As Mansfield’s fourth SunDown RunDown wrapped up on Oct. 9, entrepreneurs, investors, public figures, and community members mingled. Several attendees noted that the quarterly event has brought attention to the Richland County area and its support of new business growth and development.
SunDown RunDown is a community event, facilitated by Bob Cohen, CEO of Braintree Business Development Center. Cohen noted that it is not a Braintree event, though Braintree is supportive of him coordinating the forum as it attracts entrepreneurs, as well as investors, from other areas to Mansfield.
"SunDown RunDown has been a great event here in the area," said Richland Area Chamber of Commerce President Jodie Perry. "It is high energy and a great platform for new business owners to launch their businesses and gain support from the community."
Cohen noted that hosting a specific event, as opposed to just asking entrepreneurs and investors from outside of Richland County to stop by randomly, offers an advantage. “They come and they end up talking to other [Braintree] tenants, other resources, and realize Mansfield is as good a place as any,” he said.
Many of Braintree’s current tenants discovered what the area has to offer via the SunDown RunDown forum, and some, like Joe Rotunda, plan to utilize Mansfield’s engineering and manufacturing in the production of their products.
Cleveland entrepreneur Josh Womack of Laugh Staff pitched at the most recent SunDown RunDown. He later described the Mansfield area as “very blue-collar,” and added, “But in all honesty, I loved the grittiness it represented. The people down there are forward thinking and supportive, and you need that for a small business to keep momentum going.
”Womack noted that he had pitched at other events that were “intimidating and sterile.” He described SunDown RunDown as a “breath of fresh air.” “The SunDown Rundown on October 9 was the best-attended pitch that I have been part of. In Cleveland, the most people I got in front of was 25 to 30,” he added.
Bob Leach, Director of Operations at Braintree, pitched Caffeinated Ideas at SunDown RunDown as a way to make people aware of the forum. Caffeinated Ideas, based at Braintree, is similar to SunDown RunDown, in that entrepreneurs pitch ideas. The forum, however, is more relaxed and pitches can be less polished than those at SunDown RunDown.
“We call it crowd-sourcing your business idea,” said Leach during his pitch. “We don’t care if your idea is on a piece of paper; we don’t care if it’s in your head.
”Leach said that the forum is attended by seasoned entrepreneurs, community members, and representatives of various business resources who listen to pitches and advise entrepreneurs.
“We take that idea and we tear it apart. We put it back together. We try to figure out what will work and what won’t work, and we try to point you in the right direction to make things happen,” he said.
Caffeinated Ideas was where Korinna Goettel found the assistance she needed to grow her business, Figg’s Liquid Innovations.
Goettel said that she didn’t attend Caffeinated Ideas to pitch, but was hoping to sit, listen, and see if there were any ideas to guide her to take her company to the next step. But on that first visit to Braintree in January of this year, she was introduced to Terrie Bonfiglio, Braintree Executive in Residence. By spring, her company was in pre-incubation, and as of July, Figg’s Liquid Innovations became a permanent tenant at Braintree. Figg’s has now expanded to produce a second item, Figg’s Juice Chiller, and with Braintree’s assistance is seeking grants for larger commercial bottling equipment.
Goettel also pitched at a SunDown RunDown event, and called it a positive experience.“SunDown RunDown and Caffeinated Ideas both provide a venue for new eyes to look at a project,” said Cohen, noting that at times it is difficult for entrepreneurs to communicate their ideas. Cohen works with each presenter in order to ensure their pitches are informative and fall within the allotted five-minute time limit.
Goettel said, “Bob Cohen’s the king of getting people prepped for presentations. He’s a huge resource.”Braintree Microfinance Administrator Barrett Thomas said that communication is vital. “In your presentation, you have to take someone from zero to sixty,” he said, noting that each pitch begins with the audience having no idea of who a person is or what their idea is, and by the end, the audience needs to fully understand the product.
Cohen noted that Braintree, SunDown RunDown, and Caffeinated Ideas are all focal points. “It’s bringing the capital, the investors, and the mentors to Mansfield. It’s bringing other entrepreneurs to Mansfield, who may then follow up with Mansfield, or maybe just see Mansfield as another center of entrepreneurship,” he said.
"Richland County has a strong history of entrepreneurialism and I think it is absolutely essential that we continue to foster that and grow it in our area," said Perry. "Organizations like Braintree, theSBDC, SCORE and many others are working with people who have a dream but need some advice in how to go about bringing that to reality.
”The Oct. 9 SunDown RunDown also featured Right Time, Sweet Panda Fudge, and Tog Loft.Caffeinated Ideas is held the fourth Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. at Braintree, located at 201 East Fifth Street, Mansfield. SunDown RunDown is held quarterly at The Old Bag of Nails Pub and future dates may be found at the website.