3 Lessons in Business Growth from the Stars of Cleveland Hustles

The stars of the hit Lebron James reality business show “Cleveland Hustles” talked at COSE’s Annual Meeting about the three lessons they’ve learned in growing their respective businesses.

The stars behind Lebron James’ “Cleveland Hustles” reality TV show came out for last week’s COSE Annual Meeting to discuss what life on the show—which featured local businesses competing for financing—was like and the challenges they’ve faced in growing their respective businesses.

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    Speaking during a panel discussion moderated by Steve Millard, executive director of the Council of Smaller Enterprises, were: Mike Gulley, founder of Old City Sodas; Geoff Hardman, co-founder of Cleveland Bagel Co.; and Jackie Wachter, co-founder and creative director of leather goods store Fount.

    Following are three lessons learned from the panel discussion.

    1. Take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

    Wachter said the show impacted the businesses of each of the companies represented on the panel. For instance, Cleveland Hustles changed the trajectory of Fount. The company is now planning on opening at least one retail location per year.

    And at least one of the panelists indicated he remains open to continuing to pursue opportunities. In response to an audience member’s question, Old City Soda’s Gulley indicated a willingness to go on another well-known reality program. “I’d love to be on Shark Tank,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite shows!”

    2. Stay true to your original business plan.

    Adding on to Wachter’s point, Hardman agreed that being on Cleveland Hustles led to a business boost but he told the crowd one thing he learned from being on the show is that it is important to not lose sight of your original goals. Don’t let the growth distract you from what you originally set out to do.

    Relatedly, he said it’s important to not let rapid growth lead you too far afield from your original aspirations. Cleveland Bagels’ goal is to make the “Cleveland Bagel” as much of a household name as, for example, the “Montreal Bagel.” He said the promotional push from Cleveland Hustles notwithstanding, Cleveland Bagel remains committed to its original goal of continuing to focus on making the best “Cleveland Bagels” that they can.

    3. Be comfortable with your financial partners.

    While the premise of Cleveland Hustles is to partner with investors, the panelists were in agreement it’s crucial that the entrepreneur is comfortable with who they are partnering with. Getting back to the previous point about staying true to the company’s business plan, the panelists said it’s important both sides are on the same page regarding objectives and where they see the business going.

    Learn about other upcoming Greater Cleveland Partnership events by clicking here.

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    Next up: 3 Reasons to Consider the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

    3 Reasons to Consider the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

    We sat down with three recent graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program to find out how it helped them improve their businesses.

    We sat down with three recent graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program to find out how it helped them improve their businesses.

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    Next up: 3 Reasons to Register for the COSE WebEd Series: Ship Smart and Save

    3 Reasons to Register for the COSE WebEd Series: Ship Smart and Save

    The start to the COSE WebEd Series—Ship Smart & Save Money—is less than a month away.

    Why should you register to attend this webinar series? You're extremely busy, but are you too busy to save time and money?

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    To help you become your company's next shipping expert, you're invited to attend the three-part COSE WebEd Series coming up on Sept. 27, Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 (all at 11 a.m.).

    RELATED: Register for the WebEd Series Webinar “Ship Smart & Save Money” today

    Here are the top three reasons why you should register:

    1. Save Time, Money and Resources

    • Do you know how carriers calculate rates for your shipments?

    • Are you aware of common freight classification errors?

    • Could the packaging of your freight be costing you extra money?

    • Do you know the basic import/export process so when you receive the first international business opportunity you can proceed with confidence?

    If you hesitated answering any of these questions, you should register to attend!

    2. It's Free to Attend

    Speaking of registering, the webinar series is completely free to COSE members! Why not take advantage of a free educational opportunity? Don't handle shipping for your company? Forward this to who does and let them save your team time and money!

    3. Connect with an Expert for Future Questions and Help

    You never know how much you need an expert until your customer has questions you just simply don't know the answers to. If nothing else, get to know our shipping experts and have a lifeline next time you need professional guidance. Don't let business opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone or geographical region hold you back!

    Don't wait! Register for the September webinar today.

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    Next up: 30 Seconds or Less: What Would You Tell the Younger You?

    30 Seconds or Less: What Would You Tell the Younger You?

    Let’s say you had a time machine and had the opportunity to go back and talk to the younger version of yourself just as you were venturing out on your business career. The catch: You have no more than 30 seconds to give this person advice. What would you say?

    Let’s say you had a time machine and had the opportunity to go back and talk to the younger version of yourself just as you were venturing out on your business career. The catch: You have no more than 30 seconds to give this person advice. What would you say?

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    We posed this question to attendees of COSE’s Annual Meeting. Watch the video to find out the words of wisdom they wished to impart on their earlier selves. 

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    Next up: 4 Issues to Know in November: A Voting Guide

    4 Issues to Know in November: A Voting Guide

    Voters on November 3rd will be confronted with a bevy of important issues when they arrive at the ballot box. (By the way, early voting has already begun. Contact your County Board of Elections and cast your vote today!) As Election Day draws nearer, COSE is providing the below voting guide to help further explain what the following issues are all about. After careful consideration with the COSE Advocacy Committee and COSE Board, as well as business leaders from around Northeast Ohio, here are COSE’s recommendations on each of the four issues listed below.

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    Voters on November 3rd will be confronted with a bevy of important issues when they arrive at the ballot box. (By the way, early voting has already begun. Contact your County Board of Elections and cast your vote today!) As Election Day draws nearer, COSE is providing the below voting guide to help further explain what the following issues are all about.

    After careful consideration with the COSE Advocacy Committee and COSE Board, as well as business leaders from around Northeast Ohio, here are COSE’s recommendations on each of the four issues listed below.

    Vote NO on Issue 3: Legalized marijuana

    One of the more polarizing issues to be decided was brought forward to grant blanket legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. If passed, this would make Ohio the first state in the country to legalize recreational use and medical use of marijuana at the same time. In the small number of other states that legalized recreational marijuana (four states and the District of Columbia), medical marijuana use laws were in place first before taking the step to legalize recreational use.

    The group pushing for this ballot measure is dubbed “ResponsibleOhio” and is made up of a handful of investors that stand to reap the financial benefits should the issue pass; commercial marijuana would only be grown at 10 sites belonging to these individuals. The marijuana monopoly that Issue 3 would allow for has even caused long-time legalization advocates to publicly oppose it.  But, beyond the questions this proposed Constitutional amendment raises and the unknown effects of legalization, there is also the issue of timing and the fact that the state is ill-prepared to manage the potential repercussions.

    While the exact economic impact this proposal would have remains unclear, passage would mean small businesses around the state would be forced to undertake new requirements for how they manage employees. For example, the amendment language would require employers to treat medical marijuana like prescription drugs and it could require employers to accommodate medical marijuana in the workplace. Employers need to review and update their human resource policies and how their business treats the use of prescription drugs. 

    Passage would also bring about a number of workplace safety concerns, as discussed here.

    COSE recommends voting NO on Issue 3.

    Vote YES on Issue 2: Limit monopolies and oligopolies

    Going hand-in-hand with the marijuana legalization effort is a separate, but related issue that aims to limit monopolies and oligopolies in the state. If Issue 2 wins approval, voters would still have the opportunity to suspend the prohibition on monopolies and oligopolies for specific future issues and vote on whether those issues are in the best interest of the people of the state.

    There would be a limited number of marijuana growers allowed if Issue 3 were to pass because it would maximize the profit for the handful of marijuana investors tied to the “ResponsibleOhio” campaign.  Supporting Issue 2 would help protect the Ohio Constitution from “ResponsibleOhio’s” initiative and make it more difficult to grant monopolistic enterprises in the future.

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 2.

    Vote YES on Issue 1: State legislative redistricting

    Gerrymandering has long been a familiar part of Ohio politics, where the majority party has had the opportunity to slice and dice the map to best suit their preferred candidates’ needs (and their odds of winning future elections.)

    One group is trying to change that – or at least limit the amount of gerrymandering that occurs when drawing state legislative districts. Fair Districts for Ohio is advocating for a bi-partisan plan to improve upon the way the state approaches redistricting for state legislators. This would be the first major overhaul to Ohio’s process of drawing state legislative districts in over 40 years and here’s, in part, how the plan would work:

    • Would create a new seven-member bipartisan panel called the “Ohio Redistricting Commission.”
    • The commission would have at least two members from the minority party.
    • Would require at least two votes from each party in order to approve a district plan, otherwise a temporary plan is put in place and the commission must reconvene to redraw it.
    • Would create a process for the Ohio Supreme court to order the commission to redraw the map if the plan favors one political party.
    • Keep communities together by requiring a district plan to split as few counties, municipal corporations, and townships as possible.

    The ballot measure has received overwhelming support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as a wide array of organizations around the state extending from the Ohio Education Association to unions to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 1.

    Vote YES on Issue 8: Arts and culture

    A renewal is on the ballot for arts and cultural institutions in the region that would continue to provide a dedicated revenue source for Cuyahoga County’s arts and culture scene. The amount of arts programming our region has to offer is a testament to the levy’s impact. The issue is not a tax increase.  It would continue the current 1.5 cents tax per cigarette sold in Cuyahoga County to support arts and cultural organizations.

    “People have seen the return on the investment,” says Tom Schorgl, President & CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture. And, the initiative has been held up as a national model for how to establish strategic public and private partnerships for arts and cultural programs.

    The tax, approved by voters in 2006, has funded such efforts as art education in schools, neighborhood programming and more. And, the funding is especially important for non-profits because organizations such as those can have a difficult time securing operating dollars needed to open the doors and actually run the organization.

    “I think one of the most important things is a lot of people have experienced first-hand arts and culture programming,” Schorgl says. “Over half of the programs offered that have received support have been free, so access has increased exponentially. People from all walks of life in every corner of Cuyahoga County have seen those results and have connected with it personally.”

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 8.


    As you can see, the outcome of this year’s vote will have a significant impact on Northeast Ohio. COSE encourages you to get out and make your voice heard!

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    Next up: 4 Ways to DIY Your Marketing Efforts

    4 Ways to DIY Your Marketing Efforts

    To get the best marketing results, you should hire an employee dedicated to marketing or hire an agency to do the work. (Full disclosure: As a marketing professional, I am legally obligated to say that.) However, as a small business owner myself, I know those options are not always viable. We have to DIY some/most/all of our marketing, and it’s not easy. 

    To get the best marketing results, you should hire an employee dedicated to marketing or hire an agency to do the work. (Full disclosure: As a marketing professional, I am legally obligated to say that.)

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    However, as a small business owner myself, I know those options are not always viable. We have to DIY some/most/all of our marketing, and it’s not easy.

    Here are four tips I’ve learned about DIYing your marketing through experiences I’ve had with my company, Fashionably Cleveland, a publication spotlighting the Northeast Ohio style scene.

    1. Make the most of your network.

    When applicable, try to manage mutually beneficial arrangements between your company and members of your professional and personal network.

    One commonly used example is guest blogging. If your website has a blog, solicit content relevant to your brand from people you know. When you post the blog, include a link to that person’s website (or company website), and share the blog itself like crazy across your social media and other marketing channels. You get some great, SEO-friendly content to help drive traffic to your site, and the blog writer benefits from traffic to his or her site as well. Everyone wins!

    2. Be nice to the media.

    Give journalists a story to tell. After all, that is their job and the easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to give you coverage. Come up with unique angles for a journalist to capture, and pitch that story to the media. (Pro tip: The fact you own a company isn’t usually regarded as a story in and of itself.)

    One of my media coverage success stories came as a result of Fashionably Cleveland hosting a fashion blogger event. It was something that didn’t often happen in the area, and Fox 8 picked up on the press release I sent the station about it. As a result, I, along with the three fashion bloggers that were being featured at the event, appeared on the Fox 8 morning show. It not only promoted the event itself, but also the Fashionably Cleveland brand. 

    3. Automate as much as you can (without turning your brand into a robot.)

    You can cover a lot more ground, marketing-wise, if you take advantage of some automated marketing. You have to be strategic in what you automate, though—we’ve all seen brands that send out the same verbiage on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, and as a result, the message is dulled. Your audience wants to know there is a person behind your message, not a machine.

    I use Mailchimp for the Fashionably Cleveland newsletter, and with some initial setup, it allows you to automatically generate a newsletter using your site’s RSS feed. Although it did take some technological finagling to set up at first, it has saved me so much time each week from when I used to create the newsletter manually, and it has the exact same content. This way, I’ve freed up some of my time and my subscribers don’t notice any difference when the newsletter arrives in their inboxes each week.

    4. Spend your time where you see the most return.

    Your time is valuable, so it’s important to make the most of your marketing efforts. If you let it, social media alone can swallow up a lot of your time, and it’s smart to make sure you’re spending time where it matters most.

    In terms of social media, I have an engaged Twitter audience for Fashionably Cleveland, so that is definitely worth my marketing time. A decent chunk of traffic to my site comes from Facebook referrals, so I make sure to keep up with the Fashionably Cleveland Facebook page as well. And with the huge popularity among fashion bloggers and brands on Instagram, I’ve made sure to make the Fashionably Cleveland Instagram a priority, too. That said, you don’t need to be on every social network.

    For instance, LinkedIn isn’t really the place people go to read about style, so I do minimum work on the Fashionably Cleveland LinkedIn page—just enough to benefit from the inbound links it provides.

    As a small business owner, it’s not often viable to farm out all of your marketing efforts. But with a little strategic thinking on your part, you can do a pretty darn good job DIYing your company’s marketing.

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