On Tuesday, Feb. 4, Bounce announced the creation of Mortar at Bounce, a 15-week program that will help “both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs learn the fundamental elements of business ownership and build a comprehensive business canvas,” according to a news release. The program aims to launch businesses that not only add to the local economy but “establish a path of generational sustainability.”
Two cohorts of the program will run in 2020, according to Bounce chief operating officer Jessica Sublett. Applications now are being accepted and the program, which costs $295, is slated to begin in early April, the release said. An 18-month alumni program will follow. The first cohort will include about 15 members, the Bounce website said.
“I have been helping individuals grow their businesses in Akron for over 10 years. As a business counselor and facilitator of several entrepreneurial classes, I think it’s a monumental time in Akron for small-business owners,” Epps said in a statement. “For these important local organizations to come together to provide support and assistance to our minority population is an amazing opportunity.”
The effort to bring the Mortar program, which had already expanded to Milwaukee, to the Rubber City wasn’t Bounce’s alone, Sublett said.
Bounce, the city of Akron and the Greater Akron Chamber all were part of the process, she said. And the GAR Foundation and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation funded the $80,000 licensing fee for the program, which will run in Akron in 2020 and 2021, with an option for 2022.
Last year, looking to expand its accelerator programs beyond tech companies, Bounce examined the programs at both Mortar and the Build Institute in Detroit, and officials deemed Mortar to be a really good fit.
“Mortar did a really excellent job of serving the midlevel entrepreneur,” Sublett said, adding that Bounce and Mortar officials began moving quickly in fall to outline details of the arrangement and how the program would work in Akron so Mortar at Bounce could get rolling on two cohorts this year.
“From the beginning, I have envisioned and positioned Bounce to be a dynamic hub of activity serving entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds,” Akron mayor Dan Horrigan said in a statement. “This partnership with Mortar will continue to grow Akron’s support for nontech and neighborhood businesses, and will engage and elevate some of our community’s most dynamic and promising entrepreneurs.”
Epps will head up the endeavor, but Bounce also added a full-time staff member as program coordinator, Sublett said. When it gets rolling, the program also will use paid local facilitators to teach classes, and Bounce is reaching out to some of its partner organizations to recruit candidates, she added.
Focusing on inclusion within the economy came to the forefront of local conversations after the city of Akron, Summit County and the Greater Akron Chamber, along with local partners like the GAR Foundation, released the Elevate Greater Akron strategy. The initiative looks to grow the local economy and foster opportunities by promoting inclusion, workforce development and business growth, among other things.
“This program gives overdue attention to our community’s minority-owned startups and small businesses,” said Christine Mayer, president of GAR Foundation, in a statement. “Mortar at Bounce will help strengthen the efforts of entrepreneurs who are more reflective of Akron’s population.”
Organizers said bringing Mortar to the Rubber City was a collaborative effort among many players.