CNBC series from LeBron James looks to give financial bounce to Cleveland

B. Bonin Bough’s the host of the new CNBC series “Cleveland Hustle,” which was created by LeBron James’ production company.
B. Bonin Bough’s the host of the new CNBC series “Cleveland Hustle,” which was created by LeBron James’ production company. Duane Prokop/CNBC

If the new CNBC series “Cleveland Hustles” had been about the ups and downs of basketball, then LeBron James would have been the perfect host. The NBA superstar and his business partner, Maverick Carter, are behind the new reality TV series.

Because the show is about entrepreneurs trying to find local, national and international financial success with their product while revitalizing a Cleveland community, the production team turned to visionary business leader B. Bonin Bough as the host.

Bough is the chief media and eCommerce officer at Mondelēz International, one of the largest snack food companies in the world. He’s the leader in partnering startups with brands and executed the first-ever branded campaigns with Instagram, Foursquare and Radian6. He’s a member of the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement.

The business whiz was drawn to the new CNBC project because it starts at a ground zero place.

“What’s great is that by investing in small businesses that are willing to build storefronts in neighborhoods that are up and coming, you can actually have tremendous impact on the community,” Bough says. “What I realized is that I know a lot about taking a business and making it really big. Imagine how much real economic impact we can have. I don’t think people realize how important small businesses are to the vitality of our economy.”

It’s that element that Bough says separates this series from other shows. At the core of “Cleveland Hustles” is economic development and revitalization.

That starts with a handful of people with a dream. The eight Cleveland-based entrepreneurs who will be featured on the program include: Old City Soda, Sean Adkins and Mike Gulley; Randy’s Pickles, Andrew Rainey; Styles of Success, Chareen Fountain; The Cleveland Bagel Co., Geoff Hardman and Dan Herbst; The Proper Pig, Ted Dupaski and Shane Vidovic; Groundswell, Anne Harnett; FOUNT, Jaclyn and Phillip Wachter; and Akron Honey Co., Brent Wesley.

The business owners will be able to get up to $200,000 from four investors to create a pop-up store. The investors are: Kumar Arora, CEO Aroridex Ltd.; Kathy Futey, Certified Private Wealth Advisor; Alan Glazen, founder of GlazenUrban LLC/Neighborhood Developer; and Jonathon Sawyer, Team Sawyer Restaurant owner.

All of the money will be spent in Cleveland’s Gordon Square, an area of the city in dire need of a boost. Bough says a person can stand in the middle during the day and not see a single person.

Bough was approached to host the series, but he says the project has become much more than that for him. He’s taking it very personally. Many of the entrepreneurs have become his friends. Bough’s spent many nights trying to come up with strategies and plans to help the participants as much as possible.

“When I think about this show in comparison to other shows, at the end of the day, we are helping the entrepreneurs and revitalizing the community,” Bough says. “I like to help people transform.”

And, that transformation may grow. The show will be a model for similar series based in other cities. All that needs to happen is for the Cleveland entrepreneurs to rock enough for the show to roll out across the country.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Cleveland Hustles

  • 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, CNBC