From Ohio Business Growth Guide 2024

Diverse Businesses Drive Development

Good things come in small packages all across the Buckeye State.

Letha and Wendy Pugh, the owners of gluten-free bakery Bake Me Happy in Columbus, Ohio.  Since 2020, more than 480 small to medium-sized businesses have received funding from the JobsOhio Small Business Grant program.
Photo courtesy of JobsOhio

by Lindsay Lopp

mall businesses are the backbone of a strong economy. From mom-and-pop shops to parts and service providers, they fuel local ecosystems, serving as vendors, partners, employers and customers to larger companies and the overall community.

With the ability to influence both quality of life and industry networks, small businesses play a fundamental role in taking local economies to the next level.  

Peppered with bustling metropolitans such as Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton, and micropolitans such as Findlay, Sidney and Greenville, Ohio knows what it takes to cultivate a growth-friendly environment.

This fervor isn’t limited to larger locations — JobsOhio is dedicated to spreading this success to each and every community in the Buckeye State. Recognizing the benefits small businesses bring to the table, increasing the support and resources available for companies in smaller communities and minority groups continues to be a priority for the JobsOhio team.

In 2020, as part of the state’s Small Business & Community Development Strategy, the organization introduced the JobsOhio Small Business Grant program, giving eligible projects in qualifying communities the opportunity to access up to $50,000 in grant funding.

This program is designed to support small to medium-sized businesses located in qualified communities or are owned by underrepresented populations, such as minorities, women, veterans and people with disabilities. It is estimated that around 2.2 million people, 19% of the state’s population, live in eligible areas.

To qualify for funding, a company must also be affiliated with at least one of the following target industries: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace & Aviation, Automotive, Energy & Chemicals, Financial Services, Food & Agribusiness, Healthcare, Logistics & Distribution, and Technology.

Over 480 companies have received funding, contributing to nearly $200 million in new investment across the state and creating over 2,500 jobs as well as retaining more than 8,000 existing positions. For many of the recipients, this support was a lifeline, opening doors that were otherwise shut.

River Roasters Coffee CompanyRiver Roasters Coffee Company received a $50,000 JobsOhio Small Business Grant in 2021.
Photo courtesy of TourismOhio

Transforming Goals into Growth
When River Roasters Coffee Company co-founders Larry and Candice Hess were expanding their company with a new building in Meigs County, receiving a Small Business Grant removed roadblocks that would have halted their dream of reaching a wider audience.

“Our company was going to have to get a lower-cost coffee roaster after the facility was developed and it would’ve required way more man hours and general cost to operations just to keep up with our own café,” said Larry Hess in a press release. “This would’ve also hindered our hopes of being able to wholesale our products as we would be too busy roasting coffee to keep up with our coffee shop.”

With the $50,000 River Roasters was awarded, Larry and Candice were able to purchase a state-of-the-art commercial coffee roaster as well as additional operational equipment for roasting, storing and wholesaling coffee, fulfilling their goal of supplying restaurants, groceries and other coffee shops with their products.

“Small businesses play a vital role in the economic vitality of rural communities. By supporting these enterprises, the JobsOhio Small Business Grant helps create job opportunities, stimulate local spending, and boost overall economic growth,” said Larry Hess.

Skills for Success
Through JobsOhio’s wealth of resources for entrepreneurs, Ariane Kirkpatrick has been able to help her company reach its truest potential. Her minority- and women-owned construction company, The AKA Team, was awarded a $50,000 Small Business Grant that allowed Kirkpatrick to relocate her booming business to a space more suited to its needs.

Prior to receiving the award, The AKA Team had secured multiple major contracts with local leading institutions such as Sherwin Williams, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth. With these opportunities in hand, the company quickly outgrew the small office it occupied but was unable to access to capital to fund the move on its own.

JobsOhio and its partners at TeamNEO, Northeast Ohio’s designated economic development organization, helped the company secure the funding it needed to renovate and move to a funding a larger location in a historic building downtown.

Following the relocation, The AKA Team was able to hire 20 new employees, bringing its total number of workers to over 80.

In addition to finding financial support through JobsOhio, Kirkpatrick, like many entrepreneurs, was able to access business training as well and is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a free education program providing small business owners with practical skills to take their business to the next level.

In May 2023, JobsOhio and Goldman Sachs partnered to promote this program in Ohio. Over 13,600 businesses throughout the country have graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, including over 1,000 from the Buckeye State. Just six months after completing the program, 66% of alumni report increases in revenues, and 44% report creating new jobs.


Small businesses play a vital role in the economic vitality of rural communities.
— Larry Hess, River Roasters Coffee Company Co-Founder


Cuyahoga Community College, Columbus State Community College, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and Sinclair Community College are among the several community and technical colleges selected across the state to host the courses, which will cover topics such as finances, negotiations and marketing.

“This new partnership between JobsOhio and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses provides the opportunities and resources essential in ensuring continued growth for small businesses across the state,” said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted in a statement. “Small businesses are vital to Ohio’s economy and setting them up for success is a critical part of helping our local communities thrive.”

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