Celebrating 15 years of ECDI

For 15 years, ECDI has been committed to investing in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change. A one-stop-shop for underserved small businesses and entrepreneurs, ECDI has grown from one office in Columbus to locations in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, and Toledo, serving every county in Ohio. ECDI develops tools and resources tailored to serve diverse entrepreneurs, industries, and economic ecosystems across the state.

“As ECDI has grown, we’ve never lost sight of what and who we are fighting for—economic opportunity for everyone: low income people, women, people of color, immigrants, everyone,” said Inna Kinney, ECDI Founder & CEO. “We have stayed true to our mission by investing in the people who imagine, create, and grow the businesses that make up Ohio’s economy and vibrant communities.”

ECDI has supported countless small businesses, from fitness studios and food trucks to start-up technologies and outfitters. Through training and coaching, lending, and incubation, ECDI assists small business owners at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey. 

Numerous targeted initiatives help better support entrepreneurs with specific needs and challenges. Among them are the Women’s Business Centers (WBC), which provides co-working spaces, training, loans, mentorship, and networking; the Food Fort, a kitchen incubator and network of culinary experts; the Ohio Refugee Microenterprise Program, which provides specialized technical assistance and lending to new Americans; and Capital for Construction, a state-wide lending, training, and mentorship program geared toward African American contractors in the construction industry and allied fields. 

ECDI will be celebrating 15 years of small business creation throughout the upcoming year, with community events supporting and celebrating Ohio small businesses. 

On September 12, the WBC will host the Fifth Third Bank eBUS, a mobile financial empowerment station. The bus is a converted mobile classroom space, with over a dozen computers and other technology. There, experts from the Small Business Administration, Fifth Third Bank, and ECDI will lead focused classes to help small business owners. The event will take place outside of ECDI’s headquarters on Old Leonard Avenue, and will include a Food Fort food truck serving lunch as well. 

On September 19, ECDI is sponsoring The Metropreneur’s Aspire event including the Social Enterprise of the Year Awards—an annual celebration of social enterprise in Columbus and Central Ohio. Aside from the awards ceremony, the event will feature panelists, guest speakers, and networking opportunities. 

October 18 is a date to remember, as ECDI launches Food Fort 2.0 with the Food Fort Fall Social, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Food Fort 2.0 represents the progression of ECDI’s incubator-to-accelerator model, and our commitment to supporting food-oriented businesses at every point in the process of turning a nascent business idea into a successful enterprise.

As more and more thriving, self-sustaining food businesses graduated out of the Fort, ECDI identified the opportunity to create a separate space for owners whose needs had grown beyond what the original space could offer but were not yet ready to have their own facilities. The Food Fort Fall Social will be a celebration of the success seen by Food Fort clients as well as the Columbus community it has affected. 

On Tuesday, November 26, ECDI will host an early start to Small Business Saturday, a popular Thanksgiving weekend “shopping holiday,” with ECDI client Mmelo Boutique Confections. Mmelo will share the story of their success, while also providing some of their delicious sweet treats. The early kick-off will help prepare small businesses for the big weekend, with workshops focusing on the best ways to get your business on the map. 

Mark your calendars for the New Year! In January ECDI will host an event dubbed New Year, New You in partnership with Seven Studios. ECDI will be sponsoring a wellness event at the WBC with our client Seven Studios, a cutting-edge exercise studio in Downtown Columbus. The occasion will focus on how to be community and client-focused in the small business world while maintaining a healthy physical and mental lifestyle. 

“As small business owners, we pour ourselves into our business. We are the one’s responsible for its success or failure, and so in our quest to have a successful business, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves,” said Julie Wilkes, owner of Seven Studios. “There are small things we can do each day to energize ourselves, reset our mind and inspire innovation and resiliency.  When we can take a pause in our day, how we take care of our business is automatically improved, in addition to every other aspect of our lives.”

Over the past 15 years, ECDI has solidified itself as the third largest SBA-designated Intermediary Microlender and has disbursed more than $53 million to more than 2,400 Ohio businesses. ECDI’s work has helped Ohio small business owners create and retain nearly 8,000 jobs, and results in $1 billion downstream economic impact annually. In 2020, we project over $8.5 million in lending throughout Ohio.

This is just the start for ECDI, and we know the next 15 years will be even better than the last!

For more information, visit ecdi.org.

This mutli-part sponsored series highlighting ECDI’s work in Columbus is presented with paid support by ECDI.

Since 2004, ECDI has assisted Ohio’s entrepreneurs through its one-stop shop business services model, suited to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs, regardless of what business stage they’re in. From providing capital to entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses, to providing focused, business-specific educational opportunities to enhance entrepreneurial skill sets, ECDI works with their clients to meet their unique needs. Whether assisting a new client with a business concept or an accomplished entrepreneur opening a fifth location, ECDI’s “never say no” approach has allowed over twelve thousand entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services it provides. Visit ecdi.org today to learn more.