Journal Opinion: Nurturing Entrepreneurship

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Promoting local entrepreneurship is one of the lesser-known aspects of the work done by the Youngstown Business Incubator. This work plays a critical role in creating a more diverse and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

On Oct. 19, at the annual YBI Shark Tank event, more than $50,000 was awarded to startups. Before a packed house, the fundraiser brought in more than $300,000 for the incubator.

Six celebrity sharks heard pitches from five entrepreneurs selected from more than 60 who applied to compete. The sharks were Marty Bushey, managing partner of Aztec Capital Management; Danny Catullo, founder of Perishable Shipping Solutions and vice president of e-commerce at PPX Hospitality Brands; Tom Fleming, chairman of Aim Transportation Solutions; Rob Fox, CEO and founder of Buckeye Dealership Consulting; Ellie Platt, owner and president of Platt Insurance; and Herb Washington, CEO and founder of HLW Fast Track Inc.

Backyard Banger was awarded the $30,000 grand prize. D.O.P.E. Cider House & Winery came away with the $10,000 audience-choice award, which was matched by the sharks. A pair of Youngstown State University students, competing in a mini YSU Penguin Shark Tank, were awarded $2,000.

It’s important to note that the winner of the first YBI Shark Tank, Lindsay Watson of Augment Therapy, has since raised more than $5 million in investment, including a recent $1 million from CareSource. She has launched a new wellness app and rebranded the company’s core product. Morgen Technology, which won the competition in 2022, has since closed on a $3.5 million seed round. And SupplyNow Food Sourcing, a 2021 competitor, today offers its services in six states.

YBI continues to expand physically and spread nationwide its reputation for supporting technology-focused startups. At the same time, it offers programming to help a wide range of entrepreneurs: women, veterans, minorities – even school children.  

The incubator shines a spotlight on the vital role of local entrepreneurship to create jobs, something that wasn’t emphasized during the decades that steel and auto manufacturing dominated the local economy.

Look around. How can you lift the businesses of tomorrow to build a stronger economy?