Chamber Report: Lessons from the city's entrepreneurs

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Liz Dickey

I've spent a lot of time in the recording studio listening to stories from our city's tight-knit startup community lately. In June, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and CD102.5 launched cbuzz, a podcast focused on Columbus' entrepreneurs. Each of the founders we've interviewed for the podcast has taught me something new about entrepreneurship.

In 2015, Columbus boasted the largest single leap in entrepreneurial activity among the metro areas ranked in the 2015 Kaufman Startup Activity Index. At the Columbus Chamber, we recognize that this specific community is a pivotal part of our city's future. As Columbus continues to foster this rapid increase in entrepreneurship, there will be many great stories to tell.

Between cbuzz and the Chamber's CEO Insights series, there's no shortage of wisdom from the small-business owners, startups, and entrepreneurs here in central Ohio. As I've worked alongside business leaders in this community, I've recognized three qualities that many of our successful Columbus entrepreneurs share.

Community Commitment

Hot Chicken Takeover founder Joe DeLoss will admit that his business is not just about serving up delicious chicken as well as banana pudding. A self-proclaimed social entrepreneur, Joe had a clear vision of how he wanted to make a difference in Columbus, and chicken was the medium he chose to work through.

"Once we figured out the chicken, it was about integrating this idea of how can we leverage this business for a bigger level of impact in the community," DeLoss explained during the premier episode of cbuzz.

DeLoss realized that in order to make his business a true social enterprise, he had to build it with the community integrated into his business model. By hiring people who are often overlooked by employers-specifically citizens putting their lives back together after homelessness or incarceration-DeLoss runs a business that bridges a local employment gap. DeLoss' business empowers his employees and instills a level of faith, trust and pride in an underserved segment of the community.


Mark Pasternack, founder of video-production company Jump Goat Media, is a pro at utilizing his peers to grow his business. Pasternack's team was recently commissioned to shoot product launch photos and videos for startup company Watershed Materials. Pasternack recommended marketing company Urbity to do web development for the project. Pasternack and Urbity owner Brian Augsburger met in a shared coworking space. Since their initial collaboration, Pasternack and Augsburger have grown their businesses by referring clients to one another.

"Going deeper into collaboration and partnering with other entrepreneurs is a great tool for growth and expansion," Pasternack said during one cbuzz recording session. "To be able to bounce ideas, share struggles, and celebrate victories with other entrepreneurs gives me new perspective."


The first Columbus Chamber CEO Insights of 2015 featured Print Syndicate CEO Tanisha Robinson. Robinson owned the room with her bright red cowboy boots and unapologetic sense of humor.

Robinson told her audience of Columbus business leaders and entrepreneurs the story of how she attracted strong investors for Print Syndicate. She credited her boldness as a guiding factor in her success.

After hearing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speak, Robinson crafted a thoughtful email to Hsieh. That email connected her to the capital she needed to fund her business.

"I just email people and see what happens. The consequences are he never emails me back," Robinson said.

The Columbus entrepreneurial community is thriving because its inhabitants promote a culture that's about more than making money. It's about sharing stories. It's about helping the community. It's about collaborating and being open.

Business owners like DeLoss, Pasternack and Robinson are putting Columbus on the map in new ways. As a city built on business, we should always be learning from our next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.

Liz Dickey is webmaster and social media coordinator for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Follow her on Twitter at @liz_dickey or connect via email.