June 15, 2024

It was the first day of operation for Cuyahoga County’s Office of Small Business in early May. Only 11 minutes after opening, an entrepreneur was seeking the office’s services.

The small business owner submitted a request via the office’s landing page on the county website. Vaughn Johnson, the county’s deputy director for economic development, is in charge of the office. He wasn’t surprised that entrepreneurs would reach out on the first day of operation. The county had publicized the office for weeks before it opened,  including in a YouTube video. The publicity emphasized that the new office was designed to address many of the issues entrepreneurs face. 

“I know that in the small business community, there is a need for access to capital,” he said. “We know that they want contracting and procurement opportunities. They may need help with how to grow their business, on becoming bankable, or they may be looking for technical assistance.”

Small businesses are eager to grow. They want to grow, they want to scale and they want a partner that’s going to be there throughout the lifecycle of their business. That is what the Office of Small Business aims to do.

Vaughn Johnson, the county’s deputy director for economic development

Though Johnson knew the need was great for the office’s services, he was a tad astonished when the first request came in.

“It was only 11 minutes after we launched that a small business was reaching out for help,” he said.

Businesses continue to request help.

See: How two businesses got help from Cuyahoga County’s small business program

Cuyahoga County has more than 30,000 small businesses

Cuyahoga has more than 30,000 small businesses, based on research from Baldwin Wallace University, Johnson said. A small business is defined as one with fewer than 500 employees. He said the office, which is located on the seventh floor of the county administrative building at 2079 E. 9th St. in Cleveland, aims to help small businesses at various stages of their development. This ranges from the early stages, when an entrepreneur is formulating the idea for opening a business, to when an established business is looking to expand. 

The benefit of having an Office of Small Business is that it creates a one-stop shop, Johnson said. There, businesses will be able to find out about such things as applying for grants, becoming bankable to qualify for funding, and successfully bidding on contracts.

“There are organizations in the small business ecosystem that provide those things,” he said. “The challenge for small business owners is they don’t always know who that is or how to find them.”

Office of Small Business to launch informational series for entrepreneurs

For years, the county has either directly or indirectly offered such programs and services to small businesses. The county has often referred entrepreneurs to the small business support organizations with which it partners and to which it often provides funding. Read [insert hed for sidebar] to see how some small businesses have benefited from county funding and programs.

The office will also hold sessions focused on topics many entrepreneurs have expressed an interest in learning more about, Johnson said. He intends to start a series of sessions under the theme of “How to do business with…” Since many small businesses are interested in landing contracts with government agencies or other large employers, one series will not only focus on the bidding process but also on connecting entrepreneurs to the agencies and companies awarding contracts.

“Small businesses are eager to grow,” Johnson said. “They want to grow, they want to scale and they want a partner that’s going to be there throughout the lifecycle of their business. That is what the Office of Small Business aims to do.”

For information about the Office of Small Business, visit its landing page of the Cuyahoga County website. The office prefers for people to make appointments.


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