Getting a jump on business — It’s not just what success you achieve; it’s how you achieve it: Cathy Belk

Cathy-Belk-300Cathy Belk, president of JumpStart, is one of the panelists for Smart Women 2016.

If anyone has a front row seat to observe success in the making, it’s probably Cathy Belk, president of the nonprofit organization JumpStart Inc., which has funded startups and helped accelerate numerous businesses the past 11 years.

But there’s a little more to it than that. It’s a good idea to know what type of success you may be seeing; is it the bottom line of company success — or is it more a personal level, the drive to an exciting development, Belk says.

“There is a growing number of successful entrepreneurs who are taking the experience they have and are using it to enable other entrepreneurs to benefit from that experience,” she says. “It’s mentoring, teaching, working one-on-one with other people to share those experiences and enabling others to gain from those stories and learnings.”

That willingness to share lessons and insight isn’t the only thing that is growing. The same group of entrepreneurs is investing from their success to help fellow businesses.

“Some take part of their financial wealth and reinvest it back into other companies and the community,” Belk says. “They are contributing back to the ecosystem we are building here.”

While Belk helps keep an eye on the successes or challenges of the companies JumpStart assists, she must also keep an eye on the success of JumpStart.

“Our success is defined by a couple of things,” she says. “One is we need to achieve our mission. We really work every day with our partners to economically transform the community.”

A for-profit business, for example, also would have to deliver returns for its stakeholders and investors.

“Our way to deliver returns is to enable the kinds of outcomes that our partners and vendors want to see: job creation, economic impact and transforming the Northeast Ohio community to be more entrepreneurial and more economically positioned to create more wealth and increase those working in entrepreneurial companies,” Belk says.

“And of course we all want to have fulfilled teams, people who work here who think the work is meaningful, who feel they can bring their whole selves to the job and contribute everything they can to enable this mission to happen.”

When she thinks of success redefined, Belk says perhaps rather than needing to redefine the term, it should be seen as the start of an evolution.

“I believe what is occurring is that we are building on the definition of success,” she says. “So it’s maybe not ‘redefined’ as much as ‘expanded’ — that all those things are continuing to be important, but there are other things that are also important.

“One of them is, ‘Can we ensure that we are working with the richest diversity of people that we can.’ That applies to both within our organization being very inclusive and how we bring people to our organization to work with people, and how do we have the impact on the entire community, and not just parts of the community.

“That is one way we are thinking more broadly about what success looks like. It’s not just what you are achieving; it’s how you are achieving it and wanting to achieve it in a way that is the most inclusive and most innovative way that you can so our entire region can be the most competitive, healthy and vibrant that it can be.”

How to reach: JumpStart Inc., (216) 363-3400 or