Photo by Downie Photography

The University Circle neighborhood, located just four miles from downtown Cleveland, has become the site of thriving small businesses in a community that touts buy local, hire local. In just one square mile neighborhood, you’ll find dozens of education, medical, nonprofit and cultural institutions throughout the neighborhood, including University Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Louis Stoke VA Medical Center, three major health centers. You’ll also find three universities: Case Western Reserve Uniersity, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Art. “We consider ourselves an anchor district,” says Laura Kleinman, Vice President of Services at University Circle Inc (UCI). “This is a unique place where all of these insitutions coexist.” 

UCI licenses Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA’TM curriculum to power their NextStep program,

which has been proven to create jobs in University Circle, the fastest growing and second largest employment district in Northeast Ohio, with 43,264 employees. “Small business owners are the backbone of a neighborhood, and UCI is hosting this program to help them grow and succeed well into the future,” says Chris Ronayne, President of UCI. UCI, the neighborhood’s community service corporation, is responsible for the growth of University Circle as a premier urban district.

Free concert in the heart of University Circle, organized by UCI,
part of WOW! Wade Oval Wednesdays, Photo by Downie Photography

About University Circle Inc.
University Circle is “creating a premier destination for everyone to experience.” To do so, in addition to supporting small business owners with NextStep, University Circle accomplishes this by

  • Developing modern urban living, distinctive hotels, and nationally known restaurants
  • Reviving Cleveland’s historic Main Street and connecting it to its historic neighborhoods
  • Connecting our local business community to our world-class institutions
  • Celebrating our four-season city with the region’s largest, free seasonal cultural events
  • Keeping the neighborhood clean, safe, and attractive for more than 3 million people who visit, learn, work, and live here each year
  • Creating a seamless neighborhood of active and inviting spaces for people of all ages to enjoy

In recruiting for NextStep‘s third class of participants, “We are looking for businesses located in greater Cleveland and businesses that are interested in doing business with the area’s anchor institutions.” To locate the business owners best situated for growth in greater University Circle, Laura looks to anchors with diversity committees, “committees populated by procurement staff as well as organizations in the community that work with small business owners. We use these committees to get the word out.”

Anchor Institutions in University Circle have goals for MBE and local suppliers. “There are challenges to these goals – to find companies that are qualified and eligible to bid. University Circle’s anchor institutions need a greater volume of companies who are able to supply needed services. We also need companies that are able to provide a greater variety of services,” says Kleinman. 

NextStep prepares small business owners for the next RFP. “A business may not be ready, but through this program, can become prepared to perform the requirements of contracts with anchor institutions. Business owners learn how to be in a better position to manage their cash flow and price their product or service. The NextStep program also better prepares participants to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP) — not only because of what they learn in class, but also because of the relationships they form while participating in the program.”

Many times, when business owners are trying to do business with anchor institutions, they don’t know who to call, explains Kleinman. “I tell business owners who completed NextStep, ‘This is who you have to talk to in that category.’ We help graduates to forge new relationships. We’re trying to connect the dots between our small businesses and anchor institutions.”

Find out more about NextStep