2022 Year in Review – GROW

Are you looking to start, build or grow a small business in the greater Akron area? GROW (Generating Real Opportunity and Wealth) might be for you. Our programs are open to non-technology small businesses and entrepreneurs with a focus on minorities and women.

This past year, we served more than 120 clients through our three programs. We continue to find ways to best serve participants and connect them to the resources they need to thrive.

Aspiring Entrepreneur Program

Our Aspiring Entrepreneur program is the place to start if you’re considering entrepreneurship. This 10-week cohort focuses on basic business skills and the entrepreneurial mindset. AE continues to be popular in our GROW three-track program. In 2022, we served more than 46 participants with over 40 graduates

A huge accomplishment for our Bounce team was the creation and launch of our AE curriculum. Emmanuel Hilton, vice president of strategic initiatives, said the primary goal of the curriculum is to expand the reach of Bounce programming and contribute to the impact being made by partners.

We are currently piloting this expansion concept in the North Hill CDC and hope to work with other organizations to reach additional areas of greater Akron.

“Through collaborative initiatives such as this, each party can generate more impact than otherwise would be possible individually,” Emmanuel said. “We look forward to assisting our partners in addressing the needs of our community.”

Asha Zayn, who oversees Bounce intake and is also the program manager of the Next Level Business Incubator, said collaborations with other organizations are invaluable to programs like AE.

“For example, our fall 2022 cohort benefited from our partnership with the Akron Urban League. Participants were able to receive a stipend to file their businesses with the state of Ohio once they completed the AE cohort,” they said.  

We are excited to see where we take AE in 2023 and encourage past participants to attend our GROW events and apply to our upcoming MORTAR at Bounce cohorts. Learn more about AE.

MORTAR at Bounce

MORTAR at Bounce, our 15-week small business accelerator, continued to help entrepreneurs gain confidence in business ownership while building a solid support system. Our program served 42 clients, while 26 graduated across our three cohorts.

Selina Garcia, MORTAR at Bounce program manager, is most proud of the community she is building among small business owners and watching several clients take the next steps to join our Next Level Business Incubator program.

“Last year, we focused on the clients building a rapport with our MORTAR at Bounce facilitators. We specifically choose our facilitators because of their ability to connect with others and the strong entrepreneurial mindset they bring to the class,” Selina said.

The focus for 2023 is to hone the commitment that the accelerator program requires so that even more entrepreneurs graduate.

“The biggest program benefits include the connections the clients create and the solidified business foundation they build with the intention of scalability,” they added.

Each cohort celebrates graduation at our Life’s a Pitch event, creating an excellent opportunity for clients to showcase their businesses to the community. Clients participate in a live pitch competition to win a $3,000 business grant.

All three of our Life’s a Pitch! night winners in 2022 were Black women entrepreneurs! Here is a brief recap of the winners:

Lori Parnell, Black Culture Candles

Has a scent ever recreated a memory for you? It’s a scientific fact that smell can activate the part of our brains that triggers memory and intense emotions. Black Culture Candles celebrates Black joy through scent and owner Lori Parnell aims to take you on a journey through the moments that connect us with her luxury candles.  

Ebony Allen, Lavishly Defyned Beauty Supply

Did you know that although Black women are the primary consumers, most beauty supply stores in the United States are not Black-owned? Ebony Allen, owner of Lavishly Defyned Beauty Supply in the Merriman Valley neighborhood, wants to change this with her store. Consumers can purchase essential beauty needs like wigs, natural products and much more.

Jamila Edwards, Life’s Flower Coffeehouse & Marketplace

There is nothing like a strong cup of coffee to start your morning. Jamila Edwards, co-owner of Life’s Flower Coffeehouse and Marketplace, wants to satisfy the convenience of “on the go” while maintaining a positive environmental footprint. She plans to launch this spring to bring consumers specialty teas and coffees and farm-to-table breakfast and lunch.

Here is a full 2022 list of our cohort graduates:

Cohort 6 graduates

  • Cat Alaimo & Bridgette Zmorowski — A 2 Z Living Well Solutions Ltd.
  • Shanisha Collins — The Maid Experience
  • Terressa Dixon — Sunshine Senior Staffing Agency
  • Spencer Doepel — Eco Flys
  • Choyce Guice — A Choyce Touch
  • Toni McDowell — Body and Beaute 23
  • Lori Henry Parnell — Black Culture Candles
  • Carlton Ramsey — Database Craftsmen LLC
  • Nardos Street — Bereka Coffee & Kitchen
  • Jess Taylor & Natalie Ringeis — Love the Green Life

Cohort 7 graduates

  • Ebony Allen — Lavishly Defyned Beauty Supply, LLC
  • Allison L. Henry — The Welcome Table Akron
  • Rochelle McFadden — Your Guardian Angels
  • Devany Mcleod — Sincerely D Collection
  • Richard Orr — Richard Orr Catering
  • Cameron Sheppard — Tanglewood Clothing
  • Jessica Travis — Inspiring Canvas
  • Koliah Tucker — Kt Kreations
  • Racine Williams — Designed Brows

Cohort 8 graduates

  • Jamila Edwards — Life’s Flower Coffeehouse & Marketplace
  • Kaeleann Mccoy — Kaykayfit
  • Jessica Pitts — It’s Jess Hair Education
  • Aujile Riley — Eat Clean-ish
  • Jolese Rogers — Antoinette’s Inn
  • Sylvia Fields — P.I.E.

We also need to mention our 2022 Entrepreneur Light Award winners! This award is for cohort members who exemplify camaraderie, teamwork and support for their fellow entrepreneurs. Congrats to Shanisha Collins (cohort 6), Jessica Travis (cohort 7), Jolese Rogers (cohort 8).

We are looking forward to supporting more entrepreneurs in 2023!  

Next Level Business Incubator

Last year, our Next Level Business Incubator made significant changes to better serve Black entrepreneurs in the community. Next Level is for established, Black-owned small businesses that are ready for growth. In 2022, we served 20 clients and added three entrepreneurs in residence (EIRs) to mentor and advise participants.

EIRs are central to the program and have made a tremendous impact on participants. Our current EIRs for 2022 and 2023 include:

  • Adrian Chestnut
  • Constance Peek-Longmire, Ph.D.
  • Da’Shika Street

Participants also benefited from resources that will help scale their businesses. These benefits include accounting services, networking opportunities, action plan development and more.

“We had the opportunity to tap into funds that created a more comprehensive program for the benefit of our Black clients,” Asha said.  “When Black entrepreneurs can use the resources available to them, it will positively impact their businesses and the community.”  

This year, Asha hopes to expand the program by adding more EIRs, allowing future applicants to be accepted and onboarded sooner into the Next Level program. Applications are continually reviewed.

Saying Goodbye

Last for 2022, we said goodbye to GROW founder Ace Epps. Ace joined Bounce in July 2019 as director of inclusive entrepreneurship. Ace developed and ran the first three and a half years of the AE program, oversaw the initial MORTAR at Bounce cohorts and ran the first iteration of the Next Level program. But most importantly, Ace was responsible for outreach and building awareness of Bounce’s programs and services for Akron’s minority entrepreneurs, with a focus on the Black community. We are grateful for Ace’s contributions and will always consider him a member of the Bounce family!

Celebrate the wins in 2023!

As we assist more entrepreneurs in the region, we want to celebrate the wins of our current and past clients. Our news section and social media are the best ways to learn about our small business owners and how they’ve benefited from GROW. Learn more about GROW.