Next City: Can Charleston Learn From Cleveland’s Support of Small Business Entrepreneurs?

Born and raised in Cleveland, Diane Linston knew she wanted to work in fashion since she was 14 years old.

“It started in home economics class in junior high school,” she remembers. “In one part you learn how to cook. For me, that didn’t go well. But my teacher, when she showed me how to take fabric and turn it into this or that? My teacher saw that I had a passion. She put a lot of effort into helping me.”

Linston had found her calling. She nurtured it as best she could, through high school and starting college at Virginia Marti College of Art and Design, in nearby Lakewood, Ohio. Two kids and 11 years later, she finished her degree, in 1998.

Within a year, she founded her own label, Styles of Imagination, which still does all its own design and manufacturing in Maple Heights, a Cleveland suburb. You can shop for her work online or in 21 independent retailers in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Atlanta or Chicago.

Six years ago this week, Linston was going into brain surgery for a rare neurological condition. Two years ago, a surprise blood clot nearly took her life. So Linston estimates 2016 was her best year yet, thanks in part to a huge order she got this past summer. To fill it, she got a working capital loan from the newly created Capital Access Fund of Greater Cleveland.

“If I had not gotten this loan, I probably would not have been able to meet the demand for this order,” she says. “We bought fabric, got people to help, got order out to client in a timely manner and we already paid back the loan.”

The Capital Access Fund of Greater Cleveland is a partnership between the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund (NUL-UEF), Morgan Stanley, the National Development Council (NDC), Urban League of Greater Cleveland (ULGC), and Cuyahoga County.

The $8 million fund plans to make around 50 loans over the next three years, as well as offer pre- and post-loan counseling to ensure the success of its small business borrowers. Borrowers must come through ULGC’s Entrepreneurship Center, and will get additional technical assistance from NDC. The capital for the initiative comes from Morgan Stanley and Cuyahoga County…

Read the full story at

Follow the author on Twitter @oscarthinks