By Jessica Sublett, Bounce chief operating officer
When Bounce was founded in January 2018, there was a major shift in our mission: to serve all entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses in our community. Previously, as the Akron Global Business Accelerator, our programming only served a narrowly defined type of technology company due to funding restraints. This focus on tech left us, frankly, unable to serve the majority of local entrepreneurs, which included many minority and women founders. In conjunction with the Elevate Greater Akron campaign, we were happy to find ways to expand our services to all; i.e., Mission: Accepted.
Fast forward to now and I can report that, thanks to our funding partners (each of which are mentioned below), we have implemented several programs and services that expand beyond our original tech-company focus to reach non-technology and creative businesses as well as more minority and female-owned businesses. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about them. And hopefully, very soon, we can follow up with my next blog, titled Mission: Accomplished.
The Workshop: A Creative Co-op
One particular group of entrepreneurs and businesses we are frequently asked about is creatives. For us, this includes artists, makers, hobbyists, crafters, artisans, designers, photographers, physical-product companies and anyone else who “makes” something.
The Workshop is Bounce’s makerspace, designed to serve diverse businesses and people by providing affordable access to high-end equipment and tools that enable them to make more awesome things. It is membership-based and offers several options for users.
We’ve populated the Workshop with an impressive variety of equipment. We’ve also staffed it with an expert manager who knows the ins and outs of each piece of equipment and can provide a lending hand to those just starting out. Jeff Smith is truly our “Jeff of all trades” and provides training and classes to the community. Along with Jeff, we’re bringing on a “maker in residence” who will assist members with skills-based learning and will provide mentoring on what it’s like to open and run a successful creative business.
The Workshop would not exist without the incredible support of our partner, MAGNET. MAGNET assisted us with populating the Workshop with equipment and also serves local physical-product companies with its Iterator program right here in Bounce (more about that in a bit…).
In addition to MAGNET, we’ve partnered with Crafty Mart to bring educational programming in the form of their new and updated Maker Sessions. Maker Sessions is a 10-week course designed to help creative entrepreneurs and businesses. Maker Sessions will launch in March 2020 with two tracks, one for Beginner makers and one for Master makers. Keep an eye out for applications in early 2020. We would love to see our Workshop members attend the Maker Sessions!
Thank you to Nicholas Browning and Huntington Bank’s Huntington-Akron Foundation, as well as the Akron Community Foundation and Junior Leadership Akron for their support in helping us launch the Workshop.
GROW: Generating Real Opportunity and Wealth
Bounce’s new GROW program is led by entrepreneur-in-residence Ace Epps and serves non-tech entrepreneurs and businesses, with a focus on minorities and women. Read more about Ace and his work. GROW is Ace’s baby, to say the least – he’s been working endlessly to set program structure and curriculum, while meeting with a multitude of entrepreneurs on a daily basis. To quote Hamilton, the Musical, “The man is non-stop.” And we love having him on our side.
GROW is a three-track program that develops and strengthens the entrepreneur spirit and small business community in Akron by providing programs and services for non-tech and minority business owners and entrepreneurs. The program provides start-to finish support to help them validate an idea and grow their business. That said, a business does not have to complete each track. Depending on where an entrepreneur is in their journey will determine where they enter the GROW program.
The first track is our Aspiring Entrepreneur Program, a 10-week cohort program focusing on entrepreneurship education and business idea validation for aspiring business owners. Essentially, if someone has an idea and is thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, this is the place to start.
The second track is an eight-week Accelerator Cohort. It is the next step in helping businesses launch and maintain sustainability that creates jobs and increases dollars, locally.
The third and final track is our Next Level Business Incubator. Ace and his team work directly with entrepreneurs, one on one, who have established businesses and are grossing at least $10,000 annually. The team helps these businesses scale and market to success.
Email Ace at [email protected] for more information on the GROW program.
Thank you to Christine Mayer and the GAR Foundation for your support in providing the funding needed to bring non-tech entrepreneurial expertise to Bounce.
As mentioned above, in addition to providing equipment for the Workshop, MAGNET also partners with Bounce to assist Akron-area physical-product companies (tech and non-tech) through their Iterator program. The Iterator team meets entrepreneurs where they are in their journey and helps turn their physical-product ideas into businesses. They leverage 30 years of manufacturing experience to help entrepreneurs discover, test and build a product that the market truly wants.
Here in Akron, Alec Simon is a member of the Bounce team. Many times, companies who come to us for help, but don’t fit our technology programs are a perfect fit for the Iterator. We work closely with Alec to make sure these companies are getting the services they need and that the process is stream-lined and efficient as possible.
The Iterator is open to anyone and is membership-based. Membership includes:
- Strategy workshop and tactical plan
- Monthly in-person meetings, with frequent touch-bases
- Four hours of expert time per month
- Discounts on qualifying engineering projects
- Exclusive access to third-party services
To be sure, serving all types of entrepreneurs and businesses in our community is not easy, but it is necessary and we’re proud to be a part of this movement in our community as we work together to increase opportunity for all.