As part of COSE’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, we produced three videos focusing on the past, present and future of our organization. We interviewed past leaders of COSE that helped us get our start in 1972, as well as those that helped us evolve today into the largest regional small business support organization in the country. Finally, we interviewed current COSE leaders and members about where our organization is headed as the future needs of the small business community continue to change.
Click on the individual images above to access the three videos.
Hear from one of COSE's founding fathers, Bill Jones, as he describes how COSE got its start in the early 1970's through entrepreneurial actions that included a march on City Hall, battling “big business,” the Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Government…and went on to become the premier resource for 16,000 small business members in Northeast Ohio and a model for small business support organizations across the country.
Click on the video above to see this oral history on the founding of COSE.
The Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) has a rich history and strong legacy spanning over thirty years. Today, with over 17,000 members throughout Northeast Ohio, COSE is the largest small business support organization in Ohio. The collective voice of our 17,000 plus members allows COSE to provide cost-effective group purchasing programs, advocacy on legislative and regulatory issues,and networking and educational resources to help Northeast Ohio's small businesses grow. Over thirty years ago, an Ohio Trucker's strike would serve as the catalyst to form COSE to provide support small business owners in our region.
In April, 1970, there was an Ohio Trucker’s strike involving 10,000 Ohio truck drivers, which paralyzed small businesses throughout the state. Because smaller companies depended on shipments that were often less than a full truckload, they could not find independent truckers willing to take their business. This meant they did not receive raw materials, nor ship finished goods to their customers. As a result, some small businesses went bankrupt and several were on the brink of losing their business.
Amid the chaos and turmoil was the voice of Edward H. Richard, a shrewd and outspoken businessman who wanted small business owners to band together to help themselves. Richard, the successful owner of two thriving companies, quickly gathered 200 impassioned small business owners to apply pressure on political leaders to resolve the strike. The demonstration captured the headlines as the media referred to it as a “March on City Hall.” It was that pinnacle moment that put small businesses in the spotlight and their need for one strong, unified voice.
Richard, publicly critical of the lack of leadership provided to small businesses by the Growth Association (especially during the strike), used this “fire in the belly” demonstration from the small business community to rally support for a separate group named the Industrial Action Group (IAG). The IAG placed an ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer asking area businesses “Does Greater Cleveland need another voice?” But, after deliveries resumed, most IAG recruits lost interest, especially when dues were requested. The organization then faded as fast as it had risen.
After nearly two years had passed since the truck strike, and small business membership at the Growth Association was in continuous decline, Bill Jones, an instrumental voice for Northeast Ohio’s small businesses since the early 70’s and owner of a successful small business, was appointed to oversee a committee whose main goal would be to attract more smaller organizations.
With some skillful diplomacy, Jones struck a deal. The small businesses would have their own board and committees within the Growth Association, and the larger organization’s staff would assist the new group. And in July 1972, the Council of Smaller Enterprises was born, with Jones named its first chairman. And whom did Jones invite back as part of his team - Edward Richards. Other founders included Margaret Kahliff, Bob Rose, Dick Lezius, Jack Findeisen, Bob Schultz and George Bodwell.
Five Secrets of COSE
COSE’s 40th Anniversary Timeline