Engagement with the private sector is a core element of Cleveland’s plan to revitalize distressed neighborhoods and kickstart the local economy. To support this work, the Mayor’s Office engaged FUSE executive fellow Aja Hardy, who worked to implement strategies that help local entrepreneurs acquire the knowledge and capital needed to grow.

To do this, Aja mapped the ecosystem of small and medium-sized businesses in Cleveland, and she met with key stakeholders to assess the effectiveness of business support services. She honed in on three major challenges facing early-stage business owners: access to capital, access to innovative business education, and access to customer markets. To address these challenges, Aja developed private-sector partnerships aimed at bolstering funding and development of early-stage businesses with Kiva, Square, and Grow with Google. She also created online tools to support the management of programs, including economic development market research and online strategic marketing curricula. Aja’s work has helped the department leverage its resources more strategically in support of local business owners.