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Students wait their turn to present their business plans.

One hundred percent
of the shots you don't
take don't go in. 

- Wayne Gretzky



E City and The Cleveland Botanical 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. (See their plans!) 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 Garden’s 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 Salsa™ 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 farmer’s markets, and the production and selling the 2002 batch of Ripe from Downtown Salsa™. 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.

Green Corps & Ripe from Downtown™ Salsa

The Green Corps is a group of almost 40 youths aged 14-18 who, among other things, produce the Ripe from Downtown™ salsa. The Green Corps is a job/training program for these youths.

In this program the youths learn about entrepreneurial gardening. They are responsible for growing many different types of vegetables and herbs. The Green Corps youths work in one of two inner-city gardens.  They also help in the production of the Ripe from Downtown™ salsa. The vegetables and herbs used to produce this salsa are grown by the Green Corps and local family farms. In the fall the youths help produce and bottle the salsa. They are also active in the marketing and selling of the salsa. Last year over 13,000 jars of salsa were bottled.

The Green Corps have opportunities to sell their salsa and vegetables at local farmer’s markets. One place to meet these youths is at the North Union Farmer’s Market located at Shaker Square. This market runs 8 am to noon on Saturdays from mid-April to mid-December.

In July of 2002 the Cleveland Botanical Garden hosted the national Ripe from Downtown™ symposium. The focus of this symposium was to bring together some of the best youth entrepreneur gardening programs to share their knowledge with others. John Zitzner, President and Founder of E City, was one of the keynote speakers for the symposium. He also taught a half-day pre-symposium workshop


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