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WRTA Honors 12 Small Businesses as Campaign Gets Underway

A group of people accepting awards at a WRTA event

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Each with a different story but a common goal of taking something they are passionate about and building a business right here in the Mahoning Valley, 12 small businesses were honored at Concept Studio on West Federal Street on Thursday morning.

For a second straight year, the WRTA Give Small Business a Lift campaign is spotlighting local, small businesses and reminding residents of the importance of supporting them.

Additionally, many of these small businesses can be easily reached by hopping onto a WRTA bus.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Dean Harris, WRTA executive director, “across the nation and especially here in the Valley. Small business owners and their families invest their money. They work hard, provide employment and provide value to our community.”

Harris said he is proud that the WRTA has provided transportation to both the businesses and their customers, and now is able to help provide recognition and marketing for them.

The 2023 featured small businesses are Cal-Ohio Lube Products, Heroes and Tiaras, EndTime Grafix, Pop! Art Books Culture, J&J Complete Lawn Care, YoGo Bikeshare, Sunstone Garden LLC, Sweet Grace Anna’s Fancy Cakes and Bakery, A Fresh Wind Catering, Aisle One Mobile Market, Overall Paint Co. and Unique Locs & Natural Hair Boutique LLC.

Chosen from more than 90 businesses that applied to be one of the 12 featured businesses, these businesses will be promoted this spring and summer on WRTA bus sign advertising, advertisements in The Business Journal, TV spots, graphic branding on the giant digital screen over Federal Station and on social media.

One of the businesses, Sunstone Garden LLC, was randomly selected to receive a $3,000 advertising campaign from WKBN TV. Another business, A Fresh Wind Catering, was pulled as the winner for a 12-month social media campaign created and produced by BOP Social.

Being in the right place at the right time has done a lot for Trina Williams, owner of A Fresh Wind Catering. She was encouraged to start her business after mistakenly walking into a place, just looking for someone, and ended up dropping off some food for the people there. Williams has since taken that love of food, especially for her gourmet egg rolls, and catered for celebrities, elected officials, weddings and the events for local nonprofits.

“Catering was not in my things to do, but I am so thankful to the community,” Williams said. “I’ve served just about every organization I can think of, and I’m able to sit at tables that I never in a million years would imagine I would be able to sit at.”

Another one of the businesses honored will soon be Youngstown’s first bikeshare operation, YoGo Bikeshare. Ronnell Elkins, the company’s president, said with all the construction, they have had to delay some of their plans, which will have three locations in the downtown area, including next to the WRTA.

“Coming from this city you have to be resilient and kind of just trust the process,” Elkins said. “We’re appreciative of all of our partners that’s been in the community that’s kind of been patiently waiting with us over the last year and a half. We’re grateful for the city, this community, and we hope to share in the success of our bikeshare program with all of you guys.”

“We’re trying to hit the ground rolling,” Kent Wallace, YoGo Bikeshare’s vice president of operations, added.

Patrick McGlone and his business, Overall Paint Co., have been hard at work changing the look of Youngstown.

“I work for the city of Youngstown, so I love this place, and I truly feel that art not only expresses our culture but advances it further. I just want to be a beacon for businesses to be able to express what they want to as big as possible on the side of their building,” McGlone said.

Pictured at top: Front row from left, Charity Murray, owner of Unique Locs & Natural Hair Boutique; Irisa Green, founder of Sunstone Garden LLC; Reign Bruno of J&J Complete Lawn Care; Kent Wallace, YoGo Bikeshare’s vice president of operations; Judy Rodriguez, director of transportation at WRTA; Dean Harris, executive director of WRTA; and David Wilaj, director of Mahoning County Logistics Council. Second row from left, Teresa Miller, executive director of Valley Economic Development Partners; Annabelle Himes, owner of Heroes and Tiaras; Kimberly Johnson of Aisle One Mobile Market; Ronnell Elkins, YoGo Bikeshare president; Mark Sahli and Mike Sahli of Cal-Ohio Lube Products; and Vito Consiglio of EndTime Grafix. Back row from left, Anthony Trevena, executive director of Western Reserve Port Authority; Trina Williams, owner of A Fresh Wind Catering; Craig Duster of Pop! Art Books Culture; Ellen Harvischak of Sweet Grace Anna’s Fancy Cakes & Bakes; Patrick McGlone of Overall Paint Co.; and Stan Sarna, general sales manager at WKBN.

Read the original article by Deanne Johnson here.

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