Few local women, let alone an African American woman, have run a local business with over 20 employees and lectured statewide on the issue of minority business. But Hope Cooper did.
Hope was ambitious, very smart and a home-grown success story. She came from a local family that had run the Children’s Home on North 68 and initiated the business that Hope inherited decades ago. The business that was initially run out of her house moved to expanded space, which meant adding to the bottom line, the number of employees and new tasks.
Hope died over a year ago, but her contribution to the community lives on in the many lives she touched.
The business she ran was a local janitorial service and supply company which was started by her parents in 1977. She expanded the business to include industrial and commercial clients while adding residential services including lawn service and snow removal. The employees were primarily women and minorities.
The growth of the company was largely due to her research and knowledge regarding state and federal programs for minority businesses. As she indicated during one of her many public speaking engagements on minority businesses, “We did our homework and received jobs from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the National Weather Service, and for seven years, The Ohio State University.”
Her success as a businesswoman and entrepreneur resulted in the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), which trains people on how to secure contracts within the state, to request she begin speaking and educating others at seminars in Wilmington, Clinton County, and throughout the State of Ohio. (The PTAC is a nationwide government-sponsored organization with offices in every state.)
These seminars touched countless numbers of women and inspired minority business owners. Her mentorship of others, knowledge of minority business and excellent speaking skills enabled her to give her last speech here in Clinton County at Wilmington College in 2012.
She was also asked to participate in a hearing on “Civil Rights Issues Regarding Barriers to Entrepreneurship in Ohio.”
Her passion and knowledge caught the attention of Ohio Advisory Committee member and past president of the NAACP in Cincinnati, Edith Thrower, who commented, “I understand that small businesses are the back bone of this country … I appreciate your wisdom.”
This hearing resulted in a federal brief — “Civil Rights Issues Regarding Barriers to Entrepreneurship in Ohio” — that was released in January 2015.
Beyond her professional work, Hope played a very active role in the daily life of Wilmington. She was the freshman attendant to the Kingman High School homecoming queen in 1963 and graduated from Clinton-Massie High School in 1966, where she was active in the school choir and the Falconette drill team. She competed as a soloist at the state level during her junior and senior year, winning the award during her senior year.
While working as head secretary at Wilmington College, she also attended business classes.
She was especially committed to the Clinton County Homeless Shelter; as Director Denise Stryker indicated, “Hope was always a giving and caring person. Over the years, she made donations of clothing, household items, food and other gifts to help families living at the Clinton County Homeless Shelter. She also served on the board of the Center for several years. We are grateful for Hope’s leadership in the community and appreciate all that she has done to help others.”
Hope Cooper was not the kind of person who was inhibited by the expectations of the society in which she lived. She was strong, smart, determined and committed to making the world a better place for herself and those she encountered. She was a model for us all.