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The Central State University Extension’s (CSUE) Community & Economic Development (CED) team created and hosted its inaugural Ohio Small Business/Agribusiness Information Summit in October 2021. The purpose of the event was to connect the small business and agribusiness communities to extension, government, and quasi-governmental resources that are available (most of which are free of charge) in Ohio. This event also served as a formal introduction of the CED team, and the launch of CED entrepreneurship programming to the Ohio business ecosystem. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we had to make a huge pivot a couple of weeks before the event by converting it to a virtual event. U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, 3rd District of Ohio, Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State, and Dr. Jack Thomas, President (2020-2023) of Central State University, and Ron Todd, Minority Affairs Liaison, State of Ohio Governor’s office participated in the summit.

Group photo of Urban Ag and Small Rural Beginning Farmers who completed the Central State University Extension CED, Ready, Set, Grow! - Agriculture Training (Agribusiness training) program.

Urban Ag and Small Rural Beginning Farmers who completed the CED Ready, Set, Grow! – Agriculture Training (Agribusiness training). Program provided in partnership with the Agraria Fellows Program in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Participants were from Yellow Springs, Springfield, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, Ohio.

Through this event, we connected over 100 businesses to CSU extension and statewide and local business resources. As previously stated, the CED utilized this event as a platform to formally launch CED Signature Business Development Programming; more specifically, the Ready, Set, Grow! and Entre to Entrepreneurship. Ready, Set, Grow! (RSG!) is the CED’s living platform to provide relevant business development training to the entrepreneur ecosystem, no matter what stage in the business spectrum a person may be. In other words, whether a person is a “wantrepreneur” (just thinking about starting a business), an existing businesses, or a seasoned businesses who are ready to succeed or sell their business, all will find this program relevant. One popular training series within the RSG! platform is the Entrepreneur Toolkit. This 4-part curriculum has enabled 80 BIPOC entrepreneurs to clarify and strengthen their business model. The impact of this training is that entrepreneurs have completed a business model canvas and have identified the next steps to launch or grow their business.

The CED team also launched the Entre to Entrepreneurship program initiative. Entre to Entrepreneurship collaborates with county-level offices of reentry, state penal institutions, and reentry coalitions to deliver programming designed to introduce the self-employment option for returning citizens and those with criminal convictions in the State of Ohio. In the first phase of implementation, the CED team partnered with the Montgomery County Office of Reentry by providing technical assistance to their cohort of returning citizens who were interested in starting their own businesses. Within a three-month times pan, all three BIPOC participants competed in a pitch competition. The judges were so impressed that they raised additional funds during their deliberations and provided seed money to all three participants. Post the competition, the participants registered their businesses with the State of Ohio and began working on their business growth plans.