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Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce Coffee Contacts

 On Wednesday, March 22nd, we started the day off by driving to Lake County for a "Coffee Contacts" with the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce which took place at "Callaways Bar & Grille" on Chapel Road in Madison. We had been there just before Thanksgiving, 2016 for its ribbon-cutting and are pleased to report that the establishment has been open for 6 months now (it actually was receiving customers last October) and doing quite well.

 The two owners of "Callaways" Mr. Jim Lebzelter and Mr. Charles Blackwell, as well as its manager, Ms. Rachel Spencer, spoke to our group for a few minutes and we learned that in addition to serving the traditional meals of steaks, pork chops and prime rib (along with some fish added only a couple of weeks ago) it is almost going to explore healthy options.

 While we were there we met Ms. Anita Gabor, a spry and cheerful lady who lives happily at the "Lantern of Madison" and was there to write a piece for the newsletter that the Lantern puts out. We were very surprised to learn that Ms. Gabor is 97 years old because she looks and acts at least 17 years younger.

 We also talked to a fellow chamber member who may refer a friend to us who may have some problems with her citizenship status because, even though both her parents were U.S. citizens, she was born abroad and there were complications with her paperwork.

 In addition, we learned about a possibly fun event taking place near the end of April which is the opening of a dog wash salon. We plan to go even though we do not own a dog at this time because we are busy being out and about.

 Our other event on this day was a gathering for "SBDC Day!" at the "Hispanic Business Center" (HBC) on West 25th Street in Cleveland. SBDC's are Small Business Development Centers and they are located throughout the country. There are about 25 such places in Ohio and one of these is actually located at the HBC.

 According to the presentations and the literature that we acquired, these offices "provide business counseling and assistance to individuals who are either starting or growing their businesses. Each center is staffed with highly-trained, Certified Business Advisors to help small businesses and entrepreneurs develop and grow to increase sales and create jobs in their local communities." The services that they offer include business assessment evaluation, cash flow analysis, financial projections development, one-on-one business counseling, identifying sources of capital, etc.


 On this day, the program begin with presentations from Ms. Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the HBC and Mr. Jason Estremera, its Director of Business Services about their efforts and successes in terms of starting businesses in the area that are in tune with its Hispanic culture.

 Ms. Contreras said that "we see 300 clients a year and have earned a reputation for excellence in the areas of leveraging the resources of the SBDC program which has helped our center to partner on such unique projects as the ODOT Capacity Building Program, the Self-Employment Training Initiative, the Jobs Plus Program in the Miracle Village community and in our very own neighborhood with La Villa Hispana."

Mr. Estremera added to this by stating that "we are the only free-standing SBDC here in Northeast Ohio and the only fully Spanish bilingual SBDC. Not only does our cultural competency meet a growing demand but our expert staff has the dedication, enthusiasm, and perseverance to do whatever it takes to arm business owners with the tools necessary to grow, connect entrepreneurs to business opportunities and provide technical assistance and training that starts sustainable models of business."


 We also heard from three government officials who were:

 ***Mr. Jim Laipply, Ohio Small Business Development Centers Director from the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship who spoke about Ohio's business economy, how tourism effects it, and Ohio exports.

 ***Mr. Craig Chambers, Deputy Chief of the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, who spoke about efforts to help small businesses grow.

 ***Mr. Gil Goldberg, Cleveland District Office Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration who discussed efforts to support small businesses at the federal level. We had seen Mr. Goldberg as well as Ms. Patsy Welsh, SBA Public Affairs Specialist, just two days ago at the "Business Opportunities for New Americans" forum just two days ago at the "Ariel International Center."

 Lastly, Mr. Adam Weslek of "Fierce Fitness Cleveland" and Ms. Shana Denoveck of "Pawlak's Florist" shared with us their success stories and how how much they were helped by the Ms. Contreras, Mr. Estremera and the HBC.


Before we left, we asked Mr. Estremera and Ms. Contreras to talk about what their experiences have taught them about working with immigrant entrepreneurs. They said special efforts must be made to earn their trust (after all they are in a new place/new culture) and to introduce them to the right people who can help them and it certainly makes them more comfortable if they can be addressed in their native language. Yet they have a unique passion as well as a strong commitment to succeed and thus they are making an excellent contribution to our neighborhoods and our economies and have the potential to do even more if we are willing to work with them.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC