How I Started my Cleveland-Based Business at 15 Years Old

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I started this company at the age of 15 after reading ‘Reallionaire,’ the inspiring story of Farrah Gray, an African American boy who made a million dollars at 14 through his own food product. The remarkable story inspired me at that age to start my own company. 

Tell us about yourself, your business and the primary industry in which you operate.

I am a 21-year-old junior at Hiram College majoring in business management and minoring in entrepreneurship. I am also the Founder/CEO of Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, an all-natural handmade applesauce, made with Ohio farm-fresh apples, pears, and locally made apple cider.

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I started this company at the age of 15 after reading “Reallionaire,” the inspiring story of Farrah Gray, an African American boy who made a million dollars at 14 through his own food product. The remarkable story inspired me at that age to start my own company. I chose applesauce because my grandfather, being the cook of the household, taught me his applesauce recipe. I then spent hours upon hours over the next several weeks, refining the recipe and carefully crafting what would one day become “Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce.”

Why did you choose to build your business in Northeast Ohio?

Being a resident of Shaker Heights, I grew up here and Northeast Ohio as a whole has so much to offer entrepreneurs. There is a lot of support from local economic development organizations, business owners, and customers.

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What are some of the benefits you have found in doing business in Northeast Ohio?

One of the greatest benefits is the relative low cost of starting and operating a business when compared to other areas around the country. The support and accelerator organizations have also been very beneficial to my journey as a young entrepreneur. Unlike other cities and regions where it is difficult to find assistance, in Northeast Ohio there is a genuine sense of community where individuals and organizations want to see young entrepreneurs succeed.

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Have you received assistance from any of the region’s local economic development organizations or incubators?

Yes, I have had assistance from various local economic development organizations and incubators. When I first began, I worked with E-City (Entrepreneurship: Connecting, Inspiring and Teaching Youth). I then started working with The Shaker LaunchHouse – they allowed me to build a foundation, grow my contact list and get a better grasp on what it takes to run a business.

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Additionally, I participated in the JumpStart Student Business competition and won second place. That opportunity allowed me to gain funding and exposure to further enhance my business.

I also interned at The CSU Small Business Development Center in Cleveland Heights. Working underneath the director, Katie Van Dyke was a great experience building contacts and gaining new skills. It even helped me raise the funds for my first batch by learning the process of crowdfunding.

How would you characterize Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial community?

Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial community is unique and innovative. With Northeast Ohio being so diverse, entrepreneurs are starting new businesses everyday – from restaurants, to retail shops, to trendy tech companies.

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What advice would you give to a start-up company looking to build their business in Northeast Ohio?

My advice to other entrepreneurs is to stay active! I do not mean literally running around Cleveland (unless that’s what the job entails). I mean staying connected through social media, promotions, networking events, competitions, and interacting with others. There are so many individuals in Northeast Ohio with a genuine desire to assist entrepreneurs and business owners. You just have to open your mouth and send a few emails sometimes to find them.

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