Sparking a 'Chain Reaction' between business and community

Inspired by the success of the CNBC 2016 series Cleveland Hustles, in which four business leaders invested in emerging companies as a way to ignite Gordon Square’s budding retail scene, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) and GlazenUrban are hoping to extend that momentum eastward with Cleveland Chain Reaction.

The motive behind the effort is to lure private investment into local commercial real estate while simultaneously backing entrepreneurs who are ready to ramp up their businesses.
The goal is to attract residents and visitors, create jobs and generate sustainable profitability in a Cleveland neighborhood. The model mimics the Cleveland Hustles formula, but with some unique twists.
“It was a stroke of luck because I was on Cleveland Hustles and realized what a powerful economic machine it was with no red tape — and everyone makes money,” says Alan Glazen, GlazenUrban founder and Cleveland Hustles investor in Cleveland Bagel.
Glazen was one of the proponents of creating Chain Reaction after CNBC disclosed it would not be doing another season of Cleveland Hustles. “I thought to myself, ‘this is shame, we can’t afford to lose this thing’” he recalls. “We’re all doing this because it’s so good. Look what it did for Gordon Square ... it got so much attention — and lots of money poured into it.”
Inspired by the impetus that Cleveland Hustles created, Jeff Kipp, CNP director of neighborhood marketing, along with Glazen and COSE executive director Steve Millard, have been formulating Chain Reaction for the past six months.

Alan Glazen, Kenny Compton of Fox 8, Steve Millard and Jeff Kipp
The organizers have identified five investors who have each pledged a minimum of $130,000 to finance five up-and-coming businesses in one neighborhood, with hopes that the total investment will near $1 million.
Investors include 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.
Media partner WJW Fox 8 will follow Cleveland Chain Reaction’s progress on Kenny Crumpton’s Kickin’ It With Kenny segments. The series premiered last Monday, Apr. 3 with the announcement of the four neighborhoods in the running for selection: Clark Fulton/La Villa Hispana; North Shore/Collinwood; Slavic Village; and St. Clair Superior.

"Ready to pop"
The competing neighborhoods were chosen by CNP officials, who narrowed the list down from a pool of 10 applicants, says CNP’s Kipp. “We put out a call for interest to all of our neighborhood partners,” he explains. “We were looking for emerging communities. They all have a story of success to build off of.”
“These are neighborhoods that have strong support and infrastructure, strong Community Development Corporations,” adds COSE’s Millard. “These are neighborhoods that are ready to pop.”
Regardless of whether they are chosen as the featured city, Millard says Chain Reaction is a great way to highlight each neighborhood’s successes. “We really wanted to use the opportunity to not only pick a neighborhood, but to really showcase what’s going on in the different neighborhoods,” he says. “It will be interesting to learn what’s going on in Collinwood or St. Clair Superior.”

CDC officials from the four neighborhoods are currently presenting their cases to the investors in the coming weeks with tours. Chain Reaction organizers and the investors will then choose one neighborhood in which to focus the development efforts.
Clevelanders also have a voice in the selection. People can vote until tomorrow, Friday, April 14 for the neighborhood they think should win. The winner will be announced on Friday, April 21 on the Fox 8 morning show.

Bringing in the business
Applications for the five businesses that will ultimately be chosen to put down roots in the winning neighborhood are being accepted through Monday, May 8. Businesses of every type will be considered, says Millard, not just retail companies or businesses with a storefront. Prospective companies are also encouraged to submit YouTube videos with their applications.
The group is not looking for start-ups, but rather established businesses looking to expand, relocate or open a second location, adds Kipp. “We want to stress jobs,” he explains. “We want anyone who has a concept that has been proven.”
Millard says that Chain Reaction will also serve as a resource for small businesses looking for help from a number of area organizations that help entrepreneurs grow such as the Urban League and the Economic & Community Development Institute.  “Even if this isn’t right for a business, we can help get them to the next step,” Millard says, adding that the group is recruiting small business organizations to bolster this capacity.

Kickin’ It With Kenny segment for Chain Reaction
The action will really get under way next month, when about 20 businesses will be chosen to participate in a pitch competition at the Alex Theater in the Metropolitan at the 9, 2017 E. 9th St., on Tuesday, May 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Each competitor will present a 15-minutes pitch and answer questions from the investors. From there, eight to 10 companies will be chosen as finalists, and will be featured on a live segment on Fox’s morning news.

A model for the future

The top five competitors will go on to the next step in the Chain Reaction project, getting paired with the investors and other coaches to build out their businesses. The businesses’ growth and progress will be monitored from July through November. Then all five businesses will debut their companies in December.
The result will be a win-win situation for both the chosen neighborhood and the businesses. “Using entrepreneurship in a neighborhood to create growth and investment is a great way to go about doing this,” says Millard.
Glazen agrees. “We all win, everyone makes money,” he says. “The neighborhoods get a lot of publicity, the business gets a lot of publicity. I want to see business that bring jobs — that’s the promising thing. Jobs bring other businesses, and business brings residents.”

Alan GlazenHe notes that none of the time and money invested in Chain Reaction is for naught. “We’re not giving gifts to people. I continue to live it," says Glazen. "I’ve opened nine businesses in the last two years in city neighborhoods. This is a quick, million dollar jolt of power.”
His experience speaks for itself. In addition to Cleveland Bagel during Cleveland Hustles, Glazen has invested in ABC Tavern in both Ohio City and Uptown and Tremont General Store and XYZ Tavern in Detroit Shoreway. He is also one of the founders of Erie Island Coffee with locations on E. 4th Street and Rocky River.
All of the organizers of Chain Reaction agree that the project must keep going, even after the inaugural program is completed later this year.  “This show can never be over,” says Glazen. “It’s not just a show, it’s a project.”
Kipp also sees the power Chain Reaction can have. “The value we see in this is impact,” he says. “When you cluster five new business in an area, you can make an impact.

"We want this to be a model for repeating in future years.”

Read more articles by 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.