There are many doors to Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

If one event ever highlighted the fact that there is an ever-increasing groundswell of entrepreneurial spirit in our region it’s Startup Scaleup 2015.

JumpStart and its network partners teamed up with the Gordon Square Arts District to stage the new event. The goal of Startup Scaleup was to put our collaborative entrepreneurial services model on display by mustering as many advisers as possible, then inviting entrepreneurs and small business owners to engage with the entrepreneurial ecosystem we have all worked so hard to grow.

Sidewalk to Stage

Of the day’s many events, the Sidewalk to Stage Pitch Contest (for which I served as a judge), had another very specific goal — to reach out to entrepreneurs not currently connected to our ecosystem and offer them a chance to literally take their big idea from the sidewalk to the main stage of the Capitol Theatre in Gordon Square.

It was a noble and somewhat novel idea. That said, the contestants were not recruited or screened in advance so we had no idea who would show up, and there were no guarantees that any of their ideas would be compelling.

Fortunately, our trust in the many entrepreneurs who call Northeast Ohio home was more than warranted. In less than an hour, we received more than 80 applications for the pitch competition — a broad spectrum of ideas ranging from tech startups to established businesses looking to scale to new initiatives focused on core city social impact.

Six finalists were selected and three winners were awarded $5,000 each, but there was an even bigger winner — Northeast Ohio.

These entrepreneurs showed a ton of conviction and courage by standing in front of a packed theater for the purpose of having their idea critiqued. This reinforces a fundamental point I try to remember every day — what we do to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northeast Ohio would not be possible without the strong drive, healthy churn and contagious energy of entrepreneurs and small business owners who are fighting to turn their big ideas into reality.

An inner spirit

Together, entrepreneurial support organizations, accelerators, incubators, resource providers, investors and advisers represent an infrastructure to help entrepreneurs succeed; but we cannot create the entrepreneurial spirit that drives them — that comes from within.

We all know this fundamentally, but the Sidewalk to Stage competition served as a refreshing reminder for everyone in attendance.

So if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, or know someone who is, keep in mind that there are many doors to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northeast Ohio. If JumpStart or any one of our collaborators is not the best fit for a particular entrepreneur, we will do our best to refer entrepreneurs to other resources better suited to their needs. The goal, as always, is to channel the passion of the entrepreneur and provide the best advice and resources possible to help them realize success.

Jerry Frantz manages the team that provides JumpStart’s portfolio companies with guidance and resources to help them grow rapidly. [email protected] or www.jumpstartinc.org