After hanging up her badge five years ago, former Cleveland police officer Amparo Vega knew a relaxing retirement wasn’t for her. Instead, she decided it was time to launch a new career—as a founder and owner of her very own company.

In 2015, the Collinwood native founded Original Cleveland Watch Company, a designer of creative, colorful and customized wristwatches that showcase the talent of local artists. Her young company has already earned quite a remarkable accolade. Last year, Original Cleveland Watch Company was selected as the official wristwatch vendor of the Republican National Convention.

Amparo is also a graduate of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.

We recently sat down with Amparo to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and how the Core City program has helped her business thus far.

What inspired you to create Original Cleveland Watch Company? Where did the idea come from?
I’m a former police officer and while I was on the police force, I had a jewelry business on the side where I sold police-themed jewelry—such as badge rings and badge pendants. Being a big watch collector, I thought it just made sense to add watches to the line. So, I started Original Cleveland Watch Company.

What problem does your business solve?
Right now, I am targeting high schools that are constantly seeking unique and alternative fundraisers. I thought, why not do watches? Everyone has a high school ring, or maybe they don’t because they are very expensive—the cheapest high school ring out there is about $180. I’m selling my watches for $40. And not only am I selling the school watch, I’m giving back money to the school as well.

What do you think of the Core City: Cleveland program so far? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Anybody that’s an entrepreneur in Cleveland should know about JumpStart. They are a wonderful organization and it’s been a pleasure to be here. I’ve learned so much, and I would do it all over again.

The Impact Program has been a lot of fun, there’s been a lot of networking and it’s just been priceless—the amount of advice that you get for free. One of the most important things I’ve learned relates to market research. I found that it’s vital to do your homework as knowledge is going to be your key to success.

What are your future plans for your business?
I would like to one day have a storefront where people could actually come in and see the watches and see the quality, as opposed to only seeing them online or on my website.

We ask all the entrepreneurs we speak with to give us examples of failure or setbacks they experienced. Anything come to mind for you?
I’ve done pitch contests that I’ve lost, but it’s okay because I learn from each of those what I did wrong and I correct my mistakes, so hopefully when I do another one, I’ll have better success.

Watch Amparo’s elevator pitch for Original Cleveland Watch Company below. To learn more about the Core City: Cleveland program, click here.

Gloria Ware

Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.