From minding the ledgers to urban farming: The Dealership is where businesses go to grow

You won’t find any tenants or co-work members at The Dealership simply referring to the space as a place where they work. Instead you’ll hear them talking about the ideas and inspiration they get from others and how difficult things might be if they weren’t at the Shaker Heights co-working, event and office hub at 3558 Lee Road.

“The Dealership is valuable to Shaker Heights because it provides a variety of benefits to entrepreneurs and small businesses,” says Nick Fedor, executive director of the Shaker Heights Development Corporation, (SHDC), which operates The Dealership with the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), which is a statewide Small Business Association lender.

The space is also the center of the city’s ‘Fiberhood,’ the lightning fast broadband network expected to attract more tech companies to the Chagrin-Lee area and the city.

There are currently 10 office tenants and 11 co-work members at The Dealership, Fedor says, including some with multiple employees. Freshwater Cleveland met up with four of them to get their stories and hear about what motivates and excites them

A Small Shoot Grows, Enables Urban Farming

Tunnel Vision Hoops has doubled in size every two years of its existence, but it began as a napkin idea with a $200 budget less than a decade ago.

Carlton Jackson met Todd Alexander, a farmer with Central Roots, and former partner and farmer Michael Walton at the 2009 Cleveland Sustainability Summit and quickly realized they all agreed on the importance of local nutrition and farming.

“If local food is really going to become a thing in this climate, people really need to have some kind of hoop house, high tunnel or greenhouse structure to extend that 120-day growing season,” Jackson says of the group’s thinking at the time.

With that as its impetus, Tunnel Vision began designing and building hoop houses, greenhouses and other agricultural structures. By spring 2011, Tunnel Vision secured some big names as initial customers, including the Cleveland Botanical Garden and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). The latter was so confident in the concept that it signed on before Tunnel Vision had even created a hoop house.

The partners spent $70 of their initial budget buying materials to create a desktop model of the hoop house and renting a table at a sustainability event to display it. Jackson remembers packing up tomato, cucumber and other vegetable seeds for a backyard garden that could feed a family of four. It was enough to get a phone call from a CWRU horticulturist who was interested in Tunnel Vision’s help to expand CWRU farming to put more local foods on campus.

“They knew we only had concept designs, but they said they wanted to be the group that built the first one,” Jackson recalls.

<span class="content-image-text">Tunnel Vision Hoops working on a hoop house in Ohio City</span>Tunnel Vision Hoops working on a hoop house in Ohio City

The company also sells DIY kits and distributes various farming materials throughout the country. Jackson says Tunnel Vision did about $530,000 in business last year, but he believes the support of the surrounding community played an integral role.

“When I say we didn’t do this on our own, I truly mean that it was a community support effort because people believed in what other people were doing,” he says. “The City of Cleveland saw what we were doing [after the CWRU project], and made a video showing everybody at the Sustainability Summit what we were doing. We didn’t have to spend any money on advertising because we had such great community support understanding the importance of food to the community.”

Tunnel Vision’s space at The Dealership is the best of both worlds. By the end of the month, the company will double its manufacturing area there while still being able to bounce ideas of others at the entrepreneurial hub.

“You’re able to share ideas, share contacts, get people connected, share knowledge and experiences with each other,” Jackson says.

“Those kinds of things - you can’t even put a dollar value on an entrepreneurial community.”

Combining Branding, Marketing and Interactive Artistry

LaunchArts Media’s list of services might prompt one to ask if there’s anything creative the company doesn’t do.

The group is driven by an amalgamation of founder Jumar Newell’s beliefs regarding marketing, as well as his interests and experiences. He’s a cinephile, writer and visual artist who has seemingly worked in every field from real estate to substitute teaching.

“Marketing is open to interpretation,” says the Cleveland native. “My understanding of marketing became the marriage of my talents.”

<span class="content-image-text">Jumar Newell of LaunchArts</span>Jumar Newell of LaunchArtsPairing that idea with the “bootstraps mentality” he got from growing up on St. Clair Avenue and E. 118th Street, Newell developed his concept by literally listing all of his talents that could work in a business setting. He wanted each like-minded member of the fledgling organization to become specialists, treating clients’ needs like products on an assembly line.

“The tech specialist does this to it, the graphic design artist does that to it, the videographer makes a commercial out of it, then the communication specialist does the public relations work,” he says.

Such is the overarching model, although he trimmed the concept down to videography, photography, graphics and web design. With a team of seven creative minds behind him, Newell now frequently taps into the small business acumen he picked up while working at Keller Williams Realty to drive his firm.

“I’m from a big art community, and the whole purpose of LaunchArts is branding, marketing and interactive artistry,” Newell says. “'Interactive' means for it to bounce around and have multiple perspectives formulate one product.”

He says the company’s goal is to provide one-of-a-kind services.

“I don’t deal with a lot of templates,” he says. “You can go to Vistaprint for that.”

That type of honesty helped him win a grant at The Dealership’s pitch contest as part of its debut party a month ago. He ditched the prepared materials on his tablet, admitted to a little nervousness and gave them examples of what LaunchArts can do, from SEO to logos.

“Because I’m passionate about what I do, I just kind of breathe it now,” he says.

As he and his company continue to grow, Newell says he’s driven by the desire to keep Cleveland talent in the city and to be a face of hope for other minority entrepreneurs.

“I grew up knowing so many creative people who look like me,” he says. “I just know that for whatever reason they aren’t at that stage, whether it’s their own motivation or it’s marginalization.

“A chip on my shoulder just wants to be there for them. I’m driven by legacy, creativity and representation.”

'You get a bug'

Chuck Dozier started his One Two Painting firm about 15 years ago, but 2015 marked a new beginning.

That’s when the Shaker Heights resident decided to stop balancing his side business with a full-time job in pharmaceuticals. Passing by The Dealership again and again provided the nudge he needed to dedicate all of his time to One Two.

“If you want to be something, you have to surround yourself with people who are actually doing that,” Dozier says. “I wanted to be an entrepreneur. You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so that’s what brought me to this space.”

One Two offers interior and exterior painting, epoxy floor coating, drywall finishing and other services to residential, commercial and industrial customers. Whether it’s a follow-up call or a ‘thank you card,’ Dozier believes being personable is a large part of what keeps his business going.

“We try really hard to do that type of experience from the very beginning, from what we look like to our pricing structure,” he says. “We walk through the entire process, what we plan to do from day one, from a residential mom to a commercial [general contractor], that personal experience is important.”

As the first new tenant since the facility transformed from the LaunchHouse, Dozier quickly found the contagious, entrepreneurial enthusiasm he knew he wouldn’t find had he decided against co-working.

<span class="content-image-text">Chuck Dozier of One Two Painting</span>Chuck Dozier of One Two Painting

“Once you are in a space like this and are around a lot of people doing their own thing, paving their own way, you get a bug,” he says.

Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs has helped Dozier understand the occasional, unexpected pitfalls of running a business. It also helped him get a deal to paint the interior and exterior of the facility housing his business. That’s the type of connection and referral he says he couldn’t have made had he been working from his home or in an office park.

“You’re here with a lot of different people doing a lot of different things with a lot of different skill sets,” Dozier says. “I’m here at a space where, if I needed HR support, [BudgetEase] can help. If I needed any type of publishing help or Web development or graphic design, [LaunchArts Media] is an organization that could help that I already know and have a relationship with.

“That’s what makes spaces like this cool and important.”

Keep the Ledgers in Line for a Diverse Client List

Kathy Dise began BudgetEase fueled by the adrenaline of helping others, but it wasn’t planned by any stretch.

With two decades of commercial lending experience, she could advise small businesses with little difficulty. A connection at BioEnterprise provided her with two referrals about seven years ago – and everything changed.

“Stop whatever it is that you’re doing now, and you should be doing this,” Dise recalls one of the referrals telling her. “There’s a huge need for this.”

Soon, she found herself in a COSE business plan competition. Dise didn’t come close to winning, yet the process proved to her that she could make BudgetEase a reality.

“[Being in a business plan competition] makes you think about what you’re really doing,” Dise says. “You think about, ‘this is what I want to do, and this is how many customers I’m going to need to do it, and what would I charge for that service?’

“You can tell if it’s going to work or not. You come up with a profit number to see if this is viable or not … it’s exhilarating.”

<span class="content-image-text">BudgetEase</span>BudgetEase

Dise's company, which employs 10, has helped 150 businesses from Northeast Ohio to the United Kingdom over the past year. BudgetEase offers bookkeeping services, Quickbooks training, grant accounting and more for a variety of small firms that make $5 million or less. BudgetEase's diverse client list includes off-shore wind developer LEEDCo, Cleveland Orchestra's baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire and computer support provider Acroment Technologies.

“A lot of people understand Quickbooks and could do it easily, they just don’t have the time,” Dise says.

Dise’s company has been at The Dealership for four years. Aside from the innovative atmosphere, Dise recommends co-working spaces for small businesses because they pay for their space but not much else.

“You don’t have any capital [costs] in the beginning,” she says. “We never had to buy a good copying machine. We still don’t own any furniture. The upfront costs are minimal.”

The long-time Shaker Heights resident is enthused to see continued development in the city. Her way of helping other firms in the area is holding free office hours every Thursday at The Dealership from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“I love startups, and I want to support Shaker in its economic development,” Dise says.

The City of Shaker Heights is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

Brandon Baker
Brandon Baker

About the Author: Brandon Baker

Brandon Baker is a freelance journalist who has contributed articles to Freshwater Cleveland since 2014. His work has been featured by Scene, The News-Herald, Patch, EcoWatch and more. By day, he is a full-time research consultant with Burges & Burges Strategists, where he provides communications, messaging, strategic and research support for various public, private, and nonprofit entities in Ohio. In the fall, he enjoys working for the Cleveland Browns Scoreboard Operations team at FirstEnergy Stadium. Brandon is a graduate of The Ohio State University and enjoys traveling, exercising, the arts, volunteering, and spending time with family.