Others’ tough lessons

This month we focus on dealmakers, entrepreneurs and investors, some of whom will talk to attendees at this month’s ASPIRE conference, a daylong event that brings together these communities to share stories of overcoming hardship and doubt to create successful companies.

Take, for example, Edward F. Crawford, Chairman and CEO of ParkOhio Holdings Corp., The Crawford Group and a keynote speaker at ASPIRE. As a young man, he made friends with people who made roof coating and asked if they’d buy steel pails from him, though he hadn’t figured out where he’d get the money to start his business. He convinced a couple steel suppliers to front him the raw materials. He then sold his pails and used part of the money to pay back his material suppliers.

Crawford is now a Cleveland business community icon. ParkOhio today has more than 35 manufacturing sites and over 55 supply chain logistics facilities in 16 countries.

Similarly, William E. Conway, director and chairman emeritus at Fairmount Santrol and ASPIRE Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, was working at an iron ore mining company in Australia in the 1960s when he was asked to open a mine. Starting from scratch, he negotiated with Japanese steel mills, local government agencies, banks and labor unions, and hired to fill an entire organization from scratch.

When he came back to the U.S., Conway bought Best Sand and began a prosperous leadership career in Geauga County.

What many men and women with entrepreneurial aspirations often need is someone to believe in them, and back it up with a little seed money. The Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), does just that.

Founder Inna Kinney saw the difficulties refugees faced in finding living wage jobs in the U.S. So, in 1998, she began offering financial literacy, business training courses and mechanisms for small business capitalization. Her one-woman endeavor now touches all 88 Ohio counties and disbursed $7,576,070 in 2016.

Many of the stories you’ll read in this issue have a similar refrain. This month, we share them in the hopes that they inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Adam Burroughs is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Akron/Canton.