After operating a successful Women’s Business Center
in Columbus for the past two years, ECDI
is about to open its own center in Cleveland. The women’s business center is designed to give women entrepreneurs the resources they need to get a business idea off the ground.
“Women start businesses for different reasons than men do,” explains Eric Diamond, executive vice president of lending at ECDI Cleveland. “The issue really is understanding the way women open businesses and the resources they need. Men typically start businesses for wealth and power. We see women opening businesses for passion, creativity and to create a work life balance. Also, we have found that men take the attitude of ‘go it alone’ when starting businesses, where women enjoy being part of a group of other women also creating their own businesses.”
With these factors in mind, the WBC created a center around women and the way they operate. Members of the business center have access to shared workspace, laptops and printers, while also accessing training and workshops, mentors and coaches and referrals to loans and grants. “We’re teaching women the big plans and strategies of an idea,” says Diamond.
The Columbus office recently received the SBA
Award of Excellence and a five-year contract. Due in part to the organization’s outcomes and programs we initiated and the new programs planned. “Our Professional Advisory Network (PAN) connects experts in the community who volunteer time to assist members with their specialty areas, such as legal, marketing, and accounting,” says Diamond. “Programs such as those for women veterans, PEARL for formerly incarcerated women, and specialized training programs with proven curriculum are just getting underway.”
Diamond adds that testimony from members who regularly use the center for their office space meeting rooms, printing and computing needs also lead to the SBA recognition.
With the Columbus center’s successes, ECDI decided to open a similar office in Cleveland. “We figured out that it’s easily replicable,” says Diamond. The Cleveland Foundation
recently awarded a $70,000 grant to ECDI, some of which will be used in the business center.
The Cleveland center, which will be located in Suite 620 of ECDI's current building at 2800 Euclid, will start with five entrepreneurs in a soft launch. If all goes well, ECDI will launch a full program in January with a four-week training program.
Meanwhile, ECDI continues its involvement in the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen
(CCLK). To help food entrepreneurs get their products on the market, the CCLK is considering starting a private label brand that would be distributed to area grocery stores.
ECDI purchased two food buggies – smaller, more affordable and portable versions of their much larger food truck counterparts -- last week to further help the food entrepreneurs. Participants would go through the CCLK’s food accelerator program and then have the opportunity to lease one of the buggies. “It’s a great way to test the market,” says Diamond. “It’s a great year-round business because you can bring the buggies into lobbies.”
The program would start in early spring 2015. Right now, potential participants are being identified. “If it’s going well, we will sell the buggy to the entrepreneur at a discounted price,” says Diamond. “Then we’ll go out and buy another one.”