The Mentor: Cathy Belk, President, JumpStart

Diversity and inclusion have always been critical pieces of JumpStart’s mission.

Cathy Belk, president of the Cleveland-based investment nonprofit, believes expanding those opportunities will help Northeast Ohio blossom into a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Belk said JumpStart’s commitment to diversity starts internally. Women comprise 60% of the nonprofit’s staff and play a significant role among board leadership.

The group’s “embedded inclusion” model builds upon these efforts by seeking out talented women and minorities as potential hires or board members.

“We don’t have quotas for recruitment, but we’re very intentional about outreach,” Belk said.

“A diversity of backgrounds and thinking makes for a robust work environment.”

As president, Belk spearheads JumpStart’s overall operations, managing external relationships with funders and partners, leading the marketing and development departments and heading up the group’s consulting activities with community leaders across the country.

In her seven years with the organization, she has worked in other management positions including chief operating officer and chief relationship officer.

The Shaker Heights resident is JumpStart’s first female president to serve over all levels of the organization.

Belk, promoted to the position in January, has spent a portion of her career mentoring and developing professional women, as well as finding women in the community to give back as mentors, coaches and leaders.

“I make sure to spend individual time with everyone on my team,” Belk said.

“Being accessible and a good listener are both important.”

The newly minted nonprofit president is merely paying forward the advice she received during 15 years in the corporate world, she said.

Wisdom from a senior staff member at The Coca-Cola Co. still resonates in Belk’s talks with young JumpStart employees.

“Big projects are overwhelming, so take small bites and chew thoroughly,” Belk said. “Get through the work that enables you to stay energetic and rejuvenated. I use this advice every day.”

Read the full story at Crain’s Cleveland Business.