German Village Gazette

'Concierge' will work to serve small businesses

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Ryan Schick is trying to unravel the sticky red tape that entangles so many people looking to start up a small business in Columbus.

The city's new "small business concierge," a newly created position in the Department of Building and Zoning Services, says his first order of business is to create a web-based central clearinghouse for startup owners, with information such as how to incorporate a business, zoning regulations, building codes and where to file the appropriate paperwork.

"What we're going to do is give them the road map of what they have to do," Schick said.

Streamlining the process ultimately will save the little guy money and frustration.

"A lot of cities are looking for the major (capital) companies," he said. "But they can move out at moment's notice."

Often overlooked is the nurturing of small businesses, which are the backbone of American industry and employ about half of the workers in the United States.

John Ivanic, spokesman for Columbus City Council, said city and business leaders have been discussing long-term small business development since 2011. Since then, council has spent more than $5 million on small-business initiatives.

"This is an investment to fight for every job, to help small business create positions in Columbus," he said.

Columbus has had its share of emerging homegrown success stories, such as Sweet Simplicities, Team Chipmunk and Seven Studio. And the city has programs that help foster small business growth, but it's never had a point person.

"It was being done but it wasn't being done at the pace modern entrepreneurs require," Schick said.

Schick, who's paid $72,000 annually, is an assistant director of the Department of Building and Zoning Services. He also will serve as policy ombudsman for the city.

"They want to know what's working, what's not and what they can change," he said.

Once the website is running efficiently, he plans to assist with current innovation assessments being conducted by the city. That could include educational seminars, development of business incubators or accelerators, and other ways to expedite the development of new small businesses, he said.

Schick's background is in journalism, having worked for Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post and Conde Nast. He then was hired as international assignment editor for Polaris Images and then director of strategic initiatives at Redux Pictures, where he managed budgets and staff, and created economic opportunities for the business.

He and his wife, Laura, who grew up in Bexley, moved to Columbus in 2010 after Schick was accepted to law school. Meanwhile, she accepted a job as senior merchant and brand manager at Lane Bryant. He graduated from Capital University Law School in 2013.

Most recently, he worked on the campaign to support the proposed property tax by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which failed 70 percent to 30 percent on the May primary ballot.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., he had visited Columbus many times over the years with his wife. From those visits, he got a different perspective of the city.

"I was excited about Columbus not just for the opportunities it presented for my wife's job, but the choice of two strong law schools," he said. "Additionally, I loved that Columbus was the center of a strong manufacturing state and, every four years, the center of the political universe."

The Schicks, along with their son, Henry, live in Bexley.

 

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