City of Akron, Akron Urban League, Bounce Innovation Hub, and Western Reserve Community Fund Partner to Support Small Businesses

Akron providing $750,000 to partner organizations

Akron, Ohio, May 14, 2024  — Yesterday, Akron City Council approved legislation to further support Akron’s small business community. The City of Akron is providing support for small business owners with a focus on Black owned businesses through the efforts of three community partners - Akron Urban League (AUL), Western Reserve Community Fund (WRCF) and Bounce Innovation Hub. In total, the city is providing $750,000 towards this effort.

The partners will work collaboratively with each other, the City, and small business entrepreneurs to stabilize, strengthen and grow their businesses through technical assistance, business and financial counseling, and access to affordable professional services. Known for their work in this space, financial support from the city will allow them to increase their capacity to serve more business owners in-house as well as outsource specific services that an entrepreneur may need to help them with business planning, improve efficiencies, and navigate growth.

“Akron’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are the foundation of our city,” said Mayor Malik. “We’ve all heard of the struggles small business owners have faced over the last several years including a pandemic and shut down that folks are still bouncing back from. By supporting the organizations who are already doing the outstanding work of helping our small businesses and especially focusing on minority owned businesses, we can help ease the burden on Akron’s existing entrepreneurs and those looking to start up a new business. We want to make it as easy as possible for folks to start and maintain a business here in our city and this partnership between the city, Akron Urban League, Bounce Innovation Hub, and Western Reserve Community Fund will bring us one step closer to that goal.”

Through this collaborative initiative, the Akron Urban League will expand its business counseling and financial coaching services, helping a larger number of entrepreneurs in strategic planning, financial management, tax preparedness, and overall business development. Also, the AUL will utilize funds from the grant to provide guidance and support to small businesses throughout the certification process, offering resources and expertise to facilitate successful submissions. AUL intends to aim support at smaller businesses with between 1-50 employees.

Bounce will use funds from the grant to build capacity across the ecosystem by providing small businesses served by partner organizations with access to free or significantly discounted professional services. This will allow Bounce to leverage its expertise in identifying high-quality service providers skilled in serving small businesses and provide administrative management to cover similar expenses for clients of the Akron Urban League, City of Akron, and Western Reserve Community Fund.

Finally, this capacity support will allow WRCF to increase the number of businesses served and broaden opportunities to support entrepreneurship alongside financial stability by improving business and financial readiness and accessing capital through existing and new funding programs.


About Akron Urban League
Since 2003, the Akron Urban League's (AUL) Entrepreneur Empowerment Center has been at the forefront, playing a pivotal role in supporting and empowering Greater Akron’s African American business owners. Services offered by the center encompass a wide array of crucial resources, including incorporation assistance, certification guidance, business counseling, financial coaching, tailored workshops, and technical training. Through strategic partnerships, business owners are seamlessly connected to accounting, legal, human resource, and marketing professionals, ensuring they receive individualized support to establish a strong foundation for their businesses.

In 2023, through its signature MBAC (Minority Business Assistance Center and MCCAP (Minority Contractors Capital Access Program) programs, the impact of the Akron Urban League's Entrepreneur Empowerment Center was profound. These programs served 781 small minority, women, and veteran business owners within our community, delivering a total of 1,459 counseling sessions. Additionally, the AUL assisted 91 business owners in obtaining their MBE, WBE, or EDGE certification, further solidifying their opportunity to qualify for contracts and capital that require these distinctions. Through meticulously curated workshops and training, 949 existing or aspiring business owners sharpened invaluable skills to help their businesses grow, leading to the creation of 263 new jobs for Akron residents. Furthermore, the $5.78M in contract attainment assistance provided by the AUL propelled economic growth and opportunity, underscoring the significant influence of its programs on the local business landscape.

About Western Reserve Community Fund (WRCF)
While only in existence for five years, WRCF has an exceptional record serving underserved neighborhoods, intentionally focused on supporting minority and women-owned businesses as well as nonprofit organizations. Starting with only $900K in 2019, WRCF has increased in capital and organizational capacity shown by cultivating a portfolio of nearly 200 loans and grants totaling over $9.5M – 76% of which were to minority-owned businesses. In 2023, WRCF served over 200 small business owners, 80% of whom were Black business owners, providing various financial products with interest rates below 4% as well as technical assistance regarding financial management.

About Bounce Innovation Hub
Bounce Innovation Hub was founded in January 2018 and serves northeast Ohio entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. Located in downtown Akron, Bounce stands on the foundation of Akron’s first wave of innovation and industry in a former B.F. Goodrich tire plant. Bounce operates a 300,000 square foot facility that includes private offices and lab space, co-working, event and conference room space. With more than 60 organizations in the building, Bounce accounts for more than 300 people working and creating in a vibrant environment. Between 2018-2023, Bounce has supported its clients in creating 682 new jobs, raising over $74M in third party investments, generating over $279M in revenues and earning 144 non-provisional patents.

City of Akron: Stephanie Marsh, Director of Communications or 330-256-1191

Western Reserve Community Fund: Rachel Bridenstine, Executive Director or 330-762-4776

Bounce Innovation Hub: Rod Flauhaus, Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications or (216) 272-7776

Akron Urban League: Ronald Vojacek, VP of Fund Development & Marketing

T: 234-542-4152