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New Akron Meet-up Gives Entrepreneurs Space to Help One Another

Crain's Cleveland Business

When Randi Hodge decided to put allergen-free skin care products she created on the market, she knew she needed advice and support from other new entrepreneurs.  But networking in large groups, she said, was overwhelming. When she saw a post on Facebook announcing a new entrepreneur meet-up taking place in Akron, Hodge's interest was piqued.  "I went with a friend because I was a little nervous. But there was a very welcoming vibe," she said of the first session, which took place at Hazel Tree Interiors on the edge of downtown Akron. "Everyone was in the same boat."  She got so much out of that November session that Hodge attended the following one in December. And she planned to be at the next Akron Entrepreneurs Meet-up from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the Bit Factory in the Bounce Innovation Hub (formerly known as the Akron Global Business Accelerator).
Heather Roszczyk, the innovation and entrepreneurship advocate for the City of Akron, said Hodge's story is similar to many startups who want to meet others facing similar challenges.  "The businesses I'm engaging with these days are very eager to — even if it's not a direct partnership — have a relationship with the other retail businesses out there," Roszczyk said.  Similar events have taken place in Akron with an emphasis on tech businesses, but Roszczyk said she thought it was important to provide something for those who are looking to open lifestyle businesses, such as a clothing boutique or dry cleaners, and providing services from a storefront or online.
The new monthly meet-up is one of the fruits to grow out of the On the Table effort that took place last fall. Organized by the Akron Community Foundation, On the Table featured gatherings of diverse groups for a shared meal and conversation on one day, Oct. 3.  Roszczyk, who at the time was the Akron entrepreneurship fellow with Fund for Our Economic Future, organized an On the Table breakfast event for entrepreneurs who had been featured on the monthly Akro-preneurs podcast funded by the fund and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.  "We had between 15 and 20 people that morning, and it was such a great conversation,"  Roszczyk said. "We had a very diverse group around the table as far as age, gender, race and type of business."  Despite those differences, Roszczyk said, all were facing similar challenges as new businesses.
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