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Nuturing by Akron’s Bounce accelerator helps company earn a 2018 Weatherhead 100 Upstart designation

September 25, 2018

Nuturing by Akron’s Bounce accelerator helps company earn a 2018 Weatherhead 100 Upstart designation

AKRON, Ohio – One of the companies housed in Bounce, the Akron area’s accelerator for startups and other promising businesses, has gained national and regional attention for its rapid growth.

Consolidus, a software developer for the promotional-product industry, was named a 2018 Weatherhead 100 upstart, which recognizes fast-growing companies in Northeast Ohio with fewer than 15 employees and less than $1 million in net sales. The company also was recognized for the second year as one of Inc. Magazine’s top 500 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

Company founder & CEO Jeffrey Jones attributes the company’s growth to interaction with entrepreneurs at Bounce, a strong team and an industry trending toward the internet.

“I think we could be doubling our sales in the next three to five years, versus the rate of growth we’ve been experiencing, which is 25 percent annually,” Jones said.

Bounce, which officially opened in April, is slowly filling the nine floors of the old B.F. Goodrich tire plant with entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators. The facility is designed to attract investors, businesses and other partners to help support and develop the companies there, and ultimately boost the local economy.

Consolidus’ web-based platform, SmartSites, enables large entities, such as universities, nonprofits and health-care systems, to consolidate and streamline the purchase of branded promotional materials like apparel, banners, decals, coffee cups and notebooks.

The Consolidus interface is customized for each institution, creating online stores accessible by multiple users across each organization. The system helps clients protect their brand and save money. With 14 employees, Consolidus also provides each customer with an account manager.

Early on, the University of Akron also helped support the company. The university referred Consolidus to the Inter-University Council Purchasing Group of Ohio, which gave the company a foot in the door to other area universities.

“We were just starting out with technology that’s now the backbone of the business,” he said.

Jones, who grew up in Akron, is an Akron firefighter-turned-entrepreneur. He launched his company about 12 years ago out of his basement. Not long after, he moved Consolidus into the Akron Global Business Accelerator, Bounce’s predecessor, to gain access to other entrepreneurs and learn from business professionals.

At first, just having quality business space was a boost, Jones said. Access to tech experts also was helpful as Consolidus built out and refined its software. According to Promotional Products Association International, the promotional products industry is now a $23.3 billion global industry.

At Bounce, Jones said networking and collaborating with other companies has been helpful and that those opportunities will increase significantly when the first-floor design is complete.

Dubbed “The Generator,” Bounce’s first floor is being designed by Hazel Tree Design Studio to showcase the essence of Akron through historical artifacts and work by local artists. It will house a café, event space, meeting areas, and will offer workshops, training and other services for Bounce companies and the public.

Consolidus, located on the eighth floor, now has a choice -- leave Bounce and strike out on its own or undergo what Bounce CEO and President Doug Weintraub calls a “reset. ” That means taking steps to accelerate its growth.

For self-funded companies, which Consolidus has been from the beginning, that usually means attracting third-party support.

Many companies reach the level of stability Consolidus has reached and are satisfied. They are referred to as “lifestyle” companies, which Weintraub says is a worthy achievement.

However, Bounce was not created to support companies that plateau, he said, and investors look for growth-oriented companies.

“To take outside capital, you have to put both feet on the accelerator,” Weintraub said.

Companies that grow also help Bounce meet its objective, which is to nurture companies until they can successfully stand on their own. Bounce and city officials hope the companies stay in the Akron area and continue to grow and hire workers, boosting the local economy.

A serial entrepreneur, Weintraub took his own companies from startup to sale, and became an investor. Before taking the helm at Bounce in March, Weintraub also served as president of JumpStart, Northeast Ohio’s first incubator/accelerator, from 2009-2012.

Exposure to processionals such as Weintraub has had a positive impact on Consolidus, Jones said.

“Being here has influenced our ability to grow significantly and it’s given me an opportunity to grow as a leader through association with other business leaders in the program,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a series of people that continue to work with me as consultants as we’re making decisions.”

To undergo a “reset,” Jones knows he will have to relinquish some control of the business.

“The priority is acceleration,” he said. “I’m interested in growing the business to the fullest potential. You have to have the right partner bringing expertise and possibly resources that contribute to the growth and success of the company, and have a common goal.”

As of now, Jones said he will keep the company in Akron, although what happens down the road could have an influence.

“I grew up in Akron,” he said. “I’m excited about growing a successful company in Akron. I have pride in growing a company here.”

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