Rich Heldenfels


The second installment of Cleveland Hustles ventures into Akron.



The CNBC series, whose executive producers include LeBron James, has focused mainly on Cleveland businesses wooing investors and hoping for a retail space in the city’s Gordon Square neighborhood.



But Wednesday’s episode includes Akron Honey Co., which sells honey and related products generated from its local apiary.



It’s special because of its location — which is, after all, James’ hometown. “I actually thought there would be more Akron businesses because it’s LeBron’s thing,” said Brent Wesley, founder and owner of the honey business. “And LeBron is that guy from Akron.”



Echoing many Akronites, Wesley said, “Without Akron, Cleveland wouldn’t have a [NBA] championship.”



And being Akron’s representative, he said, “I had to perform. I couldn’t be a dud.”



In each telecast, one of four investors focuses on two companies before deciding which one to help finance. The latest episode pits Akron Honey Co. against Fount, a maker of quality leather goods, with each asked to set up a storefront in Gordon Square in 72 hours and meet a sales goal.



It’s already been announced that Fount gets a deal with restaurant owner Jonathon Sawyer. But a couple of twists precede that conclusion.



And there were some twists to Wesley’s participation in the show.



Also known as Wesley Bright (and so called on Cleveland Hustles), Wesley said the show approached him about including his company. “I thought at first, wow, it’s a pretty good opportunity,” he said. “You get some money to further your career, to further your cause. Then I started thinking about more things … and before being filmed I contacted them and said, ‘I’m going to have to pass.’?”



The investment deals vary depending on the company, and in Akron Honey’s case, Sawyer’s $100,000 would come in exchange for 25 percent of the company. Wesley balked at giving up any ownership.



But a few weeks later, he said the show was in touch again and pointed out the TV exposure that would come, as well as the opportunities for support and guidance from an investor. He was then persuaded to join, even for something grueling that involved time apart from his family and predawn trips from Akron to the Cleveland location.



“I just needed somebody to talk to me and reassure me that it’s a good opportunity … that it was something that would be beneficial to what I do,” he said. “I didn’t know how it was going to pan out, but I realized quickly that it was a good thing.”



Once he was in, he said, “Obviously it was a very exciting process to know you’re on the fast track … and you have all those winners around you who are going to help and assist you.” (Besides Sawyer, Wesley got advice from the show’s host, businessman Bonin Bough, and from entrepreneur Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ business partner and friend.)



“It felt great knowing that I had a system set up that was designed really to help out,” he said. He learned that sound business was about “focusing your efforts towards the most optimal task, the most optimal thing — the right product to focus on, and who you should be offering it to.”



Akron Honey just launched a line of skin care products, and Wesley said that came from things he learned doing the show: While the company had offered more than honey for some time, it needed to make that better known. From what he called a microscopic focus on his business, he is looking well beyond Akron, seeing “what’s actually possible.”



Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal, Ohio.com, Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.