After 10 years of helping startup organizations get their footholds and develop their companies, JumpStart’s leaders saw a new need in Cleveland’s economic climate: to help the region’s "scale-ups." These growing small businesses are too big to qualify for start-up funds and expertise from business accelerators but too small to be able to secure loans from banks.
So JumpStart announced last Thursday, April 23rd the launch of Growth Opportunity Partners to help those scale-ups grow their business and hire employees. Growth Opps, as it is being called, will work with banks and other resources to serve as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). It will focus on thriving companies of all kinds, not just tech companies, in low to moderate income (LMI) neighborhoods. It will provide loans between $250,000 and $1 million, with the average loan being $250,000. Growth Opps companies will also have access to JumpStart’s services.
"I’m proud to say Northeast Ohio’s startup tech ecosystem is in a much better place than it was when we started,” said JumpStart CEO Ray Leach at the announcement. “When we started in 2004 the whole region was distressed. Today, many established businesses in Northeast Ohio have great opportunities to create jobs if they have the assistance. It is so important to create opportunities to drive job creation and join neighborhoods that have been disconnected to the Northeast Ohio economy.”
Leach introduced Michael Jeans as president of Growth Opps. Jeans has more than 20 years of banking experience. “We want to focus on minority business owners located in low to moderate income neighborhoods, and create meaningful wage jobs,” Jeans said. “Meaningful wage jobs pay above a living wage and have a career path within an organization. JumpStart is our parent company, but we have the same purpose, the same goals and objectives.”
Jeans stressed that Growth Opps will work with banks and other regional organizations to assist scale-ups in their growth. “The goal is to create three meaningful wage jobs for every loan we make,” he said. “We’d like to see that number grow as we grow. We’re funding growing companies.”
Jeans also announced Growth Opps’ first client, Leon Anderson, president of Beachwood-based Sports and Spine Physical Therapy. Sports and Spine was actually referred by veteran healthcare banker and senior vice president of Citizens Bank Rufus Heard. Anderson has grown his company to four locations in Northeast Ohio and North Carolina. Anderson says he was attracted to Growth Opps offerings of cash flow management, strategic planning and funding structured solutions.
Also at the event was Sports and Spine COO Andre Russell, who started with the company at age 13 cleaning out the storage closets. He will earn his MBA in healthcare from Ohio University this week.
Growth Opps board chair Ndeda Letson and Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish also spoke at the event. “I am a strong believer in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Budish. “Northeast Ohio has been a hub of innovation for decades. We have people doing great things.”