With a historic NBA Championship win on the shoulders of superstar Akron native LeBron James and a successful run hosting the recent Republican National Convention under its belt, the city of Cleveland has stepped into the spotlight in a major way this past summer.
But beyond the hype, there's a tight-knit community committed to revitalizing the region on the back of Cleveland's small businesses.
The area boasts a scrappy and growing entrepreneurial scene. In 2015 the Cleveland metro ranked No. 12 nationally for established main street business activity, with 1,150 established small businesses for every 100,000 residents in the city, according to data from the Kauffman Foundation.
What's more, the metro is also a top-20 area for growth entrepreneurship, according to the group, with start-ups growing more than 70 percent as a cohort five years after they launch.
"One of the advantages that Cleveland has is that there are people willing to invest based on your vision, based on your word — there's a lot of trust in people," says Tom Lix, founder of Cleveland Whiskey. The company launched in 2013 and has shortened the distillery process from years to days with its unique technology.
"Here, you can take ideas that are relatively small and turn them into something big," he says. "In other places, you have to have huge ideas to break through the clutter."