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E City and the Cleveland Botanical Garden Program

On June 18, 2002 E City began its first official program working with 9 select students of the Green Corps. John Zitzner, Founder and President of E City, taught the inaugural class which concluded on August 22 with a business plan competition. Seven students participated in the business plan competition. The first place winner, Marla Spates, was awarded $150.† The second place winner, Christopher Branch, received $100, and third place $50. The judges were so impressed with these students and their business plans that they personally provided an extra $50 to provide an equal award for the two students tied for third place: Elizabeth Ortiz and Beau Harris. The judges included local business leaders and members of the Cleveland Botanical Gardenís Board of Directors.

The purpose of the program was to teach business skills to these youths so they would be prepared to take on more responsibility in running the Ripe from Downtown Salsaô business. The course was a 60-hour course that ran for 10 weeks during the summer. The classes met twice a week for at least 3 hours per class. The students attended these classes in addition to their regular work which included growing herbs and fresh produce, selling their herbs and produce at local farmerís markets, and the production and selling the 2002 batch of Ripe from Downtown Salsaô.

These classes were free of charge for the students thanks to generous grants from the Cleveland Foundation and funding from the Cleveland Botanical Garden. During the course of the class, each student opened a checking account with National City Bank. They were given a $50 loan to purchase wholesale items with the intent of reselling them. The students were allowed to keep all profits made from their sales.

According to Maureen Heffernan, the Director of Special Projects for the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the collaboration between E City and the Cleveland Botanical Garden has been a "good marriage." The Cleveland Botanical Garden was looking for a business and entrepreneurial curriculum that would appeal to their city teenagers. The ultimate goal with the salsa business is to enable these youths to run the business. They want to empower them to move from the stage of growing the ingredients and selling the products to a point where the youths are able take ownership of the business.† With the help of E City, the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Green Corps youth are moving towards this goal.