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Five years in, Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub is opening more doors for women and Black entrepreneurs

Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub

Akron-based Bounce Innovation Hub had a productive year, especially in support of Black- and women-owned businesses, according to thenonprofit’s 2022 annual report.

Bounce helps Northeast Ohio startups and small businesses through accelerators, classes and affordable workspaces.

Businesses that worked with the nonprofit last year created more than 140 new jobs and generated more than $54 million in revenue, said CEO Jessica Sublett.

In the five years since its creation, Bounce's companies have created 575 new jobs, she said.

“We had, obviously, quite the last three years with the economy and everything that’s gone on,” Sublett said. “[We] ultimately ended up serving more clients in the last year, which is always really exciting for us, because clients achieve such amazing things.”

One of the highlights of the 2022 report, Sublett added, is that Black- and women-owned businesses comprised 72% of Bounce’s clientele in 2022, Sublett said. For the first time, women entrepreneurs surpassed men and now make up 57% of Bounce’s clients, she added.

“For a long time, it had been predominantly men, and then this year we just knocked it out,” Sublett said. “That’s very exciting.”

Black-owned businesses make up 60% of Bounce’s clientele, she added. She attributes that to Bounce’s program GROW, or Generating Real Opportunity and Wealth, which focuses on women- and minority-owned businesses.

“The team has done a huge effort to reach into Black neighborhoods, Black communities,” Sublett added. “Our GROW programming is really deeply focused on serving Black entrepreneurs.”

Another highlight, she added, is the continued success of its Downtown Akron facility. Many of the businesses that work with Bounce operate office space there, but the building is also open to use for co-working space.

While many Downtown Akron offices are now vacant due to the rise in remote work during the pandemic, Bounce’s headquarters is bustling, Sublett added.

“Small businesses and startups still want a network. They want to be together, they want to be in a facility where they can meet different people with different types of companies,” she said.

Also in the last year, Bounce was recognized by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for its local economic development efforts, she added.

Bounce staff are continuing to expand the nonprofit’s workspaces, but they are also looking to get out into the community more and meet entrepreneurs where they are, Sublett added. They are looking to partner with more community development corporations (CDCs) in Akron, she said.

Additionally, they’d also like to continue fundraising to eventually be able to help companies with professional services, such as offsetting the costs of legal fees, she said.

This summer, Bounce staff will begin developing its new strategic plan, Sublett added.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.