Browns and JumpStart support local small businesses through Small Business Impact Program

As the five local small business owners stood on stage at the House of Blues in Cleveland, they each held a personalized check for their business.

They awaited the announcement to hear which of the five had won the live pitch competition to close out The Entrepreneur Showcase as part of JumpStart’s Small Business Impact Program. As owner of UnBar Café Melissa Garrett heard her named announced as the winner, she looked down at the check in her hand worth $20,000.

“The level of confirmation that this provided me because as entrepreneurs you get weary sometimes, but this was a confirmation for me that I am on the right path,” Garrett said. “That means everything because I’m a mission-driven business, but I have to be profit-minded in order to keep the space. So, tonight is adding more fuel to the fire. That’s how I felt. It was amazing. I’m so proud of Cleveland. I’m so proud of JumpStart. I feel like now I can conquer this thing. I can hit those numbers and maybe surpass them. I have a confidence that I didn’t have before.”

The 20th cohort of JumpStart’s Small Business Impact Program graduated on May 7, wrapping up the program with the live pitch competition in front of a panel of judges. Garrett – along with four other entrepreneurs – presented a pitch for the growth of their business.

Originally launched in 2016, the Small Business Impact Program is a 12-week business intensive, helping entrepreneurs build skills, navigate challenges and grow. Over the last eight years with 20 cohorts, the program has graduated nearly 200 small business owners and deployed more than $2.3M in grants and loans.

UnBar Café is a unique coffee shop and café located in Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood. During Garrett’s pitch, she showcased her innovative approach to café culture and her projections of how to grow her business.

Garrett entered the program with previous business experience. Yet, she first heard of the Small Business Impact Program through a customer at UnBar Café. She decided to apply, and as she went through the interview process, Garrett was intrigued by the potential of the program to help her grow her business. Even with a base knowledge, she said she learned important principles of business that she can implement into her own work.

“JumpStart recognizes the gap between academic business knowledge or lack thereof, and they fill that gap because they’ve made it accessible,” Garrett said. “Before I joined this program, reaching a million dollars was kind of far off for me. Now, I see a path within the next two years. And it’s a valid path. It’s not something that so aspirational. They actually showed me how to organize my business.”

As the program has developed, the Browns have played an integral role in the growth of the program as a presenting partner. They first began their partnership in 2022 when they co-hosted four events focused on accelerating the growth of Cleveland-area Black and Hispanic/Latino-entrepreneurs. The goal of the partnership then was to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to engage with free, hands-on workshops, industry-specific advising and networking events, as well as gain access to small business resources.

And while that has stayed at the heart of their goal, the partnership has grown over the last two years.

“I think the Browns’ partnership is critically important from two perspectives,” Chief Services Officer at JumpStart Lorne Novick said. “One, a support from a community leader like the Browns validates the work that we’re doing with these programs, and it validates the entrepreneurs themselves.

“I think it also does serve as a motivator,” Novick continued. “If an event like this culminates with the support of the Browns and players are here and the marks of the team are in alignment with the program they’re participating in, I think it gives them a milestone or an objective to work towards and it motivates them even more than just kind of a normal educational program.”

It’s a partnership the Browns value. They have a long-standing commitment to advancing social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. They champion economic mobility for minority and black-owned businesses, and working with JumpStart allows the organization to support diverse local entrepreneurs and minority-owned business growth.

“With the Cleveland Browns, we truly believe in investing in our community and investing in the people of this beautiful city,” Vice President of Community Relations Jenner Tekancic said during the opening remarks of event. “And that is especially why we value our partnership with JumpStart so much. We are committed to social and economic justice throughout the region. And with JumpStart, it’s all about teamwork and collaboration.”

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