Entrepreneurial scene set to take over Gordon Square Arts District

For years, JumpStart has hosted its annual Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Expo as a trade show of sorts for Cleveland’s entrepreneurial community.

“We’ve always had our Northeast Ohio Entrepreneurial Expo at one large venue every year ,” says Amy Martin, Principal of Marketing at Jumpstart Inc. “It was exactly what it sounds like – it’s an expo. It was well attended and we had a great response from the Cleveland community. But this year we wanted to change the feel."

This year, JumpStart decided to go a new route with the upcoming Startup Scaleup, a day-long event on Wednesday, June 17 that will celebrate and educate entrepreneurs and small business owners. Sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and Medical Mutual, The event will take place at various locations around Gordon Square and will offer resources, networking – and ice cream – for Cleveland’s startup businesses.

“We wanted to make sure entrepreneurs and small businesses are aware of all the resources and tools available in Northeast Ohio,” says Martin. “So we shifted our approach on the event. We said, let’s make sure those people with great ideas, the next big thing, know there’s a ton of resources available.”

JumpStart is taking the lead on Startup Scaleup, but all of the local organizations that work with entrepreneurs – from FlashStarts and Bizdom to MAGNET and the Youngstown Business Incubator – will also be on hand. “All of the 14 organizations are involved in one way or another, from running a session to hosting a table to speed mentoring.”

The day kicks off with two pitch competitions. The NEO Up and Comers Pitch Competition at the Capitol Theater gives 15 high-tech companies, nominated by each of the partner organizations, a chance to win $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 prizes.

The Sidewalk to Stage Pitch Competition offers attendees with a business plan or just a great idea a chance to give a five minute pitch and win one of three $5,000 prizes in the categories of Starting Up, Scaling Up and Creating Opportunity. The latter refers to an idea that will make a significant impact in creating jobs in low-income communities in the urban core. Ideas entered in the startup and scaleup categories are also eligible to win the creating opportunity category.

Two pitchers will be chosen in each category to move on. The finalists will then receive mentoring and help with their final pitch at the Capitol Theater. “This is a chance to stand up and tell why your idea is the right idea to bank on,” explains Martin. Potential pitchers must fill out an application before the competition.

Stop by Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop for a Marketing Ice Cream Social for some free ice cream and free advice from some of the region’s top business leaders.

Throughout the afternoon there will be more than a dozen information sessions designed around every stage of business -- from what it’s really like to bring a tech product to market, to talking to existing small business owners who are hiring about what they are looking for in a candidate. Thinking about starting a business? The three-part Preparing for Launch series offers insight and advice from established entrepreneurs during a restaurant crawl through Spice, Luxe and Toast.

“Based on where you are in your entrepreneurial journey or small business journey, you can pick your session,” says Martin. For a full list of the sessions, go to the Startup Scaleup schedule.

The event winds up with beer and informal discussions with TechPint at the Happy Dog.

Martin says JumpStart chose Gordon Square for Startup Scaleup because of the neighborhood’s commitment to small business. “It’s an amazing part of town,” she says. “They have been very good to entrepreneurs and they have space available for small business.”

Judi Feniger, executive director of the Gordon Square Arts District, says small business is an important component to the arts culture in the area. “The concept of the Gordon Square Arts District when it began was to use arts and culture as a driver for economic development,” she explains. “Today, more than 80 small businesses have been mixed in.”

Feniger calls the event a “win-win" opportunity for everyone involved. “The whole atmosphere is about creativity and opportunity, so when JumpStart talked about doing it differently, showcasing opportunity and connections, it just made sense to show it first-hand,” she says. “You’re surrounded by the spirit of what it takes to start or grow a business here. We were just delighted they thought of us in that way.”

Tickets to Startup Scaleup are $10, but the price include two food vouchers. Groups of 10 or more can buy tickets for $8 each. There is plenty of free parking in the Gordon Square neighborhood, and a valet service will be offered.

This story was made possible through a partnership with JumpStart Inc.

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.