As an undergraduate student at the University of Findlay, Jessica Sublett, Bounce Innovation Hub’s new chief executive officer, majored in both business and equestrian studies. While training and showing horses may seem like an unlikely pathway for a future CEO, her mastery of Excel, detailed process planning and organizational skills showed she was destined to lead more than these majestic creatures.
“Training and showing horses instilled a strong work ethic, while teaching me how to establish and work toward goals, and think through processes,” she said. “I used Excel spreadsheets to plan for each step leading up to the horse shows. It’s the same approach I used while in law school to prepare for the bar exam.”
Sublett has been with Bounce from the beginning, serving as the organization’s first chief operations officer. She succeeds Doug Weintraub who retired as CEO at the end of 2022.
“We are in the third year of our three-year strategic plan, so we are in the process of developing a new strategic plan to set our course for the next three to five years,” she said.
Her vision for the organization is to continue to provide critical components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that are necessary for economic development, not just in Greater Akron, but the entire northeast Ohio region.
“We’ll continue to lean in to what we do to offer small business support, be inclusive and supportive of minority entrepreneurs, and attract and develop high potential tech,” she said.
Sublett also sees additional opportunities where Bounce can play a key role in the region’s economic development, including supporting innovations in health care, polymers and software.
“Ohio is doing a ton in innovation and has tremendous potential to be a nationwide leader,” she said, pointing to Intel’s investment in chip production in Columbus as just one example. “Life sciences is also gap in the ecosystem where we can strengthen partnerships, such as ties to Northeast Ohio Medical University, to support startups in this space.”
The current economic climate, while challenging, is often a catalyst for new business development.
“Recession breeds innovation, as displaced workers may be more likely to take the risk of starting a business. Bounce can be a resource for them,” she said.
With a focus on minority business owners as one of the core components of Bounce’s mission, Sublett said that continuing to chip away at systemic barriers to entrepreneurship for historically marginalized groups will take many hands in the form of existing and new partnerships.
“Overcoming systemic barriers to entrepreneurship also means helping minority business owners build wealth by becoming commercial property owners,” Sublett said.
In laying the foundation for Bounce’s future, in addition to the development of the new strategic plan, Sublett’s immediate goals are to round out the team. This includes the hiring of her replacement in December, completing the expansion of the second floor, and setting the organization’s culture.
“Our culture emphasizes eight core values: accountability, inclusivity, entrepreneurship, creativity, collaboration, innovation, openness and responsiveness. Typically core values live in an organization’s handbook, but we are really leaning into them by giving our team strong examples of each and recognizing those who demonstrate them,” she said. “Setting the tone is important as we grow and bring in new people.”
Along with embracing these core values in daily interactions with colleagues and clients, plans also call for finding creative ways to further embed the core values into the work environment.
Sublett hopes her own example of often wearing many hats and being willing to pitch in when help is needed inspires her staff.
“The best advice I was given in my career is that you should go above and beyond. Your character and approach to work can take you further than great work alone,” she said. “We have an awesome team. It’s rewarding to see them go above and beyond not because they are forced to, but because they believe in our mission.”
About the author:
Jill Wodtley, APR, is a freelance writer and owner of Fine Point Public Relations and Advertising. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she develops and implements marketing communications, public relations and advertising initiatives for a variety of clients, ranging from health care and social service agencies to industrial/manufacturing firms.