CLEVELAND — Operating a small business can be a grind, that’s why having resources to help get the operation off the ground is critical to success.
The Economic and Community Development Institute is a microlender that provides financial assistance through training programs and loans to small business owners. Since its founding, ECDI has been supported by over $25 million from various funds. ECDI has also helped create over 2,000 businesses and 4,000 jobs
“A lot of businesses, when they go into a retail space, they start in the red,” said Jasmine Dixon, VP of Northern Ohio for ECDI. “You go in and you have to remodel all of the space, make it look the way you need it to look for it to match your brand. And then you have to purchase inventory, all these different things.”
ECDI has kickstarted a boot camp called SetUpShop to provide Cleveland small business owners training, access to capital, and a low-risk opportunity to test their retail concepts and accelerate their businesses.
“The best thing is that I actually get to connect with the other entrepreneurs, pick their brain and learn a lot from them,” said Treshawn Luton, owner of Crazy Blendz Drinks and Smoothies.
Luton’s business is one of seven inside the newly opened Corner Shop Collective in the Larchmere neighborhood. At just 21 years old, he was able to turn an idea into a reality when he noticed something missing in today’s world.
“I feel like the importance of healthy eating is not implemented in everyday lives,” Luton said. “It's about the taste of this smoothie and wanting the customer to actually come back because you're not about to come back to a pop-up shop every day with you can't come to a retail location every day.”
That’s when he decided to create Crazy Blendz. Having a consistent place to set up shop compared to a pop-up location to sell his smoothies has proven beneficial.
“It's good to be in a location because you get to really interact with the customers,” Luton said. “You get to see them every day. You learn about them. They get to learn about you and hear your story.”
Deborah Aarons also operates a business out of the Collective. She and her three children sell handmade soaps made out of everyday products. The venture initially started out as a way to teach her kids financial literacy.
“When you're working your own business, there really is no rest,” Aarons said. “Even when you're asleep and we're dreaming about the next big thing.”
Now their business is taking off with locations in Larchmere and the Great Lakes Mall. SetUpShop helped them realize a new goal: financial independence.
“We just want to grow. Honestly, when we originally started, we didn't see a business in this,” Aarons said. “Being able to have this space to come in, to have made it economically a blessing.”
The Corner Shop Collective is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. and the individual businesses hold their own hours.
SetUpShop lasts for one year. Business owners must maintain regular hours throughout the year. For more information on how to become part of the second cohort, you can click here.
If your small business needs help, click here.