Jumpstart Empowers Entrepreneurs: Helps local businesses and tech startups thrive

In the last decade, starting your own business has not only become desirable, but also much more achievable than it has been since the first half of the twentieth century. Consider a pandemic and what people are calling “the great resignation,” those who chose not to return to work, small businesses, the tech start-up movement, and the work-for-yourself trends are accelerating.

When starting a new business, people often get stuck in the idea phase. They may have a great idea but lack the business skills and/or capital to get it off the ground – the difference between a business dream thriving or dying. That’s where jumpstart come in.

Jumpstart logo
Jumpstart logo

The history

Jumpstart operates primarily in Northwest Ohio and Cleveland and was founded in 2004. “JumpStart combines capital, services and connections to help entrepreneurs grow, researchers commercialize and companies innovate.”

It began with a focus on technology startups because from 1990 to 2002, Northeast Ohio was one of the least entrepreneurial communities in the United States, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

The website states, “In response to a need to create jobs and prosperity in Northeast Ohio, the region’s civic, community and philanthropic leaders came together in 2003 and provided the vision and leadership for a solution: a partnership like no other between public and private companies tasked with creating economic transformation in Northeast Ohio through the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Make the dream come true

In the Toledo area, Jumpstart is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas and receive funding to make that dream a reality. Jera’s Heavenly Sweet Bakery is part of their Cakes for Kids program, which gives children free personalized cakes on their birthdays. In 2019, she won a $10,000 grant at the Northwest Ohio Entrepreneur Showcase, sponsored by Jumpstart, to support small businesses owned by Black and Hispanic women.

Jumpstart’s Vicki McDonald spoke to Toledo City Paper about how their popular Small Business Impact Program works:

From all these potential Impact program companies, how do you choose?

We offer impact programs four times a year and almost always accept applications for the program. The Impact program covers our work with small businesses. In Toledo we are known for this program. For small businesses, it’s our flagship program – a 12-week intensive business program. Each participant in the program is assigned an advisor. The cohort progress through the 12-week group learning where they work together to solve small business barriers and then prepare to pitch their company to a panel of judges and a live audience at a showcase. The winner takes home $10,000 and the other participants receive $2,500.00. This grants capital that does not have to be repaid.

We typically receive 80 applicants per round and select 5-8 companies to join the program. People hear about the program through our Facebook page and advertisements, but mostly through word of mouth. We work closely with other organizations that refer small businesses to us as we are affiliated with other small business support organizations – ECDI, African American Chamber of Commerce and Business Growth Collaborative (BGC). It is Toledo’s network of charities. When a small business goes through one of these organizations, it is well connected to all the other support elements there.

Other options

If you do not currently qualify for the Impact program, we are constantly putting programs together and you may be considered for the next one. You can also join other programs to help you get started. We offer one-on-one consulting for small businesses and a four-week workshop called the Blueprint Program – a ramp-up program for Impact. Jumpstart offers many events and programs to connect the small business community.

Impact graduates typically stay connected with Jumpstart so we continue to help them scale their business. For example, if you were a catering company and wanted to open a brick-and-mortar business, we can support you in making those big business decisions. And we have a business-friendly lending program for companies that have gone through the Impact program.

There are always challenges with small businesses, even after they get off the ground, which is why it’s so important to have a small business community support group to help them thrive.

Jumpstart is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Submit an application on the website at

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