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City of Akron Announces First Round Winners of Rubber City Match


17 local businesses will participate in new program designed to improve neighborhood business districts and spur economic growth

City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt
Published: 06-23-2020

Akron, OH, June 23, 2020 — This week, Mayor Dan Horrigan announced the winners of the first two award levels of Rubber City Match, a new program that pairs emerging and existing businesses with the right resources to propel them forward to the next stage of growth.  Rubber City Match includes four possible award levels, which include financial aid, design assistance, technical support, or curated matching with vacant retail properties in one of Akron’s Great Streets neighborhood business districts.  The program has been designed to boost Akron’s neighborhood retail zones and remove barriers for new and expanding businesses to thrive locally.

Today, participants are being announced for the 2020 Rubber City Match Business Plan Award and Space Award. 

Through the Business Plan Award, accepted business owners will receive free tuition to attend MORTAR at Bounce, a 15-week accelerator that helps both existing and aspiring non-tech entrepreneurs learn the nuances of business ownership and build a comprehensive business canvas; the goal being to launch businesses that create jobs and circulate dollars locally. Businesses receiving the Business Plan Award in 2020 include:

  • Purple Butterfly Gallery & Event Center
  • 2 Daughters Tea Company
  • Kenmore Brew Works
  • Cameron Blakey Art
  • Clayton’s Laundry Service

Through the Space Award, accepted business owners will have the opportunity to be matched with top commercial properties in Akron and receive technical assistance from Bounce, the Minority Business Assistance Center, or the Small Business Development Center to help them choose their space.  Enrolled businesses will also be eligible for micro-grants to have attorneys review their lease documents. Businesses receiving this award include:

Dion Millender, the owner of Shaboys, has been catering weddings, graduations, and private events for several years. Last year, as word of his quality cooking spread, he was able to quit his day job and focus full-time on his growing business. Now, he hopes Rubber City Match will help him fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant in Akron. “Akron is home,” Millender said. “I started my business here and I want to grow it here. I’m excited to meet the other participants, learn from new people, and take the next step toward opening my doors in my hometown.”

Mr. Millender will join the rest of the cohort in trying to find a match among the eleven buildings accepted into the program. Each building is located within one of Akron’s Great Street Districts and is actively seeking a tenant. The City will provide participants with retail market analyses and opportunities to connect with neighborhood leaders to ensure their business is located in a place where it can succeed.

“The businesses enrolled in this program are representative of a national trend,” Heather Roszczyk, the City’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Advocate said. “Women of color are starting businesses at rates higher than any other demographic.  And 80% of Rubber City Match participants identified as either a minority-owned business or a woman-owned business, and just over half of business owners identified as women of color.”

Rubber City Match is based on a successful program launched in Detroit in 2015, which has now served over 1,300 businesses and leveraged over $41 million in investment.  As part of the program, winning businesses must agree to locate within the City of Akron for at least two years and demonstrate a benefit to the community. These steps aim to provide a catalyst for a booming local economy with thriving small businesses.

Business owners who find a match among the buildings can progress to the Design award level, beginning in September, and the Cash award level, in November, to compete for grants and loans to fund their project.

For more information on the program, please visit

For further information, contact:
Ellen Lander Nischt
Press Secretary
Phone: 330-375-2325
E-mail: [email protected]

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