Entrepreneur Cydney Jones at her table representing her graphic design company.
                       Quentin Pardon | The Collegian

Quentin Pardon
Assistant Editor

African American entrepreneurs across the entirety of Lorain County had made their voices heard at the NEO LaunchNET’s first ever African American Entrepreneur Pop Up Shop on Feb. 10; here at the Patsie C. and Dolores Jenée Campana Center for Ideation Invention.

Adopt a Grandparent program

“This is pretty big. We are trying to get the word out there. We are trying to get more people aware of the Adopt a Grandparent program right now and the job financial literacy classes,” said Bridjette Greer, current intern for the Ahava Foundation. Greer is currently pursuing an Associate of Applied Science and Justice System and Corrections. “This is a new non-profit organization. We have plenty here around Lorain County. We are here to just help the people.”

About the Ahava Foundation 

The Ahava Foundation was formed to encourage and empower the underserved community at the most critical points of their lives. The Ahava Foundation is to provide teens with a sense of culture and history, by connecting them with the elderly that have been neglected in nursing home facilities as well as provide the community with financial literacy, resume building and career development. We also provide opportunities for participants to engage in academic, behavioral, etiquette and life skills training. Ashley Brewer co-founded The Ahava Foundation with the vision and drive to improve our community, and focused on developing the organization with experience and integrity. As a co-founder of the organization, Tyler Williams is dedicated to making sure that goals are met and success is achievable. Tyler Williams also runs his very own bakery called Treats By Ty.

Treats by Ty

“He started baking cookies because when he was younger he baked all the time with my grandma. He really loves doing this. This is something he really enjoys doing,” stated Imain Williams, wife of Tyler Williams. Williams began his business at the end of 2016 naming it “Treats By Ty.” “He used to give cookies and cakes out for free before but he decided to make a change.” The main attraction that brings customers in are his tea cakes. “His signature item is his tea cakes. It’s a recipe his grandma came up with. It’s the treat that definitely started it.” When there is a business, you will always need help and that’s where Mrs. Williams comes in. “I just help him when he needs help. I tried to learn how to make the cookies with the recipes and I’m always there to support him with everything.”

“No matter where you are”

Ann “Tiny” Austin is a traveling beautician. She has been doing this for an occupation for over 21 years. “No matter where you are at, I will come to you. As long as you are a willing participant, we can get anything and everything done from head to toe.” Austin specializes in hair, nails, feet and much more. She began at a young age as a way for extra money but ever since, she had taken full advantage of the opportunity. “I have family members who used to do my hair and I always wanted to do my own. Beauty goes a long way. There are people out here who couldn’t afford to get their hair done so I would get on my bike and ride to different shelters or different houses. ”

Graphic design freelancer

Cydney Jones is a student here at LC who is off on a head start. “I run a freelance graphic design company. Personally designs graphics for, print, web clothing. Whatever the client needs I work mostly in the Northeast Ohio area.” Jones is already familiar with marketing as she works for the LC marketing team. “I actually work with the marketing team here at LC so you probably saw my work around here.” Jones efforts are displayed on college credit plus flyers, the Rave app and the domestic violence awareness month. Jones always had a knack for art. “Well I started off doing traditional fine art, such as portraits and landscapes. Then I just furthered my artistic skills on the computer to work better for marketing.” Jones one day hopes to do even bigger projects for her city. “Makes me feel like I’m more involved with the community. Giving back. I like when things look good so when the community looks good it makes me feel better. It gets me connected with the community.”


LaSontia L.Sharlow of Morph Arts at her display
                     Quentin Pardon | The Collegian

Morph Arts 

LaSontia L.Sharlow is the full time owner of Morph Arts. “Making these are therapeutic for me. I am most passionate about ceramics.” Sharlow earned a degree in ceramics from Ohio State university.  “I make jewelry. Everything here is one of a kind.” Sharlow developed the True  Hope collection where every piece includes a heart, dove, cross or butterfly. “ I donate a portion to people who might be contemplating suicide and or addicted to opioids.” Once established, Sharlow plans on opening her own center. “I wanna open up a center for the arts here. A place for art and therapy for the community.”

“Art is everythng around you”

Earl Smith Jr.  has been a Lorain County Community College art instructor since 2009. Instructs students in drawing, sketching, and perspective by learning special techniques in dimensional shading.  At the age of 12 years old he discovered he had talent in art. “It’s a passion. It’s just part of me growing up. It’s relaxing. It eases your mind. Art is everything around you. It’s part of the universe,” said Smith. He started out working in group projects in school with other talented young artists creating murals and lettering. He then began to start exhibiting his art and winning awards. “I display art all around Cleveland, some parts of Oberlin.” Smith still has many ambitions he wants to conquer. “I’m thinking about opening up my own business and hosting my own classes.”

Giving than receiving

“I’ve been cooking for my whole life but I have been in business for a year,” said Chef Shontae Jackson, owner of the Steel Magnolia Food Truck and Catering. “We do internationally inspired cuisines as well as southern comfort food.” Jackson took classes here a year ago and now has her own business. “I learned a lot from being a student in the Culinary program so we took a lot of things that I learned and created a fun and festive menu.” To run a business it takes a lot of help and that’s where her mother comes in. “My mother is the biggest supporter on my journey. She’s 76 years old and whenever the key turns in the ignition she’s always there. She calls me in the morning just to say a prayer as well at the end of the day just to make sure our focus is together.” 

Lila Jackson is the owner of Lady J’s cleaning service. They do move ins, move outs, commercial, and offices. “I’ve had this business for about a year and a half but I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. I decided to branch out on my own,” said Jackson.  “My goal is to be able to give back. I am the type of person who likes to give rather than to receive.” One thing holding her back was herself. “Fear. I learned if you do it fearfully, you’ll succeed. Just step out and do it.”