This week, we met Douglas Craven of Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI). He works as the Director of Development and Marketing and has been with the company for a total of 10 years.
ECDI is a SBA lender whose mission is to help small businesses get off the ground and remain sustainable. They do this through their three main tactics; Investing, Educating, and Innovating.
This organization has grown a lot since first starting in Columbus, back in 2004. Eventually, ECDI expanded to Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Akron. They are funded through the State of Ohio and several other organizations that have contributed. ECDI strongly believes in assisting small businesses and startups in becoming self-sufficient. This organization has done tremendous work in Ohio by boosting the economy. ECDI has given out a total of $50 million in the form of loans to clients. In time, those loans supported businesses that created more than 8000 jobs.
ECDI specializes in microlending: small loans given at a low interest rate. Clients can take out a microloan in the price range of $500- $350,000. On the other hand, if a client approaches ECDI but they are not ready for a loan, then the client can utilize company classes.
ECDI’s classes train and provide technical assistance to clients, (Source). For instance, a topic discussed might be, “How to market through social media”. In addition to that, clients will be fully prepared for life as an entrepreneur after attending the training and workshops.
One of ECDI’s goals is to relay as much knowledge as they can to the people they serve. Some clients are quite ambitious, but might not know what they are getting into and attending these classes will bridge that gap.
Small Business Mentoring
Clients can meet with an adviser who will give specific advice according to the GrowthWheel® tool. This will help them understand what areas of their business are working and what areas need to be strengthened. The Business Innovation Center (BIC) is a support center for entrepreneurs. It provides small business owners with vital skills and knowledge to succeed on their own. The BIC is made up of the Women’s Business Center of Ohio and the Food Fort.
Women’s Business Center
The Women’s Business Center of Ohio (WBC) has the purpose of guiding clients as they start or expand their businesses. ECDI has three WBCs throughout the state. Each location offers networking opportunities, training workshops, business coaching, and more for an annual membership fee.
Starting in 2012, the Food Fort was established to give new chefs a low-cost kitchen to start in. This is a much cheaper option for entrepreneurs entering the food industry. It also has helped an at-home business transform to have a brick-and-mortar location. The Food Fort is commercially licensed and offers a full-service kitchen, walk-in fridge and freezers, prep tables, and 24/7 access.