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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ross



Funding awarded to entrepreneurs who are staying creative during the COVID-19 Crisis – Impact of RISE program continues to expand

In early April RISE, the Regional Incubator for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, announced a local grant program to support small businesses as they innovate and pivot in order to survive and thrive during and after the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic – The “Small Business Innovation Grant”.

The program was a sweeping success, taking in grant applicants from across Erie County in a seven-day application period. Applicants were asked to demonstrate the impact of COVID-19 on their business, propose a strategic innovation or pivot, and provide tangible plans to accomplish and measure the success of the pivot. An external review committee made up of 8 representatives of RISE-supporting and partnering organizations reviewed the grant applications and selected thirteen recipients within the program’s budget.

Award winners included:

  • Bake Erie - To institute a weekly, baked goods delivery box model

  • CrossFit Sandusky - To implement proprietary entrance control software to become a 24/7 facility and increase offerings on mobile app

  • Crystal Rock Campground - To incorporate CampersApp mobile app service into operations, allowing all campground business interactions to be done at a social distance

  • Doughin’ Crazy - To convert business to online-pre-order service

  • FancyMe Boutique - To integrate new tools and platforms for online shoppers

  • Functional Fitness for Life - To live stream classes and services

  • Integrated Therapeutic Healing - To implement use of telehealth platform

  • Kharma II - To build a website and go paperless

  • Mabel & Ethel Quilt Shoppe - To update video equipment to connect with quilting customers via Facebook

  • North Shore Running Store - To host “Running the Front Lines” promotion and virtual racing

  • Open Way Yoga - To maintain and expand online service offering platform

  • West River Paddling Company - To purchase self-assisting kayak launch and expand delivery business

Total Grant Funding Dispersed - $20,050

The Impact of the Program

The RISE program was able to provide $20,050 in funding to Erie County area businesses in an effort to stabilize their position and fortify the economy supported by the Dorn Charitable Impact Fund at the Erie County Community Foundation. Sarah Ross, RISE Program Manager, said,

“We firmly believe the innovative spirit and hard-working attitude represented by the grant recipients will contribute to the rebounding of our local economy, and are thrilled to partner with the Dorn Charitable Impact Fund who sees the same commitment to success from these local small business owners.”

As is customary of RISE services, the program also included an educational component. In addition to the opportunity for funding, all grant applicants received an exclusive invitation to “Remaining Relevant with Every Change”. This three-part professional development series for small business owners was hosted by RISE and took a deep dive into topics critical to their success such as Business Planning, Financial Planning, Crisis Management, Messaging and Communications, Facebook 101, Advanced Facebook and advertising, Visual communication, Instagram, and SEO & Google My Business. Participants received small group consulting with RISE business advisors as well as local and regional experts with a total of eleven guest speakers[AB4] . The valuable support to entrepreneurs would not have been possible without the generous donation of time and expertise from representatives from:

Cedar Point, Civista Bank, Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, Green Door Media Works, Jason Werling, Kings Island, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Marcus Thomas, Quarry Hill Orchards, Tandem Media, Thunder::Tech

The Impact of the Program Compounded

RISE services are truly regional in nature. Partners in the program, Norwalk Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) hosted the Small Business Stabilization Grant under the same principles of the Small Business Innovation Grant and injected an additional $40,000 into the regional economy through small business support.

Later this year, Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) plans to open the program to Ottawa County Small Businesses with a funding pool of over $70,000 for support. [AB5] The collaboration on the grant programs in response to COVID-19 between Erie County Economic Development Corporation (ECEDC), NEDC, and OCIC, is just one example of the organizations’ joint efforts to elevate entrepreneurship, grow jobs, and spearhead economic development in the region. RISE services are available to entrepreneurs and business owners from all three counties monthly. Learn more about these services in this RISE video.

What Grant Recipients had to Say about the Program:

“We are very grateful for the RISE program and their support not only through this grant but for the many meetings with them that have helped us in making better business decisions! We truly feel that they care about the success of small businesses and we can’t thank them enough!”

- Kristin Allison, Co-Owner, Doughin’ Crazy

“The Erie County Economic Development Corp was with me every step of the way when I began this journey as a small business owner and by awarding this grant it proves they continue to support me during one the most difficult economic times we've seen in this country. My business is unique in the fact that I did not qualify for the PPP loan offered by the SBA because being a small start-up business I currently do not have payroll. This grant will absolutely assist me, as an owner, to continue to support our local community, our essential healthcare employees with our upcoming promotion "Running The Front Line" and to help our customers enjoy the upcoming summer running season here in Northern Ohio on the "North Shore".

- Missie Lowrey-Huntley, Owner, North Shore Running Store

"RISE has been a crucial part in my success to open and operate Bake Erie from the start so I am not surprised they released a grant application to help small, emerging businesses during this trying time. With my awarded grant, I can now purchase necessary equipment to bake more at my storefront and also add delivering to our normal routine."

-Liz Turner, Owner, Bake Erie

“Thank you RISE for believing in me and gifting my small business this grant. What a anan amazing opportunity you have given me to help Kharma Salon & Boutique to stay relevant and thrive during this unprecedented time!!”

-Danah Balduff, Owner, Kharma II

"We are very thankful for this grant, as it allows at West River the ability to put safeguards in place that will benefit our guests and community. These funds will facilitate the purchase of a commercial kayak launch that will allow our guest the ability to launch their kayaks unassisted, which looks to meet or exceed the currently established guidelines for COVID-19. Additionally, this will allow us the ability to retain our seasonal jobs and protect the health of our team members. We are truly grateful to be a recipient of this grant, as it allows the opportunity to provide a safe, public recreation that we are passionate about."

-Vito and Hallie Cammarata, Co-Owners, West River Paddling Company

"Thank you, RISE and ECEDC, for providing an opportunity for small businesses, like mine to continue to grow in a time of adversity and great uncertainty! My mission of promoting self-care and maintaining good health and mindfulness, can now be provided remotely. By increasing my accessibility, I will be able to continue to provide needed support to the community and continuity of care to my existing clients. I am truly honored to have been chosen!"

-Patty Abrigo, Owner, Integrated Therapeutic Healing

“I would like to thank R.I.S.E. for offering me the Small Business Innovation Grant . I am looking forward to working with you and your organization and am excited to learn about all of the services it has to offer a new business owner. Functional Fitness For Life, LLC provides personalized exercise programming for clients taking into account their individual abilities, limitations and overall goals. Its my passion to educate, encourage and inspire clients to become the best version of themselves. My training programs focus on increasing strength, joint stability, balance and range of motion. By doing so, we can prevent injuries and help individuals remain active well into their senior years! This grant will help provide equipment, educational services and outreach programming. Thank you RISE for helping small business owners as we strive to provide the best services for our community!”

-Barb Biltz, Owner, Functional Fitness for Life

“We are both sew pleased that RISE is there for the small businesses in Erie County especially during these troubling times. We are elated that we were chosen, the grant we received will definitely help us implement new ways of reaching our customers as we move forward with changes that this pandemic has created.”

-Mabel & Ethel, aka Debbie & Jackie of M&E Quilt Shoppe

“RISE, Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity! This will be such a great benefit to our business. We will be great stewards of this grant as it will help give us the marketing boost we need.”

-Amber & Spencer Patterson, Co-Owners, FancyMe Boutique

“Local support means so much to us. We’ve applied for all sorts of funding (national, state and local) and it's our local community that that has risen to support us in the face of these unprecedented challenges - We couldn’t do it without you and we are so thankful!”

-Shannon Thomas, Owner, Open Way Yoga

“As brand new business owners we are making every effort to best meet the needs of our guests. In response to all the cultural changes that are evolving from this Covid-19 pandemic we have been fortunate to have supporting organizations available to us for discussions and best practices implementation ideas. The industry of camping, as well as us, are very aware of adapting to the needs of our guests. This grant will help us to be able to incorporate the use of CampersApp into our business practices for satisfied visitors. A smoother transition at arrival time with contactless check in will be appreciated by guests that want to be able to get out and about while having the opportunity to not be in close proximity with potential carriers. Additionally guests will be able to purchase from our store for curb side pick up or delivery. I think it is very important to address the needs of our guests. And as a long term benefit for us, this capability will also allow for a smoother Friday night crunch when often many guests arrive at the same time. They will be happier as it will allow them to "get to camping" quicker. The other great opportunity for this App is it gives us an opportunity to introduce folks from out of town the areas attractions, resources and events all on their phone or tablets. We hope to work cooperatively with other small businesses in the area - especially the lesser known gems - to introduce our guests to all that the area has to offer. In some ways I think we have a good perspective for these areas because as new residents to the area ourselves, we have had fun finding some of these great locations.”

-Heidi Lockwood, Owner, Crystal Rock Campground


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