Celebrating Women in Business: Presented by KeyBank

October is National Women in Small Business Month and we’ve made great strides in the United States to reach gender parity in business ownership. Today, there are more than 11 million women-owned businesses to celebrate and women now represent more than half of the U.S. workforce.

But we’re by no means finished. Representations of women business owners in society still don’t reflect the makeup of business ownership in the United States. When conducting a search on Google for “real life bosses,” for example, fewer than five images of women appear in the top 50 results, even though women occupy half of leadership roles.

Now more than ever, it’s time to shift the narrative about real life bosses and celebrate contributions from women in leadership positions.

Let Biases Be Bygones

When starting a small business, entrepreneurs invest significantly to turn their vision into a reality. From ideation to execution, aspiring business owners strive to identify and showcase what makes their business unique to stand out among the competition. This is especially true when seeking investors.

According to recent data from KeyBank, most business owners—men and women—are confident in the financial health of their business (64 percent). But when looking for outside capital investment, studies show that investors ask men and women different questions when discussing funding opportunities in relation to their business objections. Typically, men are asked ‘promotion’ oriented questions (e.g., hopes and dreams) and women are asked ‘prevention’ oriented questions (e.g., responsibility and carefulness), which presumes women must focus on potential downside while men can put their energy toward gains and growth.

In some cases, there are guardrails in place to mitigate financial inequality among female business-owners. For example, the U.S. government has created the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program to award at least five percent of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.

We can do better. Women in leadership positions and those who champion them must combat common misperceptions and subtle (or not-so-subtle) biases about women in business through inclusive language, counter-stereotyping and mentorship. For the millions of female-owned and operated businesses today, they are a leading example of how to achieve inspiring careers. Together, business leaders can use their collective voice to advocate on behalf of all women in business.

There’s No “I” in Team

According to a recent KeyBank survey, 65% of female business owners have experienced gender-based barriers-to-success and almost half believe the media portrayal of women in business is one of the leading barriers. What’s more, business loan approval rates for women are 15 to 20 percent lower than they are for men, while men receive 16 times more venture capital funding than companies run by women. Whether conscious or not, it’s no surprise that under these circumstances, female entrepreneurs may be more risk-averse or more likely to experience imposter syndrome than their male counterparts, perpetuating a slower growth cycle in their business.

Still, no truly successful entrepreneur operates in a silo. Women absolutely can capture funding opportunities that lead to high growth companies, but it is critical for female entrepreneurs to seek out mentors, overcome self-doubt and embrace leadership opportunities, especially in industries like technology, banking and manufacturing where women are underrepresented.

#RealLifeBosses Want Advocacy, Connections & Empowerment

Whether combatting external factors or looking inwardly, women entrepreneurs and supporters are leading the charge to move our business world in the direction of gender parity. And arguably the richest resource to advance women business owners is an activated professional and personal network—not just for support and guidance, but also for loans and investments. 

Since 2005, Key4Women® has been helping women leaders and entrepreneurs through advocacy, connections and empowerment to help their careers and businesses grow. The program seeks to connect even more women to other like-minded entrepreneurs both in Cleveland and across the nation. By scaling the Key4Women® program and creating platforms for women in various cities to connect, we are broadening the conversation and sharing more female perspectives to shift perceptions and representations of women in business.

To continue opening doors and breaking glass ceilings, whether a manager, executive or business owner, this Women in Small Business Month, we invite you to join KeyBank in celebrating the many faces of #RealLifeBosses. Throughout October, share a photo of women in leadership positions who have influenced your career using #RealLifeBosses on social media and, together, we’ll show the world what #RealLifeBosses look like.

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  • Next up: Chairman's Forum Recap: 9 Critical Issues Facing Northeast Ohio Businesses
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  • Chairman's Forum Recap: 9 Critical Issues Facing Northeast Ohio Businesses

    A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the GCP offices on Thursday for the latest edition of the GCP Chairman’s Forum, which featured GCP Chairman Scott Chaikin and GCP CEO Joe Roman discussing the biggest issues impacting businesses today.

    Chaikin, executive chairman of Cleveland integrated communications firm Dix & Eaton, and Roman touched on nine hot-button issues facing Northeast Ohio companies today, including:

    Business expansion

    Roman said the lion’s share of business expansion activities—some 80%—stem from businesses that are already located in Northeast Ohio. With that in mind, the GCP has doubled down on its efforts to reach out to companies in the region to help these organizations with their expansion efforts.

    As called for in the Forward CLE strategic plan, the GCP has set a goal of reaching out to 1,000 companies per year and work with them directly on business expansion opportunities. The companies selected will be those viewed as being most ripe for business growth.

    Roman noted that the GCP’s Cleveland Development Advisors affiliate is also instrumental to this business expansion work. Its real estate fund, through investments made in downtown and neighborhood projects and organizations, has had a catalytic effect on attracting further expansion opportunities in Northeast Ohio.

    Connecting workforce to companies

    Another workforce issue heavily impacting companies today is the challenge employers are having with sourcing skilled employees to fill jobs. Chaikin noted that Northeast Ohio’s workforce system is robust with much invested in it; however, what’s missing is a consolidated voice for the employer.

    The creation of the Workforce Connect program, which brings together several organizations from across the region, aims to address this gap by aggregating together in one place Northeast Ohio’s network of workforce resources. While several industries will be targeted by Workforce Connect, the region’s manufacturing sector has been tabbed as the first industry to be addressed by Workforce Connect.

    Workforce mobility

    Getting employees to their employers is another challenge for the area’s employment system. There is a disconnect between where the jobs are and where the people are. Cleveland’s transit system does an excellent job of getting people downtown, but more could be done to connect a commuter who lives in Cleveland but works in Solon more efficiently to their place of employment. This is another area that the GCP will be studying and looking at additional effective solutions for Cleveland’s mass transit system. This effort will include connecting private sector leadership to Cleveland’s RTA system to better understand the challenges inherent in a public mass transit network. That work will get underway in the next month and if you’d like to be a part of it, please feel free to reach out to the GCP.

    Innovation economy

    In addition to delivering workforce to companies, an effort is also underway to deliver innovation to Northeast Ohio’s economy. Still in its early stages, a consortium of groups are working together to build a stronger, accelerated innovation economy.

    The questions being asked during this early stage include: What assets do we, as a regional economy, have at our disposal? What are the gaps? What are other economies across the country doing and what best practices can we learn from them? What should a go-forward innovation strategy look like in Northeast Ohio? The goal is to gather input from a broad swath of firms, including smaller innovators, disruptors and large companies.

    From Cleveland to Blockland

    Cleveland’s involvement in the Blockchain industry has been well publicized. As part of this ongoing effort, Cleveland has helped underwrite a $150,000 membership in Toronto’s Blockchain Institute. This investment allows all  Cleveland companies with revenues of less than $1 billion to have free access to all of the research held at the Blockchain Institute. Contact the GCP if you’re interested in learning more about how to gain access to this research.

    Diversity and inclusion

    A study has found that increasing the amount of diversity and inclusion could add an additional $6 million to $12 million annually to Northeast Ohio’s economy. A goal of the Forward CLE plan is to identify how to realize these gains. While the calls being made on local companies to assist with the previously mentioned expansion efforts aids this inclusion effort, and growth in areas such as supplier spend from a diverse arrangement of sources is growing steadily, more could be done to accelerate it.

    To that point, a reworked, inclusive, innovation strategy is underway to figure out ways for diversity to help grow the regional economy and figure out what form a new inclusion strategy might take.

    Public policy agenda

    To achieve the goals as set forth by the strategic plan, it’s critical for the GCP to be in sync with governmental partners. As such, the GCP is in the middle of engaging with member companies to ascertain which public policy initiatives are most important to them. One example of this has to do with Ohio’s Third Frontier program, which is nearing the end of its funding cycle. The work coming out of the GCP’s previously stated work on innovation could help shape a new, ongoing Third Frontier program.

    The public policy agenda will be published at the beginning of 2019 and companies that would like to suggest input are encouraged to reach out to the GCP Advocacy Team.

    Tax study

    Another of the studies being undertaken is related to looking at how Cuyahoga County compares, on a tax basis, to other communities. The goal is to ensure businesses in the area remain competitive. Roman added this does not mean the business community is opposed to future taxes, but rather to learn more about what these taxes might mean to the business community and how it might impact economic growth.

    Air service

    A quality air service foundation is one of the critical factors involved in building a region’s economic foundation. For Cleveland, the good news is that air service levels are back to the same levels seen when United Airlines had a hub in Cleveland, Roman said. Further, the flights to Iceland that have been added have demonstrated to other airlines that the Cleveland-to-Europe market is strong. An ongoing concern, however, is the customs process at the airport. An effort is underway to look at this process and uncover solutions to make it more efficient.

    The GCP Chairman’s Forum is just one of the many events hosted by the GCP that connects the business community to resources and educational opportunities. Click here to learn about upcoming events that could benefit your business.

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  • Next up: City Club Fridays @ the Library
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  • City Club Fridays @ the Library

    The City Club of Cleveland Friday Forum Series is a vibrant, dynamic and diverse forum for citizens and thought leaders to discuss issues and ideas that shape our region, nation, and the world.  Watch a live stream of the City Club of Cleveland Friday Forums on the big screen in the Parma-Snow Branch Auditorium. You do not have to be a City Club member to participate and submit questions LIVE to the forum via Twitter. City Club Fridays @ the Library are free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

    The City Club of Cleveland Friday Forum Series is a vibrant, dynamic and diverse forum for citizens and thought leaders to discuss issues and ideas that shape our region, nation, and the world. 

    Watch a live stream of the City Club of Cleveland Friday Forums on the big screen in the Parma-Snow Branch Auditorium. You do not have to be a City Club member to participate and submit questions LIVE to the forum via Twitter.

    City Club Fridays @ the Library are free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

    Friday, February 19 at 12:30 p.m.


    Michael V. Drake, M.D., the 15th president of The Ohio State University, shares his vision for one of the world’s most dynamic public research universities, including a commitment to affordable excellence, community engagement, and diversity and inclusion.

    Since assuming the reins in July 2014, President Drake has overseen a record year in student applications, fundraising and graduation rates; hired a new leader for the university’s renowned medical center; celebrated five national championships; and launched a $400 million initiative to lower student costs while increasing excellence.

    Click here to for more details.

    Friday, February 26 at 12:30 p.m.


    High-quality preschool gained momentum during the last decade as one of the most important education reforms to bolster school outcomes and life-long success. Breakthrough research from communities across the county have spurred investments at the federal and local level, including PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s plan to ensure that every Cleveland child can attend a high-quality preschool. 

    Deborah A. Phillips, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, is part of a research team that has followed the impact of universal Pre-K in Tulsa, Oklahoma since 2001. One of the first communities to offer universal preschool, the Tulsa research offers an in-depth look preschool’s impact not only on test scores, but also on other important factors for success such as retention rates and attitudes towards school. Dr. Phillips will also address how the Tulsa findings fit into a national body of research on the impact of high-quality preschool and science of early brain development.

    Dr. Phillips will also be joined by Katie Kelly, Executive Director of PRE4CLE, for a panel discussion about how these findings are shaping local preschool policy in Cleveland.

    Click here to for more details.

    Friday, March 04 at 12:30 p.m.


    Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations United States (U.S.) policy has long been to veto any United Nations (U.N.) Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. This position was most recently upheld in September, 2015 when France made their impassioned plea for the State of Palestine. Despite the fact that U.S. officials actually traveled to France to help draft the proposed new U.N. resolution, they ultimately vetoed the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. However, a resolution was passed to raise the Palestinian flag over the U.N. Rose Garden, a move that was criticized by Israel and the U.S.

    Join us for a conversation with Ambassador Riyad H. Mansour, Ph.D., Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., on the status of current negotiations between Palestine and Israel, as well as the status of efforts of Palestine at the U.N. regarding admission as a Member State

    Click here for more details.

    Friday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m.


    A DEBATE: For more than two decades, The City Club of Cleveland has hosted the annual High School Debate Championship. While most high school students are watching basketball finals and preparing for spring break, these enterprising students prepare for the High School Debate Championship, as well as for state and national competitions. The City Club gives them the opportunity to show-off their skills. Every year, the top two area high school debaters square off in a classic "Lincoln-Douglas" style debate at a Friday Forum. This gives the debaters the opportunity to compete - not only for the judges and the audience in the room - but also for our radio and television audiences. Debate teams from across Northeast Ohio are invited to attend as guests of the City Club and BakerHostetler. 

    The High School Debate Championship is sponsored by BakerHostetler in memory of Patrick J. Jordan. Mr. Jordan was a partner of the firm and an outstanding debater in high school. 

    Click here for more details.

    Friday, March 18 at 12:30 p.m.


    Until the 1980s, Americans generally expressed a neural view of the opposing political party. This has changed dramatically as the country has moved toward hyper-partisanship. A 2014 Stanford University study found that politics - not race - is becoming the deepest divide in America. And, it can be argued that our political leaders are the ones responsible for this shift, often directing hostility to the opposing party and refusing to work collaboratively across party lines to solve problems.

    Join us for a conversation with Nancy Jacobson, Founder and CEO of No Labels, on how the organization is working to encourage and facilitate collaboration among political leaders of all parties to solve the nation's most pressing problems.

    Click here for more details.

    Friday, March 25 at 12:30 p.m.


    Cleveland's public hospital system is in the process of transforming its main campus. The MetroHealth System will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on improvements to its 52-acre campus and continue working with community partners to improve the entire West 25th Street Corridor. And when hospital leaders talk about the project, they typically go beyond bricks and mortar, and even beyond economic development. They talk about a healthier community, lower infant mortality rates, improved outcomes for citizens, along with jobs and a better looking neighborhood. What will it take to revive and revitalize a community? Who are the players? What role do corporations and anchor institutions play? And how do you pursue relationships that catalyze all facets of the project?

    Join us for a conversation with Akram Boutros, M.D., President and CEO of The MetroHealth System, and Councilman Joe Cimperman on current efforts underway to revitalize Cleveland's west side.

    Click here to for more details.

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  • Next up: Clearing up Cloud Confusion: Presented by Affordable-IT
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  • Clearing up Cloud Confusion: Presented by Affordable-IT

    It seems people are a little bit cloud confused these days. Vic Manfredi, President of Affordable-IT, says the first question his company is asked from potential new SMB customers is, “What is the cloud?” Many view cloud computing as something best suited for personal storage needs, such as iCloud, and are not really clear on how it can help them in business. Cloud computing does in fact make a lot of sense for small businesses.

    It seems people are a little bit cloud confused these days.

    Vic Manfredi, President of Affordable-IT, says the first question his company is asked from potential new SMB customers is, “What is the cloud?” Many view cloud computing as something best suited for personal storage needs, such as iCloud, and are not really clear on how it can help them in business. Cloud computing does in fact make a lot of sense for small businesses.

    “Basically, you’re taking the functionality of your internal computer systems and accessing them over the internet,” Manfredi says.

    Making the move to cloud computing brings with it several benefits for small business, Manfredi says. Perhaps the most important of these benefits is the ability to transform SMBs current IT functions into a business tool, rather than just a painful business expense.

    “A business owner and their employees can get back to the business of running their business and leave the IT-based issues to be handled by a quality cloud services provider like AIT,” he says.

    The cloud is also a place where people believe that they are “backed up,” but most don’t realize that simply copying your My Documents to “the cloud” is not going to necessarily save you. There will still be a good amount of time and effort spent to rebuild the operating systems on your PC and reconstruct all the things that make your business unique. The exact cost of your downtime depends on company size: on average, small companies can lose approximately $8,581 per hour, medium companies $215,638 per hour, and large enterprises as much as $686,250 for every hour of downtime.  (Downtime and Data Loss: How Much Can You Afford? Aberdeen Group, 2013)

    “In order to provide our customers with the best disaster recovery and business continuity, we have partnered with industry leader, Datto.  Datto’s technology provides real-time backup and fast recovery of data and systems in order to get the business back up and running,” said Manfredi.

    He also identified seven key benefits of cloud-based computing:

    • Fixed IT Costs: Because it’s subscription-based, businesses know exactly what to budget for IT services.
    • Maintenance: With the systems housed offsite, businesses don’t need to be concerned about maintenance, replacement or repair of the hardware.
    • Compliance: Along the same lines as maintenance, the business never has to worry about required certifications or compliance from government or industry regulations. AIT’s enterprise is HIPAA and SSAE 16 SOC compliant.
    • Remote Work: Cloud services have helped many of today's SMBs redefine the traditional office. Of course, remote work was possible in the days before the cloud went mainstream and AIT has been providing this service for years, but SaaS (Software as a Service) tools have pushed the trend forward and eased some of the complications and slashed the costs that might have arisen in the past. For instance, by delivering business-critical software via the Web rather than having to install it on every user's hard drive, companies can enable staff members to work from their home offices without necessarily having to provide them company-issued hardware. This cuts out a major expense associated with remote work, meaning that businesses can more easily and cost-effectively implement a remote work policy on a larger scale.
    • Backup/disaster recovery:  Some 96% of all business workstations are not backed up, according to the Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corporation. And nearly three in five downtime incidents are caused by human error alone, according to the Independent Oracle User Group. A cloud based business continuity system can help a business owner recover in minutes or hours, not days or weeks, should disaster or just human error strike.
    • Peace of mind: With a cloud-based IT support system in place, SMBs can rest easier knowing their data and IT systems are well monitored and supported. Within a year of data loss, 70% of those small businesses do go out of business. 

    Considering what’s at stake, Manfredi says the Affordable-IT’s staff is hard at work changing the misconceptions small businesses have about cloud computing.

    “This is an educational pursuit,” he says.

    Representatives of Affordable-IT want to answer all of your cloud computing questions. Contact them at 877-893-0650. Also, follow Affordable-IT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Learn more about the ins and outs of cloud computing and how it can benefit your business by reading our Q-and-A with Brad Nellis of Expedient.

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  • Next up: Cleveland Chain Reaction Delivers $1-Million Small Business Investment to Slavic Village
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  • Cleveland Chain Reaction Delivers $1-Million Small Business Investment to Slavic Village

    The Cleveland Chain Reaction partners announce the results of the 2017 season, which followed the nationwide LeBron James/CNBC Cleveland Hustles show.

    The project, a partnership including COSE, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and GlazenUrban was initiated in March 2017. Like Cleveland Hustles and its network brethren, Shark Tank, Cleveland Chain Reaction brought five investors (sharks) together in Slavic Village, the winner of this year's neighborhood competition.

    More than 100 small businesses competed for the chance to be funded by the project’s investors, and as of today, six have received their funding and are on the path toward opening their Slavic Village locations. The businesses (and their investors) are described in more detail below.

    Sides 2 Go BBQ

    Sides 2 Go BBQ has been operating for three years and developed a barbecue retail and commissary concept that was ready for expansion. Two investors, Andrew Jackson and Fred Geis, teamed up to work with Claude Booker, Sides2Go founder. The company has recently finalized and funded their deal and is in the process of adding locations at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and in Slavic Village. Their Slavic Village location will house a retail location and will serve as a depot for their mobile units.

    Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce and Baby Munch

    The Cleveland Foundation focused on two entrepreneurs in this process, Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce and Baby Munch. Baby Munch produces and markets healthy baby food sold in single-serving pouches. Holmes is an applesauce producer and distributor that began business teaching inner city students to produce their product line, which is now sold in groceries throughout Ohio and beyond. Their Slavic Village locations will bring jobs, and retail presence to the Fleet Avenue area.

    Lina Wines and Metro Croissants

    Claudia Young and her investment team focused on two smaller, emerging businesses as well—Lina Wines and Metro Croissants. When they selected both businesses, the original plan was to co-locate the businesses and leverage a single build out for both companies. Their funding is in its final negotiation stages, and they have targeted Fleet Avenue in their site search.

    Midwest Basics

    Investor Justin Miller’s finalists for funding were Midwest Basics, a fashion design and manufacturing firm, and Revival Body Care, producer and distributor of a full-line of organic skin care treatments. In an 11th hour announcement, Miller finalized a deal with Revival, which is already in Slavic Village and now will be able to expand operations and increase jobs.  

    In addition, three other companies have announced plans to open operations in Slavic Village due to the exposure this neighborhood has received through the Chain Reaction project.

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  • Next up: Cleveland Chain Reaction Finalists Make Their Pitch
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  • Cleveland Chain Reaction Finalists Make Their Pitch

    Nineteen hopeful small businesses took one more step forward toward claiming $100,000 in investment from five local investors last week as the Greater Cleveland Partnership hosted Cleveland Chain Reaction’s Business Pitch Round.

    Season 2 of Cleveland Chain Reaction—a neighborhood economic development project brought to you by The Greater Cleveland Partnership, its small business program COSE, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Glazen Urban and JumpStart along with media partner WJW Fox 8—selected Old Brooklyn, a city neighborhood south of Downtown on the West Side, to host the project with the goal of matching local investors with local entrepreneurs. 

    Over the course of two days July 30-31, the businesses presented their case for why their business is worthy of investment and fielded questions from the investors in attendance. Prior to their appearance at the GCP offices, the entrepreneurs sharpened their business case by completing JumpStart’s small business boot camp.

    The 19 companies that stated their case for investment were:

    • Cleveland House Hotels
    • Ellie-May’s Gourmet Cookies
    • Great Lake Outfitters
    • Hatfield’s Goode Grub
    • Her BlueWear Uniforms
    • Immaculate Cleaning Co.
    • iSalon Plus Hair Loss Center
    • JB Grill Soul Food & Catering
    • KinderKits
    • Lake Erie Pet Food Co.
    • Melendez Catering Services, dba La Posada Latin Café & More
    • Old Brooklyn Cheese Company
    • Our Favorite Things Boutique
    • PearlFlower Catering
    • Randy’s Pickles
    • Sidekicks Salsa, LLC
    • Spa Lavender
    • Vino Veritas Cellars
    • Yellowcakeshop Clothing

    About Cleveland Chain Reaction

    The Cleveland Chain Reaction Project’s mission is to create jobs, investment and prosperity in Cleveland’s neighborhoods while providing education and information for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to benefit the community.

    The Cleveland Chain Reaction follows in the footsteps of the CNBC/LeBron James “Cleveland Hustles,” a reality television series aired on CNBC in 2016. While inspired by Cleveland Hustles, The Cleveland Chain Reaction is an independent and unrelated effort with some of the same Clevelanders involved to support the continued opportunity that Cleveland Hustles sparked. This project will bring $650,000 to $1 million of direct investment from private investors to an emerging Cleveland neighborhood by locating five new businesses in that neighborhood that can create jobs and prosperity.

    The investors involved in the project are:

    • Rick Blaszak: a life-long Clevelander who has started several small businesses in the city, and is excited to explore more ways to attract young, creative entrepreneurs to our urban neighborhoods.
    • Bernie Moreno: an active community member who owns several businesses in Northeast Ohio, primarily in the auto dealership space.
    • Eddie Ni: an entrepreneur specializing in commercial real estate development, retail, import/ export, manufacturing and kitchen cabinetry wholesale businesses. He wants to provide more business opportunities for people in the community.
    • Vanessa Whiting: an attorney finessed on affordable housing and community development law. She owns 15 Popeye’s franchises, loves Cleveland, its people and its neighborhoods.
    • Dan Zelman: a local entrepreneur who is excited to help foster growth in a neighborhood that needs it.

    Stay tuned over the course of the next couple of weeks as we provide you with a closer look at the businesses vying for the $100,000 investment and the lessons they’ve learned while going through the process.

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