ACAP Press Release September 1, 2021


Brad Blair

Managing Director
Ashtabula Capital Access Program

Ashtabula Capital Access Program to provide opportunities and support for local entrepreneurs

September 1, 2021- Ashtabula, Ohio

The Ashtabula Capital Access Program has recently been established in order to provide a

full-service framework of support to local businesses. As a part of The New Entrepreneur Opportunity Fund (NEO Fund), ACAP is the next step in providing access to resources, funding, and educational tools that will strengthen the community through entrepreneurial enterprise. The New Entrepreneur Opportunity Fund provides training for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and builds the skill sets of the entrepreneurs of today.

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 had also made loans to small startup businesses.

In 2020, the role of the organization changed focus solely to entrepreneurial education. NEO Fund is now focused on training people that 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 Ashtabula Capital Access Program (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.

“ACAP is intended to become a conduit to the many current opportunities available to entrepreneurs in our county”, said Brad Blair, Managing Director of the newly formed small business development center, “and to fill in any gaps not currently available. I’ve been in contact with community partners including traditional banks, secondary lenders, Ashtabula County Growth Partnership, 503 Corp, libraries, local chambers of commerce, government officials, the Youngstown SBDC and others who might be interested in working with us to serve their clients.”

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 and ensure that the program participants are able to present a viable plan that has the potential to meet lending avenues.

According to Nate Rockwell, Neo Fund Board of Trustees member “As someone who is a personal testament to the power of micro-lending and business training, I am optimistic that the Ashtabula Capital Access Program (ACAP) 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.  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.  My fellow NEO Fund trustees and I are anxious to see the ACAP program succeed and to watch the spirit of our community grow as we work with our partners to empower the next generations of business owners.”

The goal of ACAP in the early days of its establishment have been 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 the communities that they serve. ACAP will also 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 as well.

Jim Hockaday, Conneaut City Manager shared that “One of the most difficult things for new entrepreneurs to do is find access to capital for a variety of different needs. Whether that is working capital, a building loan, or equipment, navigating one’s way into the traditional lending process can be daunting. By establishing a one-stop process for new entrepreneurs, this will go hand in hand with NEO Fund’s successful educational programs and help to break down the barriers to new business access.”

NEO Fund has continually offered training courses in regional hubs across the County, such as Ashtabula, Conneaut, and the Geneva area.

 “New entrepreneurs often don’t have established banking relationships, and this process will help to build those and help to establish a wider understanding of the professional services available to support small business,” said Hockaday.

To learn more about ACAP, please visit