In early October, the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) launched the Regional Incubator for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (RISE) Small Business Innovation Grant program. The RISE Grant Program is providing $61,985 in funding to support Ottawa County small businesses in pursuit of sustainability and growth with special consideration for those impacted by the recent public health emergency. The program is a collaborative initiative of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation and the Ottawa County Community Foundation and is made possible by a generous grant from Burton D. Morgan Foundation.
The grant program turned out to be a great success with 42 applications received from small businesses throughout Ottawa County. Applicants were asked to provide information on the impact COVID-19 has had on their business, propose “innovation or strategic investment” for sustainability and growth, and provide a plan to ensure intended objectives are met. A RISE Selection Committee was created with 7 representatives from the OCIC, OCCF, and partnering organizations and businesses.
The RISE Selection Committee reviewed each application and met virtually to determine which businesses met the program criteria, which included creativity, feasibility, clarity, and impact on the business and economy. Ultimately, 23 applicants were selected to receive grant funding.
The grant award recipients include the following businesses:
“By purchasing the “pay at the table” app, this will allow customers to scan a barcode on their guest check and pay with their phone,” stated Kim Stoiber Morrison, owner of Frosty Bar. “This will speed up the customer payments, allow for more secure payments, and free up server time for a better customer service experience, which is something we in hospitality need to lure customers back into our businesses.”
“We appreciate the fact that the RISE Small Business Innovation Grant has spurred this funding program to initiate new ideas for investing in our companies and our workforce to try and adapt in this fast-changing environment to stay competitive and thrive,” stated Mike Shadoan, owner of Radiant Remodeling.
“The RISE Small Business Innovation Grant is an opportunity to expand our business model with a strategic investment ahead of schedule in response to the severe impact created by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” stated Dina Rodgers, owner of Lilly & Gert’s. “We initiated phase 1 of our strategic investment in July by acquiring our current Clover, E-Commerce inventory tracking and sales system. Without the RISE grant funding, we didn’t anticipate being able to initiate phase 2 of our planned E-Commerce project for at least another year.”
“Our small businesses really took a hit this year and we believe this grant program will provide those businesses with the necessary improvements needed to grow their business,” commented Jessica Grzechowiak, Program & Office Coordinator for the OCIC. “Since this is a new program for the OCIC, the Ottawa County Community Foundation and the Erie County Economic Development Corporation have been very supportive partners throughout this entire process. We hope to continue this grant program on an annual basis.”
The RISE Program is coming to Ottawa County and the OCIC is currently working on a quarterly interactive development series for 2021. This development series will focus on topics relatable to small businesses and are vital to their success, such as Business Planning, Photography, Financial Planning, Digital Advertising, Website Content, Content Creation and Design and much more. This series will also include a one-time training course – Remaining Relevant in Chaos. This course will be provided at no cost to all applicants who submitted a completed application. Award recipients are expected to attend this quarterly interactive development series.
RISE is a comprehensive resource hub that offers assistance across the entire business development continuum. The objective of RISE is to grow jobs and spearhead economic development by linking business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to regional service providers with expertise in business start-up, development and acceleration. RISE is a program of the Erie County Economic Development Corporation (ECEDC) in partnership with Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and Norwalk Economic Development Corporation (NEDC). For more information about the RISE Small Business Innovation Grant, visit www.ocic.biz/rise-grant-program.