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eBay teaming with Warren for program to grow small businesses

Depending on how the Retail Revival pilot program goes, eBay could decide to bring a permanent office to Warren

Molly Reed - WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) - There's been a lot of talk about Amazon's possible future in Ohio, but another company is already moving in and trying to make its mark. eBay has chosen Warren and Akron to pilot its entrepreneurship program for small retail businesses.

If you love online shopping, you may start noticing some of your products coming from Warren.

Akron was actually the city chosen for eBay's new Retail Revival program. But while the company was touring the region, it was "so impressed" by Warren's retail businesses, that it decided to make it a satellite city for the project.

Fifty retail entrepreneurs between Akron and Warren are getting a chance to make their businesses thrive on a worldwide level.

"We want to help these small businesses that I met today who are selling fantastic products locally, but they want to sell those products to a billion customers globally," said eBay CEO Devin Wenig.

The company is bringing a team to Warren to train business owners on how to expand digitally through eBay, while also growing physically.

"It's a small business, they have two employees. Twelve months from now, will they have three, or four or six? That's success and that's how we'll evaluate," Wenig said.

Last year, Ohio businesses did a billion dollars in sales on eBay.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said it wasn't the money, though, that sold the company on coming here. It was the business owners the eBay team met.

"It was the energy, the attention to detail and just their enthusiasm for expanding their business and their entrepreneurial spirit," Franklin said.

Greg Bartholomew, owner of All-American Comics in Warren, is among those chosen for the program. He said while the process isn't quick, it is simple.

"You just need to be taught and if business expands from that way, then you might eventually need a bigger warehouse or more people working for you."

Along with the personal training, the company will create "meet-ups" for the owners to help each other with the digital transition.

Wenig hopes starting the program in the Mahoning Valley can help further transform the region from the "Rust Belt" to the "Tech Belt."

"You look at these bases like Detroit, like Akron, where there are great, smart people that are entrepreneurial and hungry, and now we're taking the next step, which is bringing them from the economy that was to the economy that is," he said.

Wenig said depending on how the pilot goes, eBay could decide to bring a permanent office to Warren.

Right now, it's only working with 50 small business owners. Some have already been picked, but eBay will work with the cities to choose others.

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