Director of Development Department visits small business owners

LIMA — At a long table where the smell of coffee wafts through, small business owners, members of Rhodes State College’s Small Business Development Center and a team from the Ohio Department of Development discussed how the state can better help small businesses grow and develop at Vibe Coffeehouse & Cafe Thursday afternoon.

Development Department Director Lydia Mihalik listened to small business owners Neli Metzger and Carlton McLellan share their stories, as well as their thoughts on how the state could better support them in their businesses.

Small businesses account for 99.6% of state businesses and 44.6% of jobs, according to a 2021 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration Advocacy Office.

Metzger, who runs a European bakery called Touch of Europe from home, said she received a state grant to open her business, and she is very grateful. However, she said she’s been struggling with rising prices for the ingredients and equipment needed to make her not-too-sweet desserts, and she plans to open a physical store by Valentine’s Day in 2023. .

“But we are committed, determined,” Metzger said. “We will do it.”

Metzger has received state certifications to teach her about contracting, construction and more, all to promote the success of her business which she has run for about five years.

Carlton McLellan, who opened Black Owned Cafe Vibe about a year ago said it is partnering with the Ministry of Development to employ minors, people with developmental disabilities and more for a specified period to gain work experience. He said one of his current employees was hired permanently after completing the program for more than a year.

“I think a lot of people don’t think coffee or a cup of coffee is a big deal — it’s a $450 billion industry,” McLellan said. “There’s a lot of money and economic development that happens through coffee and all that, so that’s what we’re working on.”

McLellan, who like many small business owners has taken out loans for his cafe, said he sees the value in getting involved in the community and teaching others about the field and believes in a program with the state to cancel some loans for this type of community. the pledge would help the economy.

“That’s what most of us do anyway, but it would encourage that even more,” McLellan said.

Kathy Keller, Principal of Rhodes State College Small Business Development Centersaid that while the foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some small businesses to close, he also showed a strong desire for many to open their own business when they have the opportunity through loans governmental.

Mihalik said one of the main goals of his department is to create an environment conducive to small business ownership and success.

“[Small businesses] are literally the backbone of our economy as a state,” Mihalik said. “We have really big companies like Intel that we like to celebrate, and that’s amazing and that’s huge going forward. But most of our employees, most of the jobs that are created and maintained in our state are small businesses.

Mihalik said the department has made progress in making business-focused certifications easier to access, but still has room for improvement. She said that’s why roundtables with small business owners and mentors are important.

“There are great resources out there; Rhodes State SBDC is an amazing opportunity for you, and if there are people out there looking to build their own version of the American dream and maybe pursue something that they’ve been thinking about for a while in terms of their own small business , so it’s a great place to go for those resources,” Mihalik said.

Reach Jessica Orozco at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @JessicaCOrozco.

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