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Navigating Cincinnati

Jussi Leponiemi, Key Account Director (ICT) at BusinessOulu, brings us his fifth report from the United States as he participates in the International Visitor Leadership Program.

All individuals mentioned in the article have provided their consent. The next destination in this extensive journey was Cincinnati, Ohio. Did you know that Cincinnati gets its name from a Revolutionary War organization named in honor of Cincinnatus, a Roman general? Cincinnati, founded in 1788, is built on seven hills, and its metropolitan area has a population close to three million. As expected, there was a significant push for business development – keep reading!

Bon Appetit!

I had the privilege of visiting the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Cincinnati, a non-profit organization that extends a helping hand and provides a boost to food entrepreneurs in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky regions. They have established a support framework tailored to assist food start-ups in overcoming specific barriers within the sector. While my expertise is not directly related to the food industry, except for the enjoyment of eating, I was genuinely impressed by the work and achievements of this organization. Our guide, Mrs. Rachel DesRochers, the founder and owner, proved to be an inspiring individual who generously shared key insights into their processes. The Collective provides top-notch infrastructure, benefits from larger facilities, and facilitates community and knowledge sharing in a remarkably successful manner. They have successfully nurtured a group of thriving businesses capable of standing on their own feet and scaling up. I am seriously considering applying this model to certain other industries as well. For more information, you can visit their website:

Next lives here

I would like to highlight another noteworthy visit to the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Cincinnati, specifically within the Carl H. Lindner College of Business. We were fortunate to meet the Dean, Mrs. Marianne Lewis, and Mr. Charles Matthews, a Professor in the department, along with several other team members. The Center is engaged in remarkable work, empowering individuals to solve business problems and cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs. Did you know that the co-op was originally developed here? While the university-based business centers, in general, offered advanced services and resources, the Center for Entrepreneurship stood out as an exceptional example of a high-quality entity. Beyond entrepreneurship, Lindner hosts dedicated centers for Insurance and Risk Management, Business Analytics, Investments, Professional Selling, Economics, Family and Private Businesses, Real Estate, and more. One can easily envision the wealth of information and experience that students are surrounded by and exposed to in this vibrant academic environment.

Professor Charles Matthews presenting the Center of Entrepreneurship

Leveling the playing field

Photo from Cincinnati Airport lobby, a Mammoth skeleton

It comes as no surprise that minorities and underserved communities are a prominent focus in the USA, extending into the realm of business development activities. Numerous organizations are dedicated to providing services for these underserved groups, with many receiving funding from city, state, or federal programs. One such impactful organization we had the privilege to meet is the Urban League, and special thanks go to their VP Business Development, Mrs. Charlotte Harris. This Cincinnati-based organization is dedicated to promoting equity and financial empowerment for the black community through advocacy, education, and training.

The Urban League assists black individuals and historically underserved communities in establishing and scaling up businesses by offering counseling and support to those starting or expanding their ventures. Notably, they have dedicated programs and offer funding grants for small businesses, with funding from organizations such as PepsiCo, Chase, USB, Mastercard, Goldman Sachs, and more. The key takeaway is the importance of direct engagement with people to establish a foundational level of trust. The most effective services provided include lean canvas, financial projections, legal structure, business validation, and market research. I believe these principles can be applied in many ways to our local context as well.

That was a surface-level glimpse into Cincinnati; I still have one more location to share, which will be published very soon!

Jussi Leponiemi

What is the International Leadership Development Program? Read Jussi’s intro blog to learn more.

All of Jussi’s reports from the USA