A nonprofit organization that seeks to provide entrepreneurs with resources and expertise to launch businesses is scheduled to open in April in Olde Pickerington Village.

After 11 years of working himself through college and operating his own software and marketing companies, Matt Yerkes established Cultivate in 2016 in Grove City.

Yerkes opened a second Cultivate office in London. On April 1, unless COVID-19 coronavirus concerns force a delay, he plans to open the Pickerington venture at 19 N. Center St., a space most recently home to Chef T's Pub.

In that 3,600-square-foot space, Cultivate will hold networking events for its clients to allow them to reach out to potential customers and partners, as well as to promote their new businesses.

The Pickerington location also will provide Cultivate clients with office space, meeting rooms and studios.

It also could serve as a place for new small-business professionals to receive business advice -- including how to develop business plans and financial projections -- to help them get started and grow their companies.

"We're a nonprofit," Yerkes said. "Our mission is to help these small-business owners start and grow their businesses.

"We are one of only a couple people in central Ohio that provide one-on-one business advising to help people validate and complete a business plan, or to meet with owners of existing small businesses to develop a growth strategy or look under the hood at their financials."

Yerkes, 48, said he's coming to Pickerington to fill what he believes is a void for area entrepreneurs who have good ideas for a business, but might not have all of the know-how to turn ideas or products into successful and sustainable businesses.

He said he plans to work closely with the economic development staffs of the city of Pickerington and Violet Township, as well as the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce.

Yerkes and Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Theresa Byers both said they hope to be able to help entrepreneurs succeed and have that success bear fruit locally.

"The chamber looked at the services that are available for the small-business community -- for that startup business or that very baby-phase business," Byers said.

"We found that there were really not a lot of programs available. The chamber has a lot of programs that benefit our members, but they're much higher level.

"For the businesses that grow and graduate from (Cultivate), our goal is to work with economic-development (departments) in the city of Pickerington, Violet Township and the chamber to find them office space within the Pickerington community.

"We want to keep our people here. We want to help our businesses get started and grow and keep them here."

In addition to a first-floor space to hold client's business promotion and networking events, Cultivate's office will feature small spaces and cubicles that will serve as business-incubator spaces for entrepreneurs who haven't yet opened their own offices or need working spaces outside their residences.

Yerkes said because the location formerly housed a restaurant, the site it lends well to providing client event space and opportunities for those with startup food businesses.

"We have a full commercial kitchen," Yerkes said. "We hope to make that available to what I call 'food-based makers.' Not like catering companies or a restaurant, but someone who has a food product that they need to manufacture in small batches. Think of someone like your next Cheryl's Cookies.

"We'll also have members here that don't necessarily need to have desk space, but they'll need meeting space."

Yerkes said he's eager to get started.

Clients will rent space and services on a monthly basis.

"They don't have to maintain any of this space like they would if they rented a private office somewhere," Yerkes said. "They get a lot of amenities, resources, for a couple hundred bucks a month or a few hundred bucks a month.

"I'm very passionate about entrepreneurship and that experience as a small-business owner. ... I know exactly what the small business owner is facing, those challenges, those hurdles they have to overcome. That's the street knowledge, basically, that I'm able to impart to them."

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