October 25, 2021

Cleveland’s startup community becomes more vibrant every year, as evidenced by the variety and ingenuity of the entrepreneurs in our list of  54.

There are tavern owners and surgeons, a founder of a soul food grill and a CEO of a boutique hotel group, a university professor and a president/founder of a company that makes bags to store and preserve cannabis. There is a founder of a business offering financial solutions for those with student debt, and a woman who started a recovery center that has been recognized by the White House.

This group reflects the developments in business thinking post-pandemic and represents the newer business approaches that could help grow and sustain the area. 

Ideas are limited only by imagination and personal drive. One media group delivers marketing materials in graphic novels, comic books or animation. Add a business sense and real-time marketing, and the picture these 54 entrepreneurs paint of the local economy becomes vibrant and forward-thinking. No longer do new ideas that draw seed money and private equity investment reside only in Silicon Valley.

The boundaries are wide when the only limit is the mind of an individual.

Thomas Lawrence

Principal and owner
GPI Design

GPI Design is a Cleveland engineer-build firm that creates iconic features, from translucent surfaces to structural framing to complex lighting systems. At the helm is Thomas Lawrence, whose expertise in expressive signature work has brought GPI’s concepts to clients in 40 states and 10 countries.

For two decades, Lawrence has focused his efforts on the design and engineering of backlit feature walls, ceilings, bars, reception desks and additional aesthetic delights. Among the company’s award-winning projects is the Franklin Square lobby renovation in Washington, D.C., and illuminated art along the Scotiabank Bridge in Toronto. While the last 18 months have been challenging, GPI has engaged in design and completion of 10 full-scale projects.

The firm has been showered with awards for its recent work, according to the nomination. These honors include:

  • The BUILD 2021 Home Builder award for best lighting engineering and build firm.
  • The LIT lighting design award for best health care lighting of 2020.
  • The BLT Build Design Award.

“Tom has a keen eye for detail and an uncanny ability to lead and advise both the creative and the operational side of GPI Design,” the nomination said.

 — Douglas J. Guth

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