JumpStart promotes networking

William Schertz

Ray Leach gives a speech for JumpStart, a company promoting Ohio businesses. The JumpStart meeting was held at Ray’s Place in downtown Kent. DAVID RANUCCI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

There are a lot of things common place at bars. Heavy drinking, loud music and abused toilet stalls are some of them.

Most people would not visualize a bar as the type of place for companies to promote entrepreneurship and area business networking – but JumpStart does just that.

Business cards were flying back and forth on the second floor of Ray’s Place in downtown Kent last night at JumpStart’s Pub Night, as area businessmen and women exchanged strategies and ideas over food and drinks.

“The pub nights have been a very good venue for us to get together with entrepreneurs to establish networks,” said Erin Reed, JumpStart’s marketing manager.

Reed said JumpStart is a non-profit organization that functions as a combination of a venture capital firm and an economic development company. It covers 16 counties in Northeast Ohio, including Portage.

The organization typically hosts one pub night each month in various places throughout Northeast Ohio, she said.

Ron McDaniel of Kent was one local business owner who attended the event.

“I go to a lot of events like these, and how can I pass up one that’s two blocks away?” said McDaniel, CEO of Outstanda, an Internet marketing company based on Summit Street.

Some Kent State students also attended the event.

“Any time you can get a chance to do networking, it’s always a good thing,” said Jeremy Boal, senior business management major. Boal said eventually he wants to run his own business buying, building and selling houses.

Since its inception in 2004, JumpStart has invested in 17 startup companies, and will announce an 18th company today, said President Ray Leach, who spoke at the event.

“What we’re ultimately about is job creation,” Leach said. “Our goal is to eventually put JumpStart out of business.”

Leach said Northeast Ohio is a problematic area for business growth at the moment, and JumpStart is aiming to change that by helping up-and-coming companies through financial backing as well as smaller issues like developing business plans.

“Northeast Ohio is one of the largest metropolitan regions in the country, and yet it has the lowest number of startups,” he said.

Though JumpStart has invested in several companies in the region, Leach said the company has not had many ideas come out of Portage County.

He encouraged Kent State students to call the company with any ideas they might have regarding potential businesses.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 60 or 22,” Leach said.

Contact public affairs reporter William Schertz at [email protected].