NITRO Bootcamp aims to help women, minority entrepreneurs use technology to grow their companies

'Let me help you supercharge your business'

CINCINNATI -- There are plenty of factors that make it more difficult for minority and women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Cintrifuse wants to make sure a lack of business technology know-how isn’t one of them.

That’s why the tech-focused nonprofit created NITRO! Bootcamp!, designed to “power up” small businesses by giving them access and training on business technologies.

Using a $100,000 grant from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Cintrifuse will train as many as 25 women and minority entrepreneurs during a one-day session in February and follow up over six months to make sure the training is helping the business owners that participated in the program.

The program will officially launch and start accepting applications Oct. 29.

Maurice Coffey (Photo by Lauren DiFulvio)

“Startups or small businesses are so focused on running their business that they’re not even using some of the best technology out there,” said Maurice Coffey, an executive on loan from the Procter & Gamble Co. who is helping Cintrifuse with some of its economic inclusion initiatives. “We want to make them more efficient and enable them to expand their business reach.”

Learning more about the business technology that’s out there and getting trained on how to use it should be a huge help to local entrepreneurs, said Rico Grant, co-founder and CEO of CrownMob, a digital marketplace for black and African-American beauty and style brands.

In some ways, he said, the continuing follow-up for six months after the boot camp is even more important.

“One of the biggest things that happens specifically as a founder or an owner of a small business is you run into a situation where you have to do everything,” Grant said. “The follow-up process is crucial because our heads can only hold so much information.”

‘Supercharge your business’

To qualify, businesses must:

• Be woman- or minority-owned and located in Greater Cincinnati

•  Have three or more employees

• And have average annual sales of $100,000 up to $1 million over the last three years.

NITRO! will have training sessions related to accounting, billing and payments, communication and organization, project management, creative services, inventory and shipping and document cloud storage.

The program took root about a year ago when Cintrifuse began talking with local entrepreneurs and business leaders and realized how many entrepreneurs were unaware of the low-cost or free business technology that could help them, said Eric Weissmann, vice president for communications, community and economic inclusion at Cintrifuse.

The program’s goal is to help business owners find the technology that could simplify their work so they can focus on building their companies, Weissmann said.

Eric Weissmann (Photo by Lauren DiFulvio)

The program is open to any kind of business, he said, and it’s not about helping them design apps or turning them into technology firms.

“What we’re talking about is an additive nature,” Weissmann said. “Let me help you supercharge your business for a minute.”

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. gave Cintrifuse the grant to launch NITRO! partly because the company believes the program could be replicated in other parts of the country if it’s successful here, Coffey said.

Businesses won’t have to pay anything to be part of NITRO!, Weissmann said.

The one-day boot camp is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2019.

“It’s that one, compact moment where you learn all that stuff and get inundated with information,” he said.

Coffey will be in charge of following up with the participants.

That follow-up will help Cintrifuse and J.P. Morgan Chase understand which parts of the program worked best and where it could be improved.

Grant said he’s convinced NITRO! will be a big help to lots of small businesses throughout the region.

“Access is a big part of it,” he said, “and the knowledge that there are some resources out there that we all can use.”

A celebration to launch NITRO! Bootcamp! will be held at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Business owners can learn more about the program and apply online.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 20 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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