Fellowship Openings

Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Underserved Neighborhoods (CLOSED)

Project: Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Underserved Neighborhoods

Agency: City of Cleveland - Office of the Mayor

Location: Cleveland, OH

Project Context  

The 2008 financial crisis had a profound effect on the City of Cleveland. Years later, a number of its neighborhoods continue to struggle with high vacancy rate in commercial corridors, concentrated poverty, and a systemic lack of private investment into small businesses. Most of these neighborhoods are located in Cleveland’s east side, and their overall lack of economic recovery stand in stark contrast to Cleveland’s Downtown, University Circle and Near West Side neighborhoods, which have seen substantial investment and economic/residential growth while neighborhoods just blocks away have struggled. Many of these “edge” neighborhoods have significant development potential to leverage off of the substantial private and public investment in growing neighborhoods.  Mayor Frank G. Jackson commissioned a study from Cleveland State University’s Center for Population Dynamics to identify these areas where targeted investments could stimulate market development.

In 2017, Mayor Frank Jackson launched the City-led Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) as a way to provide new tools to stimulate investment and entrepreneurship in targeted disinvested neighborhoods to help spur market-driven growth. The NTI leverages $25 Million in City funding with an additional $40 Million in private- and nonprofit-sector funds to invest in mixed-use developments, housing, retail, entrepreneurship and capital improvement.  As a result of these efforts, the administration aims to ensure that eastside communities will transform into diverse, vibrant, and economically developed mixed-income neighborhoods.

In 2018, the Mayor has set aside one million dollars of public seed money to further his goal of stimulating entrepreneurship and wealth-building for residents and small business owners, to help grow day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck, service-oriented businesses into larger entities that are generating wealth, in addition to income. The goal is to identify new or underdeveloped markets in the selected neighborhoods that would benefit most from an infusion of capital and other forms of business development support. The Mayor’s vision is to establish tools to assist a small business person with the development of a full, vertical business continuum: the making of something, its distribution and sale to the end user market.

To support this work, the City of Cleveland will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will develop data-driven recommendations for investment of the one-million-dollar fund and the balance of the Economic Development Department’s programmatic portfolio. In particular, the FUSE Fellow will build a self-sustaining business development program that helps targeted small business owners scale into thriving enterprises, able to attract private investment, generate wealth, and reach expanded sustainability.

Project Summary & Potential deliverables

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in September 2018, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will work closely with the Director of Economic Development and related City departments to create and oversee a sustainable entrepreneurship and business development program for underserved and minority communities using the investment tools provided by the City and any other private- or public-sector resources that could be leveraged. The FUSE Fellow will begin by meeting with all relevant stakeholders, and then undertake a thorough analysis of the City’s current economic development funding portfolio. After evaluating what progress has been achieved, the fellow will identify both city-wide and neighborhood-based high target industries or business opportunities and counsel the City on how to best capitalize upon them.

Ideally, by the end of the fellow’s engagement, the program’s first cohort of participants will have completed a significant part of the process towards expanding their small businesses and will have attracted the necessary private investors to the table. In the longer term, the resulting program should not only increase the engagement and success of minority business owners in the four selected Cleveland neighborhoods, but it should be replicable in all city neighborhoods.

The ideal FUSE candidate will be a team player who has experience with private entrepreneurship, impact investing or private equity while simultaneously demonstrating their ability to put themselves in the shoes of a small business owner or entrepreneur, ready to take the leap of faith necessary to bring their business to the next level. They will understand the diplomatic and structural importance of building coalitions between private and large public organizations and have a passion for unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of traditionally underserved small business owners.


  • Develop an understanding of existing efforts to support economic development: Become familiar with the City’s past and current programs dedicated to promoting economic development and wealth creation. Meet with various government, community, and private sector stakeholders.
  • Provide an analysis of best practices: Conduct a thorough analysis of the City’s economic development programs and investment initiatives. Quantify the impact of investments made to date and identify the key gaps, given the changing economic climate since the recession. Survey best practices being used by other cities and organizations that could be replicated in Cleveland.
  • Surface new economic opportunities: Begin field work in Cleveland’s small business development, incubator, and entrepreneurship communities, interview current small business owners in the target neighborhoods. Quickly become knowledgeable about new or untapped markets or supply-chains that could profit quickly from an infusion of public and private investment and support. Advise how the City might stimulate vertical business development.
  • Develop an innovative economic development pilot program: Design and implement a pilot investment program targeting these untapped markets. Select the first cohort of small business participants. Create a roadmap for the pilot project that will ensure its sustainability going forward.  

Key Stakeholders

  • Edward W. Rybka, Chief of Regional Development, Office of the Mayor, City of Cleveland
  • David Ebersole, Interim Director, Department of Economic Development, City of Cleveland


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, with a strong background in private equity, start-ups or small business development. Experience with angel investing is preferred but not required.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.

 To Apply 

Click the link below to upload a resume and complete the online application questions in lieu of a cover letter. The application process will allow you to indicate interest in more than one fellowship opportunity. You only need to submit one application. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as selections will be made on a rolling basis and specific opportunities may close quickly.

A FUSE Fellowship is a 12-month engagement requiring fellows be primarily committed to their partnership with the government agency throughout the year to ensure the success of their project. Fellows are retained as independent contractors of FUSE Corps and are paid an annual stipend of $90,000 through monthly installments. This commitment begins on September 24, 2018 and ends September 20th, 2019.

The FUSE Fellowship is an equal opportunity program with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives. We strongly encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.