Central Community House Builds Path to Entrepreneurship Through ACE Program

Photos provided by Central Community House

Central Community House has been serving families on the near east and near south sides of Columbus since 1936. Providing summer camps and after school programs for kids, to robust programming for seniors, and a variety of resources to help families maintain stable households, the neighborhood hub has recently added another program to that list: the Academy for Community Entrepreneurs (ACE).

It was actually another popular CC House program that gave rise to ACE explains Executive Director Tammy Forrest. The organization also runs TRANSIT Arts, an arts program that works with youth ages 12-21 providing a wide variety of multi-disciplinary arts workshops.

“When youth age out of TRANSIT Arts they are still wanting to engage,” Forrest says.

The idea for ACE started around how to turn art into a career, helping individuals build a business around their art. Several of the first 65 individuals to get involved with the ACE program have ties to TRANSIT Arts, including parents of youth participants.

However, CC House wanted to broaden the programming both inside and outside of the arts community.

Forrest says one of the goals of the ACE program is to not recreate the wheel, but create an opportunity for community members in their neighborhood, where they feel more comfortable. CC House is well-versed in the cultural competencies and challenges of the neighborhoods they serve, and helps to reduce barriers like access to transportation by bringing the programming to their community.

“It was also a way we could support the whole family,” Forrest adds.

CC House has several programs for youth and seniors, but many of their services for parent-aged adults are focused on crisis management. Forrest wanted to create a resource that is more asset-focused. Having more touch points across a family also leads to more success in bringing families out of the generational poverty that affects many in the community.

CC House’s ACE Program follows an ordered process. First participants complete an online Entrepreneur Assessment. The assessment helps individuals determine traits like if they are a builder or creator or left or right brained.

“You’re learning more about yourself as a person while you are learning more about yourself as an entrepreneur,” Forrest says.

Some people might even take the assessment and decide entrepreneurship isn’t for them. But, they are still walking away with valuable insights about their work style.

After the assessment, participants advance to the Business Model Design Workshop. The next workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17 from 6 – 8 p.m. with three additional dates in August.

Entrepreneurs take their business models onto the six-week Business Planning Cohort. These more extensive business planning classes cover topics like developing a marketing plan, financial planning, market research, competitor analysis and more.

“They are leaving with a full business plan that could be used to seek funding,” Forrest says.

The next cohort is scheduled for fall, with classes every Tuesday from September 3 through October 8.

ACE participants can also opt into a business finance workshop. It doesn’t have to be completed in order, but provides valuable insights for cohort participants and other community members alike.

Forrest and CC House are already seeing the impact of creating an opportunity for the Near East Side that didn’t exist previously.

“The ACE program is an awesome program. Its helping a lot of us that would like to have our own business, know the foundation that we need to be successful,” says Brittany Lang, mother of a TRANSIT Arts participant.

Lang has taken all of the classes so far as she works towards starting her own event planning business.

“I have to say that the financial class made me realize that I’ve been throwing money down the drain with nothing to show for it,” she says. “Now that I know what I have to do in order for my business to be successful, so far, I’ve started budgeting and getting my foundation laid so my business will be successful.”

Forrest hopes the ACE entrepreneurs will be able to move onto other resources and support organizations like ECDI. With the support offered through CC House’s wrap-around services while they pursue their passions, the ACE program will help the neighborhood’s entrepreneurs get to the next level.

The ACE program is free for participants. Forrest says the primary focus is on residents on the Near East Side, but the program is open to anyone. For more information, visit cchouse.org/services/ace.