Local partnership helps small businesses thrive
In July 2013, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) opened an office in the Lee Road Library. Staffed by Monte Ahuja College of Business at Cleveland State University, SBDC provides no-cost, confidential, in-depth, one-on-one counseling for small businesses. Services, such as training, counseling, quality-based assessments, technical assistance, loan packaging guidance and preparation are also available.
Before the office opened at the library, the City of Cleveland Heights housed an SBDC office at city hall. The in-kind services provided by the city helped establish the center’s presence. After operating for a year at city hall, Heights Libraries invited SBDC to relocate to the library’s Heights Knowledge and Innovation Center (HKIC), a workspace dedicated to business and creative endeavors for entrepreneurs.
In a spirit of collaboration, Heights Libraries, the city and Cleveland State University jointly funded the build-out of 15,000 square feet of flex space, along with office furniture and computer equipment to establish HKIC.
“The City of Cleveland Heights is committed to helping small business thrive in our community,” said Mayor Dennis Wilcox. “These enterprises serve as the backbone of our national and local economy. The city is proud to have partnered with the library and CSU in the funding of HKIC. Now with SBDC and HKIC, small businesses and entrepreneurs in our community and throughout the region have greater access to vital resources they need to grow.”
“It made sense to provide our customers with access to free services offered by SBDC,” said Nancy Levin, library director. “The new space in the library was perfect for use by SBDC clients and the public in general.”
In the past year, SBDC counseled 265 clients. Some were looking to start a new business; others sought growth strategies for existing businesses. Still others were seeking information concerning topics such as social media marketing. After counseling sessions, clients receive a tour of HKIC to see how they can leverage the free resources that are available at SBDC.
HKIC offers access to public computers, technology training and computer instruction, “smart room” meeting rooms and even iPad rentals—all free with a library card. These amenities solve a problem for many of the entrepreneurs whose age or economic status had previously been a barrier to starting a business. The library also offers access to business databases, periodicals, free Wi-Fi, easy parking, and space to work and meet.
In addition to partnering with Heights Libraries, SBDC collaborates with many local entrepreneurial resources, including economic development directors, special improvement districts, community development corporations, LaunchHouse, Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen, Economic Community Development Institute, and local bankers.
One successful collaboration is Clairfait Holdings, the maker of skin-care products. The company moved to Cleveland Heights in 2014. SBDC facilitated Clairfait’s transition to Cleveland, and helped Clairfait identify funding sources, commercial real estate options, and opportunities for networking with members of the Cleveland business community.
Since arriving in Cleveland Heights nine months ago, Clairfait has successfully obtained financing for expanding its Sun Putty product line. The company hopes to build on this success and establish a Cleveland-based production laboratory and distribution facility.
Katie Van Dyke
Katie Van Dyke is director of the Ohio Small Business Development Center.