2011 Year in Review for Small Business Development

The final week of 2011 has arrived, giving us a moment to reflect on the year that was.

As far as the local small business community is concerned, 2011 has been very exciting. Numerous companies have launched or expanded, new incubators aimed at helping entrepreneurs have cropped up across Central Ohio, and programs that encourage and support small business have been rolled out at the state and local levels.

Here at The Metropreneur, I’ve witnessed this flurry of activity first hand, so I thought I’d take this time to share my favorite stories from the last 12 months. They’re listed below and sorted by the month they appeared on our website.

January

It’s arguable that drinking local has never been easier than it is right now in Columbus. In 2011, several regional wineries, distilleries and microbreweries have opened or gained prominence (or both), in some cases even producing nationally acclaimed beverages. For instance, Rockmill Brewery’s small-batch brews were featured in Maxim magazine’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide and the USA Network named Middle West Spirits’ OYO Whiskey one of its top foods this year.

February

Entrepreneurial support was alive and well last winter as a 100,000-square-foot creative workspace came online in Franklinton and The Boston Beer Co. brought its Sam Adams microlending program to the Buckeye State. At the time, the biggest thrill for The Metropreneur team was being able to tag along with eEvent to the Launch Conference in San Francisco, where we did our best to tout Central Ohio’s business friendly environment.

March

My three favorite stories published in March are all food-related. Pattycake Bakery owner Jennie Scheinbach shared the 10 questions she is asked most frequently about her well-known business (and her answers, of course). Angela Petro, founder and president of Two Caterers Contemporary Cuisine, gave very candid answers about the business’s early days. (I especially like the anecdote about the payroll system during the first year.) Finally, I was touched by Audrey Todd’s decision to open a gluten-free bakery where adults with autism can gain employment. She began advocating a gluten-free, casein-free diet after using it to remedy her son’s autism symptoms.

April

Pop-up retail is on the upswing, so we thought it would be helpful to share a step-by-step guide for establishing a successful pop-up shop. It was written with input from three local business owners who have experience with the concept. By contrast, our story about Libre, which produces clothing for chemotherapy and dialysis patients, is about four young women without a lot of real world experience, but a solid business idea and the determination to see it come to fruition. Though Central Ohio is known for strong retail and apparel sectors, it’s not often associated with thriving manufacturing operations. However, this trendspotting story suggests it should be.

May

If I had to find a common thread between my three favorite stories published in May, I’d say they’re all about helping one’s business gain a leg up on the competition, whether that means creating an advisory board that provides valuable outside perspectives, using QR codes to appeal to tech savvy consumers, or using an online crowdfunding platform to gain investors.

June

Seeing businesses blossom is something we never tire of at The Metropreneur, so it should come as no surprise that I was happy to write about exciting developments at two local powerhouses: Camelot Cellars and Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties. I predict the next local powerhouse will be AboutOurWork.com, which has been described as Facebook for small businesses.

July

Businesses are often founded by colleagues, friends, or couples. In July, I wrote about three standout businesses that fit at least one of those criteria: Zipline Logistics, Collier West, and The Hills Market.

August

Sometimes it’s easy to predict which of our stories will be widely read. (Anything about Elizabeth Lessner, for instance, practically guarantees hundreds of pageviews.) Other times, I’ve written pieces I believe to be informative and useful, and hardly anyone bothers to take a look. That said, if you read my story about buying health insurance for employees, as well the glossary of business buzzwords I compiled, I’d really appreciate it. You’ll make me feel like my work wasn’t in vain and you might even learn something. Thanks! Oh, and check out this story about upscale bridal boutique LUXERedux. Quite a few people read it the first time around, but it’s worth revisiting, especially if you know someone getting hitched in 2012.

September

Columbus is chock full of successful women business owners and our pages certainly reflect that. In fact, during the month of September alone, we profiled three businesses founded by four ladies who are making their mark in specialty foods, public relations, and marketing: JC’s Sweet Ice Tea, Geben Communication, and UQ Marketing. Prepare to be inspired.

October

The Metropreneur’s offices are on Gay Street in downtown Columbus, so the Gay Street Collaborative has a special place in my heart. To learn what the collaborative hopes to accomplish in the months and years ahead, check this out. Given the stories I’ve shared above, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Forbes ranked Columbus No. 18 in the nation for women in business. To learn why, read this. On a related note…Tastefully Dirty is woman-owned and its founder, Tiffany Rosinski, told me the company’s Metropreneur profile helped her get its products on more shelves in Central Ohio. Comments like that make my day.

November

It’s no secret that the Short North is hoppin.’ It has an eclectic mix of established stores, restaurants and service providers, but its growth, especially on the south end, continues. Recent additions Elemental Veterinary Center and Pet Spa, IM Creative, and Amy Clark Studios, support that notion.

December

Though many of us are avid local shoppers, I think it’s equally important to frequent local entertainment venues, such as the three movie theaters we recently featured. Central Ohio’s technology startups have a strong support system, but they also face market obstacles. A new program sponsored by TechColumbus and Columbus2020 tries to address those obstacles. Bringing things full circle is a story we recently published about a new local brewery. Looks like our assertion that the beer business is alive and well here was correct.