The Conway Center for Family Business was founded in 1998 to provide education, networking and recognition to the more than 6,000 family-owned businesses in Central Ohio. Family businesses are widely recognized as a powerful economic driver, generating more than sixty percent of this country’s Gross Domestic Product and seventy-five percent of private sector jobs.
Attorneys J. Richard “Dick” Emens and Beatrice “Bea” Wolper, together with family business owners, recognized the unique challenges family business leaders have in growing their businesses and transitioning them to the next generation. They established the not-for-profit organization to provide educational programs, peer groups, networking opportunities, and the region’s only annual awards program celebrating family-owned businesses and the benefits they bring to the Central Ohio economy.
The Conway Center offers membership opportunities for family businesses and those service providers with special expertise regarding family-owned businesses. The Center has an active Boards of Trustees and an Advisory Board comprised of family business owners, service providers and community leaders. The Conway Center family businesses have more than 20,000 Central Ohio employees; members range in size from firms with five employees to large family owned corporations employing thousands. A generous $1 million grant in 2007 by James R. Conway, the former owner of Marion Steel, and continuing support from the Conway family have helped the Center grow and expand programs and services.
The Conway Center is the region’s go-to resource for challenges and issues specific to family businesses, and is recognized nationally in business and trade publications. Its nine monthly educational programs include topics such as succession planning, case studies, and other business issues addressed from a family business perspective. The Conway Center also partners with Ohio Dominican University, which has hosted the Center since 2000, to offer an undergraduate course on family business management taught by Center Co-Founder, Bea Wolper.
The Annual Family Business Awards Program attracts more than 500 attendees and celebrates the success of small, medium and large Central Ohio family businesses. Achievements in succession planning, communication, community engagement, re-invention, and milestones are recognized.
The eleven peer groups allow family business leaders with common interests to share their experiences in small group settings and receive guidance from experts in family business practices. Peer groups include next-generation leaders, women in family business, CEOs, those interested in human resources and marketing/sales.
Networking opportunities include the Annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event hosted by a different Central Ohio family business each year; this event give members an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at their peers’ operations.
A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the Conway Center for Family Business provides educational and networking opportunities to family business owners and their employees to promote business success. To learn more about these programs, click here. And, to learn more about the benefits we offer members, click here.
The Family Business Center of Central Ohio is incorporated as a not-for-profit Ohio corporation. The founders include J. Richard “Dick” Emens and Bea Wolper.
First Family Business Awards Program is held at Ohio Dominican University (ODU). As of 2014, more than 150 awards have been presented to local family-owned businesses and distinguished family business leaders. The Center has two types of membership – Family Businesses and those organizations that provide services to family businesses, called Service Provider members.
Ohio Dominican University offers to host the Center and the offer is accepted.
The Center hires an Associate Director.
- The Center moves into campus office space provided by ODU.
- The first Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Anthony Thomas Candy Company.
- First Family Business Course is offered by the Business Department at Ohio Dominican University and taught by Bea Wolper and Dick Emens. Building, Operating and Passing on the Family Business is an undergraduate upper-class course for students who may have employment opportunities in a family-owned business, individuals who may be currently working in a family-owned company, or those who seek greater understanding of family business and entrepreneurship strategies and issues.
- The second Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Laser Reproductions.
- The Maish Scholarship/Family Business Endowed Scholarship at Ohio Dominican University is established by Judy and Tom Maish, on behalf of their family. Mr. Maish was a long-standing Advisory Board Member of the Center. The Maish Scholarship provides merit-based assistance to an ODU student whose family has a family business and who has demonstrated a desire to work in a family business after graduation.
- The Family Business Center creates its first peer group, Women in Family Business, for women in family-owned businesses. Bea Wolper, Center advisory board member and partner in the law firm of Emens and Wolper, LPA launched the first meeting with a presentation entitled “Are You Getting the Respect You Deserve? Professional Advice for Women Family Business Leaders.”
- Jeremiah Guappone, was selected as the first recipient of the Maish Family Business Scholarship. Kara Hamilton was the second recipient. The third and current recipient, chosen in 2012, is Michaela Liddane.
- The third annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at The Ohio Fire Academy, a construction project of Center member R.W. Setterlin Building Company.
- The Center moves into its current home — Las Casas House at ODU.
- James R. Conway, former owner of Marion Steel Co., pledges $1 million to the Family Business Center to support its continued efforts in helping Central Ohio family businesses grow, prosper and transition to the next generation.
- The fourth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Corporate Interior Concepts.
- Thaddeus O’Brien, PhD conducts the first Next-Generation Peer Group, giving younger family business members opportunities to explore personal and professional leadership issues in a safe and supportive environment.
- The name of the center is changed to the Conway Family Business Center of Central Ohio to honor and show appreciation for Mr. Conway’s generous gift.
- The fifth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at White Castle’s home office.
- The sixth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at the Charles Penzone Grand Salon on Polaris Parkway.
- The first Family Business Night at the Columbus Clippers event is held at Huntington Park.
- The first issue of The Family Business Communicator print newsletter is published and distributed to nearly 6,000 family businesses throughout Central Ohio.
- The Conway Center has more than 90 family business members ranging in size from 2 to more than 10,000 employees.
- The Center’s name is changed to the Conway Center for Family Business to more clearly reflect the focus and purpose of the Center.
- The seventh annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Artina Promotional Products in Powell.
- The 12th Annual Family Business Awards Program doubles attendance from 150 to 300 when it is changes locations and expands its recognition to include a Family Business of the Year.
- The Conway Center has grown to 100 Family Business members.
- The eighth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Ricart Automotive.
- The Center has 112 Family Business members.
- The Center’s website adds a Members Only section featuring educational materials, videos, and a member directory.
- The ninth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at A.D. Farrow Harley-Davidson.
- The Center has 134 Family Business members.
- The Center conducts its first Family Business Economic Outlook Survey.
- The tenth annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Donatos Pizza – celebrating Donatos’ 50th Anniversary.
- Attendance grows to 425 at the 15th Annual Family Business Awards. An Expo is added to the event to showcase members’ products and services. More than 50 companies participate in the first Expo.
- The Center has 152 Family Business members.
- Two new peer groups are added to meet the changing needs of members, bringing the total to 10.
- The Conway Endowed Family Business Scholarship Fund at ODU is funded this year and will support and encourage growth and succession of family businesses in Central Ohio. Starting in fall 2015, Ohio Dominican University will award the Conway Scholarship to one first-year student every four years as long as the student meets the requirements of the scholarship. The Conway Scholarship is made possible by a generous gift to ODU from the James Conway Family
- The first Conway Center Golf Outing is held at Little Turtle Golf Club. The event raised more than $10,000 to support educational programs at the Conway Center.
- The eleventh Annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Spartan Logistics.
- Attendance at the 16th Annual Family Business Awards & Expo reaches nearly 500 as business and community leaders come together to celebrate family businesses in Central Ohio. More than 50 companies participate in the Expo.
- The Conway Center has 168 Family Business members.
- The twelfth Annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services.
- Nearly 600 family business and community leaders attended the 17th Annual Family Business Awards & Expo. Over 60 companies participate in the Expo.
- The 2nd Annual Golf Outing sells out and gets rained out!
- The Center has 198 members.
- We added a Succession Planning 2.0 quarterly peer group and the CEO Peer Group split into East & West. Peer Groups continue to be the heart of the Center.
- The thirteenth Annual Family Business Tour and Networking Event is held at Highlights for Children as they celebrate their 70th Anniversary.
- The 18th Annual Family Business Awards & Expo continues to be very well received by family business and community leaders. The Expo generates high energy and excitement prior to the luncheon!
- The 3rd Annual Golf Outing has a record number of teams and much better weather!
- The Center has over 200 members.