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A new program will support and market small businesses in 11 communities

Storefronts to the Forefront announcement
Shae Combs
Game Day
From left: Duke Energy President Amy Spiller, Cincinnati Chamber President Jill Meyer, Esoteric co-founders Marvin Abrinica and Brian Jackson, and Chamber VP of Membership and Engagement Thomas Deere.

A new program to support small businesses in the Greater Cincinnati area will launch in Milford next month. "Storefronts to the Forefront" is a partnership between the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Duke Energy.

"Small business owners are faced with new challenges in our post-lockdown reality," says Jill Meyer, president of the Cincinnati chamber. "As we head into the holiday season, we need to be intentional about supporting the businesses that make our community stronger."

Business owners will get a free year-long chamber membership, four education programs throughout the year, and access to mentors and resources to grow their businesses. The chamber and Duke Energy will also promote each business and help with marketing.

One of the communities is Walnut Hills, where Esoteric Brewing opened about a year ago after crowdfunding the start-up costs. Co-founder Marvin Abrinica says economic development is driven by economic inclusion.

"When you give everyday people — not just the wealthiest of our society, but everyday people — the opportunity to participate and invest in their own neighborhood, everyday people will come out of the woodwork and support it," Abrinica says. "As a result, you're standing in the city's first Black- and Asian-owned brewery."

Esoteric co-founder and CEO Brian Jackson says many businesses have struggled during the pandemic.

"Programs like these are exactly the types of things that small businesses need in order to be able to succeed and survive," Jackson says.

The program will focus on one community at a time starting in December: Milford, Bellevue, East Price Hill, Fort Thomas, Loveland, Ludlow, Madisonville, New Richmond, Norwood, Reading, and Walnut Hills. The chamber says it will hand-deliver packets of information about the program to every small business as it begins in a community.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.