An effort to support women- and minority-owned businesses on the southeast side of Cleveland is part of a new small business relief program in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Ashtabula counties.

The Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, funded by Huntington Bank, will connect 11 nonprofit organizations with local businesses, providing them with skills, training and funding opportunities.

In Cleveland, the nonprofit Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) will focus on working with women and minority-owned businesses on the southeast side of the city, including areas of Mt. Pleasant, Union-Miles and Lee-Harvard, hoping to expand to the Buckeye neighborhood.

“As we know, Southeast Cleveland hasn’t had its fair share of investment for far too long,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said at a press conference Wednesday. “And we won’t be a successful city until these neighborhoods are as competitive as other parts of the West Side and downtown.”

CNP President Tania Menesse says this type of hyper-local effort has worked for the city in the past.

“When there’s intentional focused support on a trade corridor, a person or two who spend time every day going out in that corridor, working with businesses, that really moves the needle,” Menesse said.

Other nonprofits participating in the program in the area include the New Entrepreneurs Opportunity Fund, which will provide mentorship to startups in Ashtabula County, and Lorain Community College, which offers one-on-one coaching to small businesses. Huntington Bank says other nonprofits will provide training in digital technology skills and financial management.

“What we’re trying to do is expand the opportunities for access to capital for a lot of the small businesses that are in some of these neighborhoods,” said Kwame Botchway of Village Capital Corporation, the subsidiary of loan from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “But we also recognize that it’s not just access that’s the problem.”

Bibb noted that the issue is also trust between some minority companies and loan officers.

“What we really want to focus on is making sure we meet these businesses and residents where they are, identifying the reasons why they don’t trust banks or other institutions. , and trying to bridge that gap,” Bibb said. “If we don’t have these conversations, we will continue to miss the long-term target in our city.”

Ideastream Public Media is a media partner of the program.

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