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Cleveland-area entrepreneurs to get business training from local nonprofits

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announces the “Entrepreneur in Residence” program to help minority- and women-owned businesses in Southeast Cleveland. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb at a podium in the City Hall rotunda.

An effort to support women- and minority-owned businesses on Cleveland's Southeast side is part of a new program to aid small businesses in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Ashtabula counties.

The “Entrepreneur in Residence” program, funded by Huntington Bank, will connect 11 nonprofits with local businesses, providing them with skills, training and finance opportunities.

In Cleveland, the nonprofit Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will focus on working with women- and minority-owned businesses on the city's Southeast side including in the Mt. Pleasant, Union-Miles and Lee-Harvard areas, with the hope of expanding to the Buckeye neighborhood.

“As we know, the Southeast side of Cleveland has not had its fair share of investment for far too long,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said at a Wednesday press conference. “And we won’t be a thriving city until those neighborhoods can be just as competitive as other parts of the West Side and Downtown.” 

CNP President Tania Menesse says this type of hyper-local effort has worked for the city in the past.

“When there is intentional concentrated support on a commercial corridor, a person or two who is spending time every day going out in that corridor, working with businesses, it really moves the needle,” Menesse said.

Other nonprofits participating in the program across the region include the New Entrepreneurs Opportunity Fund which will provide mentoring for startups in Ashtabula County and Lorain Community College which is offering one on one coaching for small businesses. Huntington Bank says other nonprofits will offer training in digital technology skills and financial management.

“What we are trying to do is expand the opportunities for access to capital for a lot of the small businesses that are in some of these neighborhoods,” said Kwame Botchway with Village Capital Corporation, the lending subsidiary of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “But we also recognize that it’s not just the access that is the problem.” 

Bibb noted the problem is also trust between some minority businesses and loan officers.

“What we want to really focus on is making sure we’re meeting these businesses and residents where they are, identify their issues of why they don’t trust banks or other institutions and try to bridge that gap,” Bibb said. “If we don’t have those conversations, then we’ll continue to miss the mark long term in our city.”

Ideastream Public Media is a media partner in the program.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.