Mar 05

WIR’ED Teams Make Progress in Improving Business Visibility

Students, shopkeepers, and marketing pros continue their work

CLEVELAND – Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope’s Richard Barnes is only 25-years old, but he feels like a kid again.

“I’m having a blast,” Barnes said.

Barnes and NOAH, along with seven other small businesses in Old Brooklyn and East Cleveland, are part of WIR’ED, an initiative that pairs Cleveland Metropolitan School District and East Cleveland Schools students with local shopkeepers to increase their businesses’ online presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They make me feel relevant again,” Barnes said “The team is doing a great job giving me great advice. I’m keeping my ears open and listening to what they say so we can keep moving the ball forward.”

NOAH and the rest of the WIR’ED teams gathered online for a general progress meeting to discuss their work in the program’s second pilot. The meeting gave the teams an opportunity to review progress and hope for the project.

Mel McGee, founder of We Can Code It and WIR’ED’s resident emcee, kicked off the meeting by reviewing the weekly surveys students complete to document their progress and discussing steps teams have taken.

Bill Kap Piano continues to broaden its audience

East Cleveland’s Bill Kap Piano is partnered with Halima Mohamed, a student at Lincoln-West School of Science and Health; Moises Tuyas, a student at Cleveland School of the Arts and Todd Franko, director of local sustainability and development at Report for America. Mohamed and Tuyas reported that Bill Kap has a need for more customers and more sales. To achieve that goal, Mohamed and Tuyas plan to tie the business’s web site to various social media platforms and teach Kap staff how to manage the platform. 

“We spent a lot of time learning about ourselves and our skill levels,” Franko said. “So we’re going to zero in on Canva creations and Facebook upgrades. The other thing we’re trying to avoid is making Facebook only look better, but not necessarily working on the audience that comes to Facebook. The business has a big instructor base, and we don’t think that they match its Facebook participation.”

Tuyas also talked about how his participation in WIR’ED has helped to clarify his career pathway as he approaches graduation. “I’m a junior, and I’m trying to find out what I want to do for college,” Tuyas said. “But I have found that this business, it’s kind of tough, but it’s a thing that I like, and I’ll consider it more when it’s time to choose what to do in college.”

David’s Challenge Young Achievers creates new content

McGee said the team guiding David’s Challenge Young Achievers is working to create a brochure, social media content and web site. Faith Dickens, president and chief executive officer of David’s Challenge, reported that her team has created a new logo and is working on preparing the business’ brochure.

“I like the energy and excitement of the students,” Dickens said. “They definitely stay on top of me.”

Jayshon Austin, a sophomore at John F. Kennedy High School, said he’s been working to make sure David’s Challenge’s web site is operating properly. Austin’s teammate, Shaw High School junior Jalecia Claytor, has been working on the business’ brochure and has created its logo.

East Cleveland Neighborhood Center expands its audience

Garrett Morgan School of Leadership & Innovation freshman Nyla King, who is working with East Cleveland Neighborhood Center Director Jerome West, talked about her team’s work to expand digital presence to a younger audience through platforms like Instagram and TikTok. “People don’t usually look at ads a lot, so I’ve been thinking about how we can attract younger people,” King said.

Gus’s Old Brooklyn Family Restaurant rolls out QR codes

Restaurant owner Nick Smertsidis reported that with the help of his team, Stacy Hernandez, a student at Garrett Morgan, and Kimberly Rodriguez, a student at Facing History New Tech High School, he has developed an Instagram post, complete with a QR code link, for new menu specials.

Historical Society of Old Brooklyn gets a new logo

Students Ryckia Sutton, a junior at the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, and Abdullahi Muhamed, a junior at the John Marshall School of Information Technology, reported that they’ve made progress in preparing the museum’s online collection, creating social media accounts, and developing a new logo for the Historical Society.

JDL Treat and Flower Shoppe learns about hashtags

Students Kellan Bryson Terrell, a junior at Cleveland East Tech High School, and Shiane Clark, a freshman at James Ford Rhodes High School, discussed their plans to revamp JDL Treat and Flower Shoppe’s web site, create fliers and cards and establish Google business advertising accounts.

“We’ve been talking about fixing the web site, preparing fliers, and getting the business out there more,” Terrell said.

And Clark noted she has been researching hashtags to determine the best strategy for increasing the business’s audience on Instagram. “We want to use the most viewed hashtags,” Clark said.

Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope creates new banners

The NOAH team, with students Kayla Brown, a senior at Facing History New Tech, and Navaeh Hagens, a junior at Shaw High School, reported on its plan to create a web site banner and Facebook cover, and its goal to attract both kids and adults through social media.

“Each of us decided to create designs and take a different approach,” Brown said. “They’re trying to decide which one they like the best. Once they decide on the one we’re going with, we’re going to use that to theme the rest of what we do from here on out.”

Conceived in March 2020 by NeoSTEM, with support from others, WIR’ED seeks to respond to the needs of brick-and-mortar businesses with little or no online presence struggling to operate in the increasingly socially distanced and online world triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and Case Western Reserve University partnered to provide funding for the project.

Businesses participating in the second pilot project are Bill Kap Piano, David’s Challenge Young Achievers Ohio, the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center, the Falafel Café, Gus’s Old Brooklyn Family Restaurant, the Historical Society of Old Brooklyn, the JDL Treat and Flower Shoppe, and the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope.

Business owners, students, and marketing advisors will continue to meet weekly with a project completion date of March 22, 2021.

Meeting date: February 22, 2021