Local Business Growth with Paul Revere Network.

The sky is not falling in. If more local business owners with Paul Revere networks step up and volunteer to help, we can grow more successful businesses here in the Midwest. One example is OnShift.

I've read a great deal of commentary about how Northeast Ohio startups have recently departed for California or other greener pastures to expand their businesses.

Speaking from my experience of assisting in the launch and growth of successful businesses in the Midwest for over 30 years, I can assure you that this phenomenon and issue is anything but new.

The challenges that Midwest startups and growth businesses face change over time - but to a great extent they stay the same. That said, we need not gnash our collective teeth or clench our collective fists or throw up our collective hands every time a startup departs for California or another greener pasture.

We need more of the Midwesterners with Paul Revere networks to step up and volunteer their time to support entrepreneurs/startups/growth businesses. Then we can and will see a profusion of growth businesses just like OnShift in NE Ohio and throughout the Midwest.

Gather around and I'll share more details about how I used my Paul Revere network (my daughter told me I have one this past week, more on that later) and donated some of my time to support a technician and aspiring entrepreneur with a struggling startup by the name of Bazman, and to make it possible for Bazman to become the much touted OnShift.

What is a Paul Revere network?

I'm told it is a broad network that spans different disciplines and that made it possible for Paul Revere to successfully organize the midnight ride, the Boston Tea Party, etc. (I had never heard of a Paul Revere network until my daughter told me this past weekend that I have one!).

Ten years ago I was contacted by Gene Groys, a technician who had built what could best be described as a Jewish networking business using different technologies all related to communication. He solicited my help to turn his "idea" into a successful business.

I spent a considerable amount of time with Mr. Groys, as did several others in my Paul Revere network, and we collectively transformed Bazman, a business with no revenue model and likely headed nowhere, into Stafknex, a promising nursing home staffing platform. This was a time consuming and complicated process.

I don't believe anyone would have invested in Bazman, but with Stafknex we had something. (A special thanks goes out to Ron Copfer, a member of my Paul Revere network, for donating his time to help transition Bazman into Stafknex).

Next, knowing we needed capital to grow the business, I brought my University of Michigan Law School friend, former Benesch partner, and Paul Revere network member, the late David Inglis, into the mix. David and his friend Charles Stack (and other of their friends) invested. This was a critical step, a mountain most startups never climb.

David Inglis and Charles Stack then brought Mark Woodka into the picture, and he has since replaced Mr. Groys and is today President of Stafknex (which is now known as OnShift).

I thought that Jumpstart might back Stafknex, so I referred Mr. Groys (over his objections, as he thought it would take too long and he would raise money from third parties much faster) to my Paul Revere network member Ray Leach and his team at Jumpstart. Long story short, Jumpstart invested.

Thereafter, I referred Mr. Groys (again over his objections) to North Coast Angel Fund. My friends (and Paul Revere network members) Clay Rankin and Todd Federman and the crowd at NCAF also invested (as did, if I recall correctly, my friend and Paul Revere network member John Huston and his crowd at Ohio Tech Angel Fund).

Thereafter, with the ball now really rolling, I referred Mr. Groys to Jonathan Murray of Early Stage Partners and Mike Stubler of Draper Triangle, both friends and members of my Paul Revere network, and both invested (through their venture funds). Others did also.

In more recent years I referred longtime friend and Paul Revere network member Michael Mocanu to OnShift, and he has assisted.

Entrepreneurial success is possible right here in our midst if only more Midwesterners with Paul Revere networks step up and volunteer their time to help and support these young businesses, as I did with Gene Groys and OnShift.

OnShift, just one of the many businesses I've personally helped launch, is proof positive of how this can work and that it really is possible!

In closing, I invite any readers who feel that they have Paul Revere networks to contact me directly so that we might get to know one another and cooperate for the benefit of our region.

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Benjamin Calkins

Benjamin Calkins

Ben Calkins is a well-educated, top-rated, and highly experienced business law attorney.

Ben Calkins is an honors graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School. After law school, he clerked for a Federal Judge before joining one of the World’s largest law firms, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Mr. Calkins has also worked at, and been a partner in, several of the most prominent “old style law firms” in the World.