Minority Business Assistance Center Introduces New Staff

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Two years after being designated a Minority Business Assistance Center for northeastern Ohio, the Youngstown Business Incubator announced new staff members to the growing small business program.

Vern Richberg will transition into the new role of regional director for the Minority Business Assistance Center. Richberg had worked as business counselor with the MBAC team. He will be joined by two new staff members: R. Aaron Adair will take over as business counselor and Tia Toles is MBAC’s coordinator.

Building upon the capacity already created by MBAC, Richberg said he’s excited about the future and the solid team that has been put in place. Richberg is an Air Force veteran who had an office in Niles. He stayed in the area for 25 years, 10 of which were as a financial advisor in Liberty, then took a job with a national company and moved to the Akron area.

“I worked to help underground businesses come into the light,” Richberg said. “Many of these were cash businesses and I worked to show them how to bear fruit and create sustainable, viable businesses for their families and the community.”

He said that his goals are to expand MBAC’s e-learning and distance learning offerings to impact more people in the fringes of the seven-county footprint, and continue to build upon the center’s strengths.

Adair brings 20 years of business development and entrepreneurship experience. He has a background in human resource government contracting and was a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchisee.

Toles, of Warren, will earn her bachelor’s in December from Kent State University where she studies applied communication and nonprofits. She has 14 years of experience in government assistance programs and case management skills.

Barb Ewing, YBI’s CEO, said Tuesday was a day of change, but also a day to celebrate the achievements the small business programs have had on the community.

“Our work in diversity and inclusion is truly making an impact, so adding support to our women’s and minority program was a natural next step for us,” she said.

According to Ewing, the additional staff was made possible from the support and award from the state’s MBAC program. There will be no break in services during the transition of personnel, she said.

Monica L. Womack, manager of Minority Business Development Division for Ohio, said expansions have occurred across the state, which has seven regions for the assistance centers.

“The demand has been huge across the state and there has been a need to grow due to the demand,” she said.

Ewing thanked Carmella Williams for directing MBAC when the state awarded YBI with the minority business assistance center designation. Williams will now serve as the Director of Supplier Diversity & Inclusion. The position is new at YBI and is made possible through the Community Development Block Grant funding from the City of Youngstown.

Jeffrey L. Johnson, chief of the Minority Business Development Division for the state also thanked Williams for her work in expanding the outreach of the center.

“We think Vern will provide a seamless transition of leadership, and we look forward to continuing to build our relationship with the Youngstown Business Incubator to move minority business development forward in the Youngstown region,” he said.

Stephanie Gilchrist, who returns to YBI, will serve as the new director of the Women in Entrepreneur Program. She will continue in her role as executive director of Inspiring Minds Youngstown.

“We are so happy to have Stephanie return to us,” Ewing said. “She was so instrumental in transforming YBI in the development of the Tech Block 5 building where our companies in our portfolio could grow.”

Ewing said YBI had been so focused on technology and growing that it had no idea how much growing small businesses would impact the area. “You don’t see what you’re not looking for,” she said.

The Women in Entrepreneur Program has grown quickly and has had a positive impact from Ashtabula to Monroe counties, Ewing said. YBI will restructuring the program’s offerings and more information will follow in the coming months.

Pictured: Barb Ewing (second from left), YBI CEO, introduced Vern Richberg (right), as the new regional director for the Minority Business Assistance Center at the YBI. He is joined by R. Aaron Adair, business counselor; Stephanie Gilchrist, director of the Women in Entrepreneurship Program; Tia Toles, MBAC coordinator and Carmella Williams, director of supplier diversity and inclusion.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.