In the last decade, starting your own business has become not only desirable but much more within reach than it has been since the first half of the twentieth century. Factor in a pandemic and what people are calling “the great resignation,” those who have decided not to go back to their jobs, small businesses, the tech start-up movement, and the work-for-yourself trend are accelerating.
Often people get stuck at the idea phase when starting a new business. They may have a great idea but lack the business skills and/or the capital to get it off the ground — the difference between a business dream that thrives or dies. This is where Jumpstart comes in.
Working mainly in Northwest Ohio and Cleveland, Jumpstart started in 2004. Per its site, “JumpStart combines capital, services and connections to help entrepreneurs grow, researchers commercialize, and corporations innovate.”
It began with a focus on tech company startups because, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, from 1990 – 2002 Northeast Ohio was one of the least entrepreneurial communities in the United States.
As its website states, “In response to the need for job and wealth creation in Northeast Ohio, the region’s civic, community, and philanthropic leaders came together in 2003 and provided the vision and leadership for a solution: a unique partnership between public and private entities charged with creating economic transformation in Northeast Ohio through the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Making the Dream a Reality
In the Toledo area, entrepreneurs have the opportunity through Jumpstart to pitch their business ideas and receive funding to make that dream happen. Jera’s Heavenly Sweet Bakery is part of her Cakes for Kids program that gifts foster kids with free, personalized cakes on their birthdays. In 2019, she won a $10,000 grant at the Northwest Ohio Entrepreneur Showcase sponsored by Jumpstart to support small businesses owned by Black and Latino women.
Jumpstart’s Vicki McDonald talked with Toledo City Paper about how their popular Small Business Impact Program works:
How do you choose out of all those potential businesses for the Impact Program?
We are offering Impact Programs four times a year and almost always accepting applications for the program. The Impact Program covers our work with small businesses. In Toledo we’re known for this program. For small businesses, it is our flagship program — a twelve-week business intensive. Each participant in the program is matched with an advisor. The cohort goes through the 12-week group learning where they solve small business obstacles together and then they prepare to pitch their business to a panel of judges and a live audience at a showcase. The winner takes home $10,000 and the other participants receive $2,500.00. This grants capital that doesn’t have to be paid back.
We usually get eighty applicants per round and select 5-8 businesses to participate in the program. People hear about the program from our Facebook page and promotion, but mostly through word of mouth. We work closely with other organizations who refer small businesses to us because we are connected to other small business support organizations —ECDI, African American Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Growth Collaborative (BGC). It’s Toledo’s network of support organizations. If a small business goes through one of those organizations, they’ll be well connected with all the other support elements there.
If you don’t qualify right now for the Impact Program, we’re always putting programs together and you could be considered for the next one. You can also participate in other programs that will get you started. We offer one-on-one advising for small businesses and a four-week workshop called the Blueprint Program — a ramp up program for Impact. Jumpstart offers a lot of events and programs to connect the small business community.
Impact graduates typically stay connected to Jumpstart, so we continue to help them scale their business. For example, if you were a catering company and wanted to start a brick-and-mortar store, we can help guide you through those big business decisions. And we have a business-friendly loan program for those businesses that have gone through the Impact Program.
There are always challenges with small businesses, even after getting them off the ground, which is why it’s so important to have a community support group for small businesses to help them thrive.
Jumpstart is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
Submit an application on the website at https://www.jumpstartinc.org/apply/
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