Everything around and available to us in the economy started as one person's idea and grew from a tremendous amount of work, partnerships, and sacrifice. Such is true of many Wooster firms, which today employ people or sell products all across the globe. With a strong collection of vibrant and local organizations offering networking and mentoring resources, in addition to financing and loan opportunities such as the Wooster Opportunity Loan Fund, learn about how Wooster is a great place to start your newest venture.
Creating the Future Economy
While the vast majority of new jobs will be created from existing firms as they expand, virtually each business started from a single idea unaccompanied with a workforce, corporate structure, or capital investment. The City of Wooster and its economic development partners work to provide resources for our future business leaders.
The Senior Corp of Retired Executives, SCORE, is a business mentoring and education organization serving Wayne County. The Akron branch, among the largest in Ohio, offers the expertise of +80 volunteers who have either owned a successful small business or held an executive leadership position. In addition to free education courses, some taught at the Wayne County Library and others at the University of Akron, the organization offers free one-on-one mentoring for those working to create a business plan, explore an idea, or market a service or product. Entrepreneurs should visit SCORE via the link below or contact 330.379.3163.
SBDC, the Small Business Development Center, is a State-funded program to assist small businesses as they start-up or seek to expand. As with SCORE, Ohio’s SBDC offers help through a network of expert business mentors, but also provides support to businesses seeking to secure loans with the Small Businesses Administration, as well as guidance on international markets. Three local SBDC offices serve Wooster, including the Ohio SBDC at Ashland University (419.207.6910), the Ohio SBDC at Kent State University at Stark (330.244.3290) and the Ohio SBDC at Summit Medina Business Alliance in Downtown Akron (330.375.2111). The schedule availability of expert consultants may vary office from to office.
For small businesses seeking help with credit, ECDI, the Economic and Community Development Institute, is a 501c3 non-profit economic development organization focused on filling financing gaps for small business projects. ECDI provides training and technical assistance through programs such as its Growing Entrepreneurs Initiative and Business Incubation Program. It also offers lending to small businesses starting up or expanding when conventional bank loans are not a possibility due to insufficient credit history, collateral, or business experience. While ECDI is not able to fund real estate acquisition of construction, it is able to help businesses purchase equipment, inventory, and machinery supplies. To learn more, entrepreneurs should visit ECDI via the link below or contact 330.888.3119 (Akron Office).
JumpStart Entrepreneurial Network is Northeast Ohio’s nonprofit venture development organization that provides assistance to technology-oriented business start-ups, including help with tech-focused mentoring. The organization, which has partnered with Wooster and other communities on entrepreneurial programs, also provides a suite of online tools which can be accessed via the link below. Those seeking assistance may also call 216.363.3400.
The MBAC and Division works with entrepreneurs, and emerging business enterprises to help them achieve, scale, and market success. The overarching goal is to help small, minority-owned, and disadvantaged businesses contribute to job creation and economic growth in Ohio. Contact the Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) to schedule an appointment and meet with a Certified Business Advisor. These services are available with no cost to businesses located throughout Ohio.
- Accounting assistance
- Business management counseling
- Completing federal, state and local certification applications
- Contract procurement assistance
- Estimating/Bidding assistance
- Identifying local resources
- Loan packaging assistance
- Marketing plan development
- Referrals to financial assistance programs
The Wooster Opportunity Loan Fund is a local loan program for technology-oriented start-ups, including inventors, information technology developers, and manufacturers creating proprietary products. These types of firms may apply to WOLF for prime-rate loans with payments deferred for five years. The program is funded through the Wooster Growth Corporation, Wooster Community Hospital, and the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce, with support from JumpStart and in partnership with, nonprofit Cascade Capital. Contact Wooster Growth at 330.263.5250 if you are interested in submitting an application.
Many start-ups search for co-working space as well as business incubators as a place to set up shop. Local Roots Market & Cafe, famous for its sustainable farm-to-table and artesian crafts, has been the starting point for many Wooster start-ups. From hobbyists seeking to share their talents with the community, to full-time professional food businesses scaling up, not-for-profit Local Roots provides a collaborative environment and market space.
The University of Akron Wayne College 3D Lab, supporting the Wayne College Makerspace community, provides a unique tech laboratory for local entrepreneurs. From access to advanced 3D printing equipment, heat presses, and mechanical hardware to specialized software for technical drawing and graphic media, the University of Akron's Wayne College 3D Lab provides resources along with a community to help refine concepts and products. Learn more by visiting the lab directly below.
Wooster and Wayne County's place for inventing. The Schantz factory provides a place to support individuals in bringing new ideas to life. Providing equipment, education, and training, from building CNC machines and #D Printers to exploring new software, the Schantz MakerSpace offers informal and formal educational opportunities and a space to grow new technology.
The Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce offers excellent networking and educational opportunities for entrepreneurs, in addition to access to local economic data and research, as well as area business connections. With its opportunities for collaboration and dedication to helping to foster new and emerging small businesses, the Wooster Area Chamber is a highly recommended resource for any aspiring business owner. Learn more via the link below or contact 330.262.5735.
The College of Wooster Center for Entrepreneurship offers a series of talks and events throughout the year focusing on innovations, such as its licensed TedxWooster program. Speakers have included proven start-up founders and business leaders from around the nation. The College of Wooster also offers local residents the opportunity to audit one business (or any other) course once a semester through its community audit program (pending availability and other approvals).
Located at 220 W. Liberty Street in Downtown Wooster, the Business Center at Wayne County Public Library assists entrepreneurs with research and access to proprietary data resources. One-on-one assistance is available for individuals seeking to start-up or expand their business. Free access to paid-subscription databases, journals, and online market research tools make the Business Center a critical resource for business evaluation and market research.
Jonathan Millea AICP, CEcD
Community and Economic Development Coordinator