Old Brooklyn is 'poised to pop' with launch of new business plan competition

Thanks to the success of Gordon Square, 5th Street Arcades and other communities, business plan competitions are all the rage these days. Now the Old Brooklyn and St. Clair-Superior communities in Cleveland and the city of Shaker Heights are launching individual programs to help existing businesses and attract new businesses. The programs are being funded through the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), which received a $30,000 grant from a fund seeded by Huntington Bank at the Ohio Capital Income Corporation.

The three communities were chosen by Huntington. “The grant was given to support these three neighborhoods,” says Eric Diamond, ECDI executive vice president of lending. “We went to these neighborhoods and asked, ‘What would you find most helpful?’” Each community came up with its own idea for encouraging economic development.

Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) is hosting a business plan competition that offers applicants a chance to win training and grant funding to launch their businesses. The goal is to fill vacant storefronts along the area's main streets, redevelop former garage and service facilities, and fill up office space. 

All eligible applicants will receive "business canvas plan training" from ECDI. A canvas plan is essentially a basic business plan. Eight finalists will then be chosen to receive more advanced business training from ECDI before pitching their businesses to a panel of judges in June. The finalists will be eligible for a chance to win up to $10,000 in grant money, additional training and financial incentives.

“We could select all of them, or we could select a small batch of them,” says Jason Powers, OBCDC director of marketing and development. "We hope to come out of this with some funded businesses, all of them trained, and considering Old Brooklyn as a place to grow their businesses.”

All types of businesses, from new concepts to existing companies, will be considered, says Powers. The once-sleepy neighborhood is on the rise and its accessible location in Cleveland makes it a prime draw for new restaurants, bars and retail shops. “Old Brooklyn is just poised to pop,” he says. “Everyone’s just really, really ready. We’re looking for those next things.”

Interested business owners have until April 24th to apply.

Meanwhile, St. Clair-Superior plans to focus on assisting existing businesses in the neighborhood. Experts from ECDI and Business Advisers of Cleveland will assess participating companies in everything from their sales to social media to financing. The companies will then get training and support in the area where they need help. The program should launch next week, according to Diamond.

Shaker Heights is also considering a business competition similar to the Old Brooklyn model, but the details are not cemented yet. The Shaker program should launch later this year.

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.