Farrell, last year’s Chain Reaction winnerIn addition to the Marshmallow of the Month Club, the online marshmallow concept led Farrell to launch Joy Craft Cocoa, which offers a variety of hot cocoas to accompany her marshmallows.

“I started with the marshmallows, and there's a pack of cocoa inside of every box,” she explains. “Then, my subscribers were asking me for more cocoa. So I started packaging it and made it its own product line and found myself in the consumer packaged goods world.”

Chain Reaction brought it all together. “I knew my growth plan was going to be launching the cocoa into retail locations,” she recalls. “With Chain Reaction, it really helped me to hone my pitch. When I pitched, I pitched the rebrand of Olivia Rose Confections with two product lines.

Farell sells both products online on two different websites, as well as renting seasonal retail space at The Corner in Van Aken Market Hall—a place for local makers to sell their wares in a retail environment.  

Since its inception in 2017, Cleveland Chain Reaction has received more than 515 applications, coached and prepared 126 small business semifinalists, connected winning businesses to more than $1.7 million in capital and provided over 580 hours of technical assistance.

“It has been such a thrill to work with these ambitious entrepreneurs over the last six seasons,” said COSE Executive Director Megan E. Kim. “They are not only invested in building their own success and their own businesses, but they are creating jobs and having a strong economic impact across our region.”

Anyone interested in locating and growing their business in Greater Cleveland can apply for the seventh season of Chain Reaction through Friday, June 21.

JumpStart will host a bootcamp for the top 20 businesses selected as semifinalists, during which business experts will help the entrepreneurs prepare to pitch to a panel of judges at the showcase days happening Wednesday, Aug. 21 and Thursday, Aug. 22.

Judges include representatives from Cleveland Chain Reaction program supporters Medical Mutual, the Minutemen family of companies, MAGNET, and other entrepreneurial ecosystem partners.

Businesses will be evaluated based on their business narrative or story, growth strategy, financials, use of funds, and overall presentation.

The top three business pitches will be named winners. First place will receive $40,000; second place will receive $20,000; and third place will receive $10,000.

Judges, local investors and mentors may choose to contribute additional capital to the businesses.

Throughout the season, semifinalists will also have the opportunity to showcase their business and promote their products and services on “Kickin’ it with Kenny” during FOX 8 News in the Morning. They’ll also receive media coverage through the competition’s print publication partner, Mimi Magazine, and FreshWater Cleveland is the competition’s digital publication partner.

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.