Danielle Sydnor directs the regional office of Economic Community Development Institute, which includes the Women's Business Center. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Danielle Sydnor has helped a barber, a fitness coach and other would-be entrepreneurs as local head of the Economic and Community Development Institute. Among many volunteer roles, she chairs Eliza Bryant Village and was elected president this year of the Cleveland NAACP.
Cleveland creds: moved from Sacramento to Cleveland at age 13
Currently lives: Shaker Heights
Schooling: Heights High, University of Phoenix
Family: two teenage boys
Favorite locally owned restaurants: L'Albatros, Zanzibar
Sherolynn EA loan from the Economic Community Development Institute helped things start rolling for 1000 Lbs Lighter in Corlett, where Sherolynn Eppinger works as a trainer. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
What’s the institute about?
Danielle: ECDI is a statewide nonprofit organization that provides small businesses with lending, coaching and training. We don't exclude anybody, but we focus on underserved populations and those with challenges getting credit from traditional sources: low to moderate income, people of color, women, immigrants and refugees.
Often, our clients aren’t used to interacting for inspections and permits. In their homelands, if you have an idea today, you start a business tomorrow.
Who are some of your clients?
Danielle: We have a Somali restaurant, Kifaya's Kitchen, on the West Side. Besides helping her get a loan, we assisted Kifaya with understanding why it's important here to have a set menu.
ShaRon Johnson was working at Infamous Ones barbershop in Euclid. He came for a loan to buy the business, then a second loan to expand it for female stylists. He purchased a home for his family because of his success.
1000 Lbs. Lighter is a local gym in Corlett, a neighborhood that has very limited access to health fitness centers. He’s had some success.
Small businesses help neighborhoods thrive. You might get your first job there and springboard into larger organizations.
A fitness club is helping improve the health of residents and their neighborhood. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
Where do you get money to lend?
Danielle: We get loan dollars from the Small Business Administration, the city, Cuyahoga County, banks, foundations and elsewhere. We're part of the mayor's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and launched a pilot program at International Village.
How much do you lend?
Danielle: About $2 million per year in Northern Ohio. Our loans can start as low as $750 and go to $350,000.
The loan can be a difference between life and death for a lot of business owners. It doesn’t take a lot of money to get a business up and running. Ten thousand could buy you a piece of equipment and be the first few months of working capital.
What’s your personal territory?
Danielle: The northern third of the state. We have offices in Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Toledo. We have 10 staff.
Working at 7000 Euclid, how do you like Midtown?
Danielle: We're a bit of a food desert, but Dave's has brought a whole new world. We're not too far from downtown. It's nice to have a big, free parking lot.
ShaRon Johnson has used loans from ECDI to buy and expand Infamous Ones Barber and Beauty in Euclid. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
How’d you get into this line of work?
Danielle: When I was growing up in Sacramento, my parents started a printing company in our garage. I would work the front counter and help copy and things. I also made stickers and sold them. And I started selling candy at school until I got busted.
After we moved here, I went to college and worked at NCB, MBNA, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. I’ve been with ECDI since February, ’18.
How’d you get involved with the NAACP?
Danielle: My great-aunt Alice Huffman is on the national board.
Are you related to Cecelia Huffman, former clerk of Cleveland City Council?
Danielle: She's my great aunt.
ECDI is at 7000 Euclid. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
Anyway, about the NAACP?
Danielle: I joined in '12. The NAACP created a next generation leadership program. I was in the inaugural graduating class.
We are the largest civil rights organization in the country. We work to eradicate racism and fight for equality and equity and voting rights.
The Cleveland branch has about 1,800 members. We cover all of Cuyahoga County.
The branch had some election disputes and money problem a few years ago, right?
Danielle: Yes. George Forbes did a great job of fundraising. After he stepped down, there was a bit of waning of support 'til we got stabilized. But we've had a couple years of successful fundraisers. Last year, we had $325,000 in receipts.
We haven’t had an executive director since ’14. We have an administrative assistant. We’re looking to bring on someone for programs and policies.
What local issues are you tackling?
Danielle: The county jail. We believe the inhumane conditions are basic human rights violations.
We’re helping to promote Birthing Beautiful Communities. They’re helping babies make it to their first birthdays.
What are some other racial challenges here?
Danielle: A lot of schools are re-segregating. Even Shaker has pockets of segregation. And a study ranked Cleveland near last for minority business success.
The painting at ECDI's office is by Gary Clark. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
How'd you come to chair the historic Eliza Bryant Village for elderly African-Americans?
Danielle: I sold long-term care insurance. I was invited to have lunch at Bryant and take a tour. It struck a chord.
My grandma was in a long-term care facility. It’s really easy for us in a capitalist economy to forget about people that are no longer producers. Many of us who are going to make decisions for our loved ones are really ignorant about long term care. It’s important for us as a society to get aging right.
What about your Facebook page, “Dollars and Sense with Danielle?”
Danielle: From time to time, I'll post tips.
Danielle Sydnor says Cleveland's a tough town for small businesses. Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
In your free time?
Danielle: I like to enjoy the happenings in Cleveland. I go to Mix at the Cleveland Museum of Art. You'll catch me at food markets.
I get my nails done at JTM Beauty Bar in Shaker. The Cleveland Over Everything website has a lot of cool clothes.
I’m often at my sons’ sporting events. They own a small business, Suds Brewing Co. They make beer soap.
Do you like Cleveland on balance?
Danielle: Yes. The cost of living is wonderful, the access to water, the number of sports teams, the entertainment.
Cleveland is a very hometown-y city. And it has a sense of pride that is astounding.