Barbara Payne's Capitalist Cleveland Blog

News and Views: Entrepreneurs a-thrive in Northeast Ohio

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sunset from Tower City Amphitheater

There's something different going on in Cleveland/NEO. A small bunch of professsionals got together and decided to create a new approach--they threw a party (Carnival Night is going on under the Amphitheater tent this warm June night)and invited not only industry players but each and every member of the profession to come and have fun, get to know each other. They call their group NOCA, Northeast Ohio Communicators Affiliates.

The point is they feel all these communications pros should join forces and present arms, so to speak, in a united front to boost the image of the region for marketing/advertising/PR, and thus up the pulling power of every individual company/consultant. This shows a spirit of cooperation that's rare in any area of life, but even more so in business.

If it doesn't work, that's okay. They've at least set a standard--created a new model--that others can improve on. If it does work, what an accomplishment.

Don't know whether the NOCA crew feels it's working as they had hoped. I say, it doesn't matter. You've done something good. Let the "powers that be" pay attention--and maybe learn something.

Capitalist Cleveland isn't the only one talking Good NEO News

Penton Media sponsored a lovefest webcast wherein folks from the Cities of Cleveland and Akron, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and others discussed with each other the stuff of which Capitalist Cleveland is made--focusing on the positive. All the panelists agreed, the biggest issues facing Northeast Ohio are a) Jobs & Economic viability, and b) "The need to market NEOhio to the rest of the world." But the best thing about it was that they announced a new publication that will promote NEOhio's success, Northeast Ohio Works.

Want to hear the webcast? Get it free for the next several weeks here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

beauty in the inner ring suburb of Shaker Heights

The first ring eastern suburb of Shaker Heights overflows with magnificent homes at prices that blow other major cities out of the water. Its system of manmade lakes interweave with miles of glorious old trees and mature landscaping.

I'm sitting here by this lovely scene in between meetings (God, I love my new Treo phone). And I remember a couple of years ago when I took the editors of the national magazine Old House on a--yes, a three-hour tour, they were dumbfounded at the sheer numbers of streets lined with totally original,exceptionally beautiful architectural gems at what they considered bargain-basement prices. Take a ride sometime. Great place for entrepreneurs to buy a home!

Easing through NEO airports

If you fly in and out of Cleveland much, you know that the crowds for your flights--especially our hub airline Continental--can vary outrageously. Leaving at 6 am or 8 pm, you breeze through security, but leave when everybody else is and you can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours standing in line.

Makes it hard to estimate the time you have to leave the house or office. Naturally, you bring your laptop and/or cell phone so if you end up sitting there for an hour or more, you can be productive. But wouldn't it be nice to know ahead of time how much time you have to plan to spend in line or fill with work?

This tip from the National Association of Women Business Owners newsletter looks promising:

Several hours before your flight time--or the day before, because it gives you approximations based on historical, not actual passenger traffic data--visit There you enter your state, name of your departure airport and the hour of your official time of departure. The site is supposed to give you the estimated security checkpoint wait time--when I tried it this morning it wasn't working.

If you like this idea, let's all email the folks at and ask them to get the site fixed.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Economic development: What?

Think being cool is what brings people to town? Dr. Steve Belovich, one of Don's Capitalist Cleveland industry titans (find podcast here), writes to us and to the Plain Dealer:
To The Editor -

Akron and Cleveland have been doing a lot of economic introspection lately. Unfortunately, the analyses of both cities were very supply-side oriented. They only looked at the sources of degreed graduates and the regional amenities required to retain them. This is a nice feel-good activity, but expecting that approach to rejuvenate a region is unrealistic.

The real issue is high-wage careers with significant growth potential. That's it. Enough of those and the bright, energetic people will stay and drive all kinds of civic improvement. Without them, the best and brightest will leave the area and put down roots elsewhere.

A classic example is Silicon Valley. My work occasionally takes me there and I can attest to the fact that it is neither "hip", nor "cool". Silicon Valley also lacks many amenities that we take for granted in Northeast Ohio, among them being a great orchestra, good restaurants, a waterfront, decent highways, a great park system and greater libraries (yes, our CCPL is that good). Yet the best and brightest go there. Why? Because they start at $120,000+ a year, earn growth-oriented stock options and have an exciting career. Also, Silicon Valley does not focus on retaining its native population because they know that such a strategy is ridiculously self-limiting. They attract the best and the brightest regardless of origin, which contributes immensely to that region's success.

The economic analyses done on Akron and Cleveland yielded incomplete and/or wrong results because they asked the wrong questions of the wrong people. Asking a garage mechanic about a heart problem or a heart surgeon about an alternator malfunction is idiotic. Rather, start asking people who have actually created businesses how they did it. Ask them what was their approach and what can be done to help other entrepreneurs. Asking the right questions of the right people will yield the right answers.

The "Third Frontier" project was supposed to stop the brain drain and achieve economic success, but it is fundamentally flawed. Instead of investing in what smart entrepreneurs do on their own, The Third Frontier project implicitly tries to create entrepreneurs by investing in specific technologies - not in real businesses. This is the fatal flaw: a technology does not equal a business! Technology, rather, is a starting point and a tool for business. Smart investors know this. Smart investors also know that regional amenities derive from business creation and growth - not the other way around. So, let's focus on creating growth-oriented businesses. Do that, and a lot of great things will happen.
Dr. Steve G. Belovich
IQware, Inc.

Are Cleveland venture capitalists joining the game?

Just wrote about how the Internet game has changed since the 90s when so many went bust ( The search engine optimization business is booming--and attracting new venture capital--because the Internet is easier and faster to use, yes, but also because more people are getting smart about converting visitors to buyers. That equals revenue, folks.

Thus we have the growth of search engine optimization--(see earlier entry about Cleveland SEO companies) which is really a new branch of direct marketing/advertising. Cleveland companies all know each other in that sector, too, and some are looking to buy out others, both to eliminate competition and to build critical mass in revenues--margins get better with repeat business.

Isn't it fun being alive at a time when everything around you changes in the time it takes you to order a multi-grain roll and a mocha latte? " )

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Oh, I just love this. In comes from the mayor's office this little "Bulletin Irregulaire" by email. DOn't remember subscribing to it. Don't know how they got my name and decided to send it (link from maybe?). But I sure enjoy hearing from the PR folks at City Hall.

This item is extremely cool:

Splendor in Cleveland
A New York Times writer finds Cleveland on the road to being "hip, cosmopolitan-even splendid..." If you haven't seen it yet, read Michael Gollust's 36-hour travel review of the great city of Cleveland.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What you see is what you get--and "convention"al wisdom

Scientists--especially the quantum physicists of the science world--have been demonstrating loud and clear that reality--your reality, my reality, everybody's reality--is a function of what you, I, they choose to look at, focus on, think, talk, and write about.

Capitalist Cleveland takes this scientific knowledge deeply to heart--its whole premise is that the positive, exciting, good and financially rewarding things getting done in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are innumerable--and eminently worth focusing on.

Just the other day I read somebody's (I apologize I can't remember at the moment who wrote it--whoever you are, or if you know the person, please let us know) article saying bloggers were an unhappy lot--always complaining about things. Yes, it's true in a lot of cases. Many are. But I submit that that's because many bloggers are playing a role much like that of the mainstream media. Dishing dirt--from traffic accidents and gory stuff, to murders, thefts, rapes, and loud complaints about how bad things are, fingerpointing, finding failure, etc., etc.--has always been grist for the media's mill--the easiest way to get more attention (and sell more newspapers). People in general love dirt.

In Cleveland sometimes we even import "experts" to tell us how grim things are, point out how poorly we're doing this or that, put us on or near the bottom of their lists, and so on.

But sometimes we import an expert who's giving us good information before we make a mistake. The City Club has invited a national expert on convention centers to come and speak on June 15 about how poorly the nation's new convention centers are doing. And the Society for Professional Journalists has snagged the guy to come and talk informally the night before at Artefino Gallery in Little Italy. Here are some links SPJ sent out:
Details on and directions to Artefino Gallery
Read about the experot Professor Heywood Sanders on the Brookings Institution website.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A tip for QuickBooks users

Attended one of the free introductory seminars put on by PC Coach (see entry below). Learned some cool tips on running Quickbooks more efficiently.

I am a keyboard shortcut nut (see my recent review of O'Reilly's book Adobe InDesign CS: One-on-One for Blogcritics). One of my favorites is the trick to move between all open windows in MS Windows--you hold down the Alt key and then hit Tab for each successive window. Well, one of the issues that used to bug me a lot in Quickbooks was how to move between just open Quickbooks windows. Now I've discovered that trick is just as easy. You use Ctrl+Tab. Man, that can really speed up your work if you move back and forth a lot as I do (between recording time for a single task and recording time on a weekly worksheet, for example).

That one tip alone was worth the trip to the seminar, but I learned several other things that were very helpful. You can't go wrong by calling PC Coach if you need help with QB. If they don't know the answer, they'll find out.

Visit Embrace

Forgot to give you the link to Laura Bennett's blog for Embrace Pet Insurance. Here you go.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Ah, Cleveland

Returning from Chicago--where the skyline of downtown seems to spread out forever--to this distant view of Cleveland's lakefront. The advantage we have here in Cleveland is that when we measure the time it takes us to get somewhere, that time usually doesn't vary by more than 10 to 15% even in rush hour. In Chicago, a trip that takes 11 minutes at 8 pm can take up to two and a half hours during the height of traffic. My sister from Chicago is constantly amazed that we can hop in the car here and arrive at downtown in 30 minutes or less, no matter what time of day it is. From Shaker Heights you can make it in 14 minutes if you know the back roads.

In Chicago, there are no back roads.

Cleveland skyline Posted by Hello
I love Chicago, my hometown. But I'm always glad to come back to the home I adopted some 30-plus years ago.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Pets are big business

Who'd a-thunk it. Pet insurance is the latest product invented by the insurance industry. And a Cleveland company, Embrace Pet Insurance, is going out on a very sturdy limb with it. A quick Q&A with owner president Laura Bennett.

Q. Why did you choose to do business in Cleveland?

A. Because people here are genuinely interested in our success and are doing everything in their power to help. We’ve had a lot of support from many different sources; I can’t imagine this happening in many other cities I’ve been to in the US.

Q. You got a whole bunch of money from JumpStart--several hundred thousand dollars I believe. Congratulations! How are you using it to get started?

A. Building an insurance business is much more complicated than you would think given the myriad of regulations and having to deal with very conservative insurance companies. They aren’t used to entrepreneurs outside of their circle coming in with a good idea about risks they know little about. We raised $335,000 from Jumpstart plus angel investment funds and now we’re negotiating an insurance contract. Once that’s done, it’s full steam ahead to get up and running. No more talk, just lots of action. I can’t wait!

Q Is Embrace a franchise?

A No, not a franchise. We are what is known in the insurance industry as a Program Manager. Not only do we sell a product like other insurance brokers, we’ve actually designed and priced it (with input from our potential customers) and will run a call center, administer the policies, and pay the claims (albeit on the insurance company’s bank account). We do all the work for a commission and management fee; the insurance company takes the insurance risk for the rest of the premium.

Q. How will you be selling your insurance?

A. We’ll be selling in the internet and through the inbound call center, plus a few marketing alliances we are working on as well. We are hope to be selling policies by the end of the year but in the meantime, we are building our site and blog.

Q. Great website. Did you hire a Cleveland company?

A. No, we did it ourselves – mostly Alex, my business partner for the visuals. Not bad for amateurs, eh?!

Well, Embrace is a great example of good entrepreneurship at work: When you've got a good idea and you know how to present it and to whom, the money 's out there.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Thundering into success

thunder::tech is going great guns over in Midtown where they just adapted a former vacuum manufacturing facility into their new office space. Entrepreneur Jason Thierren keeps a lot of people busy and has been very successful recruiting young employees into the Northeast Ohio region and into the state. He says his approach is holistic--they put skills and experience that are "part-IT-firm and part-ad-agency" to work for their clients' their marketing efforts.

Jason says he's very proud to have put down stakes in Cleveland's MidTown "Creative Corridor" and is especially proud that thunder::tech has adopted two non-profit organizations--E CITY & 20/30 Club--to handle all of their marketing on a pro-bono basis.

Congratulations, Jason. Keep thundering along.