An entrepreneurial spirit runs in Javon Miller’s family.
His father, Jason Miller, owns a carwash and rental properties. His grandfather, Ernest Beck, owned a demolition company, bar and rental properties. And his great-grandfather, Glover Oatman, owned a construction company and grocery store and helped build up the Miles Heights area of Cleveland.
The Kent State rising junior has followed in their path, opening an entertainment and event venue space in January called Arize, located in the old Damon’s restaurant on state Route 59 in Portage County's Franklin Township.
“When I think of ‘arise,’ I think of people arising to new heights. The ‘S’ was already taken so I put in a ‘Z’ for something unique because that’s what I want the Arize experience to be,” said Miller, 20, of Maple Heights. “I wanted it to not just be a room, but an actual working and functional space where people can make their own with their event.”
Arize has already hosted about 40 successful parties and events, primarily for Kent State organizations and fundraisers. Arize is a dry venue, and Miller, the sole operator and CEO, said he is not actively pursuing a liquor license.
The space offers a dance floor, stage, flexible seating options, a pool table, a PS4, card games, flat screen TVs and security. Renters are responsible for their own catering, DJ, security and any other amenities they desire.
Arize, which he opened as a 19-year-old, is Miller’s second business. He started his first business — a hand-crafted pen business called Bovazi — as a senior in high school, and received advising and additional resources from Kent State’s LaunchNET, which offers support to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Prior to that he said, he was always looking for ways to make money by completing construction jobs and offering graphic design services. When he was 15, Miller participated in the Young Entrepreneur Institute’s Enspire Conference held at University School in Hunting Valley, where he pitched an idea for social media holograms to FUBU founder and “Shark Tank” regular, Daymond John.
“That was an affirmation to keep going with my ideas. Your ideas have value. You can do anything in this world if you put your mind to it, as long as it’s reasonable,” said Miller, who is part of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce.
Miller first thought of starting an event space in September 2018 when he realized that there was a lack of party space for the African American community around Kent State.
Miller said African American Greek frats and sororities don’t have houses to party in without without getting noise complaints or getting shut down. Additionally, he said apartment parties at Campus Pointe get shut down fast.
The other option was to go to Akron, but the 20-minute drive would be time consuming and expensive, and potentially dangerous, he said.
“God has blessed me to be in a position to get something started. This is space where not just African American fraternities and organizations can rent, but anybody in the Kent State community and local residents. It’s a space for people to have fun in a positive environment.”
With help from his father and two friends who invested, Miller spent the majority of his fall 2018 semester creating a business plan, getting his finances in order, meeting with the city and signing a lease agreement and updating the space. Simultaneously, Miller was working toward his psychology degree with an entrepreneurship minor, obtaining his life coach certification, working two on-campus jobs and continuing his work as a Christian ministry leader.
“I opened a business, had academics, family and life that I had t do all at the same time, but by the grace of God and a good, supportive community, I was able to do it.”
For more information on Arize, visit https://www.arizevenue.com.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.