Bad Girl Ventures expands to Cleveland

Bad Girl Ventures founder Candace Klein has always had big plans for the women-focused micro-lending program. But the attorney with law firm Ulmer & Berne admits the circumstances that led to BGV's recent expansion into Cleveland came together unexpectedly.

"It's kind of happened overnight," Klein says. Over the course of about two months, the idea of BGV Cleveland grew from an initial contact by organizations in that city into a full-fledged version of the Cincinnati-based program.

Klein says she was initially contacted by The Business of Good Foundation, part of the Cleveland Foundation, the nation's second-largest community foundation. The group had been researching micro-lending programs and had been impressed by the BGV model, which combines classroom-based training, a competition for funding, established financial support and a focus on women-owned business startups.

"A lot of programs provide part of that, but not all of the package," Klein says.

In June, Klein traveled to Cleveland to meet with the foundation, local banks and other potential partners. And in very little time BGV Cleveland had joined forces with Key Bank, The Cleveland Foundation, The Business of Good Foundation and the City of Cleveland. BGV also plans to work with Shaker LaunchHouse, a new-business incubator based in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Klein says she hopes to bring some of that organization's ideas to Cincinnati.

"This is the coolest incubator I've ever seen," she says.

BGV Cleveland began accepting applications July 22 for its first class of entrepreneurs, which will begin the program's educational classes and funding competition Oct. 12. Klein says the Cleveland branch will operate in much the same way as the Cincinnati version, with three classes each year vying for micro-loans of $25,000.

And there will be more expansion, Klein says. Her plan has been to expand into five to 10 new locations per year, eventually taking the Bad Girl Ventures concept to the international level. And while she originally expected to expand to Columbus before Cleveland (plans for launching a Columbus branch in early 2012 are in the works, she says), she's not about to complain that BGV's first expansion is a little further north than planned.

"Right now, we're right on target with our milestones," she says.

By Matt Cunningham

Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent

Photo by Lauren Justice
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