AKRON, Ohio — Starting or growing a business can always be a challenge, especially in the midst of a pandemic.
But Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron continues to be a difference-maker for entrepreneurs.
Bounce detailed the organization's first community and economic impact report, which highlights data from 2018-2020.
According to the report, Bounce helped 234 clients or businesses. Program participants generated more than $10 million in revenue, raised over $23 million in investments, and paid over $50 million in payroll. More than 200 jobs were created during that time.
The hub houses about 50 to 60 businesses in the nine-floor building on Main Street.
Bounce also announced a new class of 12 business owners who will participate in MORTAR Cohort 4, a program that serves entrepreneurs and small businesses with a focus on minorities and women.
It's a 15-week business accelerator that helps existing and emerging entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
"You're operating. You're making money, but you kind of really need to take a deep dive, figure out is your branding in the right way? Are you messaging correctly? What do your financials look like," said Jessica Sublett, the chief operating officer of Bounce.
Monique Clark owns Kurvology, a plus-sized women's clothing business, and participated in the previous MORTAR class. She told News 5 the help she received helped her sales and customer base grow by 70%.
"It narrowed down my target market. I got my pitch together, so when people would ask me, 'What is Kurvology?' I was able to tell them what my pitch was," Clark said.
Ace Epps, the director of inclusive entrepreneurship for Bounce, said the program helps level the playing field and that's especially important for minority business owners.
"When it comes to small businesses, small black businesses are almost like 70% less likely to get funded," Epps said.
Clark also used Kurvology for plus-sized pageants, fashion shows, and self-esteem workshops. She's confident that what learned at the hub will keep bouncing her business forward. She also feels many other entrepreneurs will benefit down the road from Bounce.
"Coming to a program like MORTAR at Bounce, it will help them kind of get an idea of what steps to take next," she said.