Hundreds of local small-business owners gathered inside the City Club at FirstEnergy Stadium on Wednesday to network with other entrepreneurs and share ideas on how to reach sustained success in the Cleveland community.
The Small Business Training Camp was hosted in partnership with the Browns and JumpStart and featured an afternoon of workshops and panel discussions tailored for local minority small-business owners, which the Browns have sought to assist through four events with JumpStart. The "training camp" was the second of them and followed a Small Business Impact Program Showcasehosted Aug. 29 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"This is all really exciting," JumpStart Communications Director Vicki McDonald said. "We're really happy to be at FirstEnergy Stadium, and I think partnering with the Browns has been really meaningful for us. It's helped us reach a whole new audience and really deepen our impact supporting small business owners."
About 700 people registered for the event Wednesday and spent time listening to other entrepreneurs who have started businesses in Cleveland and have even managed to expand them to a national level.
One of those entrepreneurs was Cathy Cross, who founded Cathy’s Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches in downtown Cleveland in 2018. Through serving homemade cookies with classic ice cream flavors in a fun, upbeat atmosphere in her stores, Cross has managed to expand her business to Atlanta and plans to open new stores in Nashville and Houston in 2023.
Cross shared her expertise and experience with training camp participants in a panel discussion about digital marketing. After her discussion, she met with several other participants for a 1-on-1 chat on the club level bleachers in the stadium to share contact information, provide more advice and help business owners expand their network.
"I came in as a business owner and a Black owner who was so supportive of the city of Cleveland and the entrepreneurs that are here," she said. "My main goal was to come here and inspire, encourage and educate them on the nuances of the business and what it looks like — the good, the bad and the ugly."
For many of the entrepreneurs, attending the training camp and taking advantage of the resources it provided will be a huge stepping stone in helping their business take the next step in its development.
"This is so beneficial for anyone who is starting a business or already has a business to be around people who are in the same field as them and looking to grow, learn how it's done and understand the ins and outs of being able to communicate to each other," said Kerri Yarbrough, the founder of The Aura Initiative, a Human Resource ally. "Whether that's done verbally or just watching and seeing what that's like, it's all been really interesting."
The Browns are JumpStart will host two more events in 2022 for local minority small-business entrepreneurs. A "First and Tech" event will be held Oct. 11 at the Kardiac Club at FirstEnergy Stadium and will serve as a happy hour event to bring together tech entrepreneurs, innovation stakeholders, players from the Cleveland Browns and investors for networking and inspiration.
Another Small Business Impact Program Showcase, where entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to pitch their business to a panel for the chance to earn $10,000 toward business, will be held Dec. 7 in the Kardiac Club.