ASHTABULA — A new service support program, the Ashtabula Capital Access Program, provides a full-service framework of support to local businesses.

As a part of the New Entrepreneur Opportunity Fund, ACAP is the next step in providing access to resources, funding and educational tools for entrepreneurs. The New Entrepreneur Opportunity Fund provides training for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and builds the skill sets of the entrepreneurs of today.

Brad Blair, managing director of the small business development center, said the ACAP is intended to become a conduit to the many opportunities available to local entrepreneurs and to fill in any gaps. He’s contacted community partners, such as banks, lenders and government officials who might be interested in serving clients.

“One of the most difficult things for new entrepreneurs to do is find access to capital for a variety of different needs,” Conneaut City Manager Jim Hockaday said. “Whether that is working capital, a building loan or equipment, navigating one’s way into the traditional lending process can be daunting.”

This one-stop process for new entrepreneurs will go hand-in-hand with NEO Fund’s successful educational programs, he said.

Since 2011, NEO Fund has focused on providing training for those interested in starting a new business in Ashtabula. As a part of the process of making the dream of business ownership a reality, NEO Fund loaned money to help small startup businesses.

In 2020, the role of the organization changed focus to entrepreneurial education. NEO Fund is now focused on training people who are interested in starting a new business and coaching small business owners that want to better manage and grow their business.

The Establishment of the ACAP is the next step in the process of supporting and furthering community development and job creation in Ashtabula County, through access to capital and development services.

As a subsidiary of NEO Fund, ACAP will be a service support program that guides participants through the startup process.

Once the individual has completed the establishment of their business plan and financial forecast, ACAP will work with them in order to mitigate any issues that may arise before meeting with lenders. ACAP will help ensure that the program participants are able to present a viable plan that has the potential to meet lending requirements.

Neo Fund Board of Trustees member, Nat Rockwell, owner of Briquettes Barbecue in the Ashtabula Harbor, provides entrepreneurs with his personal testament to the power of micro-lending and business training.

“I am optimistic that the Ashtabula Capital Access Program will be a powerful tool for helping today’s entrepreneurial hopefuls knock down the barriers between their vision and the lending necessary to make that dream a reality,” he said.  “Ashtabula County has a tremendous amount of promise for those interested in starting up a business, or taking over an existing one, because of its people.”

Rockwell said he and his fellow NEO Fund trustees are anxious to see the ACAP program succeed.

To start, the goal of ACAP is to focus on making regional lenders aware of not only the existing businesses in Ashtabula County, but of the potential and various economic development projects that are on the horizon for local communities.

ACAP also will serve as a value-added partner for lenders, with the ability to provide the coaching and support that new business owners may need in the early days of their lending relationships.

NEO Fund has continually offered training courses in regional hubs across the county, including Ashtabula, Conneaut and Geneva.

To learn more about ACAP, visit


Trending Video

Recommended for you