Minority-owned businesses in Stark County to take part in business support and development program

Program is through London Stock Exchange Group
Dr. Audra Martin
Posted at 3:55 PM, Jun 12, 2020

CANTON, Ohio — A seed planted before the pandemic could now help with Ohio's economic recovery.

Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted announced Thursday that more than a dozen Stark County minority-owned businesses will be taking part in ELITE USA, a business support and development program through the London Stock Exchange Group.

One of those businesses is House of G.R.A.C.E. Residential Services, LLC, based in Canton. The acronym stands for Giving Resources, Advocacy, Care and Equality, and the organization serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with diagnosed mental health conditions.

A few years ago, Dr. Audra Martin, a licensed social worker, and Haydee Thomas, a registered nurse, were both working on one client's case and realized how much more they could do for clients by working together, bringing their shared expertise and experience to the table.

"We have individuals that we serve in their home," Martin said. "We make sure that they can live independently, that they know their rights, added value to their community and that they’re able to get out with community integration."

House of G.R.A.C.E. Residential Services officially began in the spring of 2017.

"We can come back and look at everything as a whole, so looking at it in a holistic approach," said Thomas, the organization's COO. "Making sure that their social, emotional, physical health, well-being, all of that is being met."

"For us, it really is a ministry, we love what we do," said Martin, the CEO of House of G.R.A.C.E. "It’s 365, 7 days a week, 24/7, holidays."

Martin said she and Thomas love the fact that they are a minority-owned and female-led business, "and we have a seat at the table, but we also have decision-making capability."

The business is involved in the Stark County Minority Business Association, and that's how the women found out about the ELITE program. They applied, giving information about their business and telling their story, hoping to gain access to resources and coaching to grow their business and their mission.

"This is a world-class program with expert consultation on strategy, marketing, risk management and talent development," Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said at a press briefing on Thursday. "And so it's a positive sign that one of the things that we had worked on pre-COVID, that we had secured for Ohio, is now beginning to make these investments and start helping to grow businesses in our state."

While the women said they weren't affected much by COVID-19, as an essential business, it did change their protocols in dealing with clients and also changed the services they provide, since their clients were staying at home instead of going out into the community or going to a job.

Martin said that in addition to the services they currently offer in residential care, House of G.R.A.C.E. hopes to grow into other services, such as adult day services and transportation.

The women believe that growing their business to its fullest potential will help them better serve their clients and allow them to reach their full potential as well.

"A lot of our individuals have great ideas and they aspire to do many things, and people don’t always, or haven’t always, tapped into some of their strengths," Thomas said. "And that is a difference that we’re able to make, is that we can recognize, 'Oh, this is a strength,' and we have to kind of pull and tug on that, and we see that it works, and they’re able to reach their full potential."

The governor's office said ELITE is expanding its presence in Ohio, opening a headquarters in Cleveland in the coming year.

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