Whether you're looking to start your first-ever business, or making a dream a reality, the opportunity is out there for women ove the age of 50 in Northeast Ohio. And one local group is making it happen for women like Pat Bennet.

Pat has a dream to get her hand-crafted granola on Northeast Ohio store shelves. A dream that started 20 years ago as a healthy snack for her son who was a student athlete and Pat says she made sure they had plenty of it, “It went everywhere. It went to sporting events, it went in lunch boxes, it went to church, it went wherever we went. And what you see today is what I have of this product.”

But now she says what started as healthy mission for her family, is a business goal. “Someone who just starts with an idea and they’re able to just write it down on paper and get it down as a business plan, that can be counted as a success.”

So Pat joined the E-C-D-I, which stands for Economic Community Development Institute, Business Cohort in the fall, and just 8 weeks later is getting ready to market her crunchy cooking online and in stores. Plus, she says she's got a definite advantage, “We have a cohort of women, 10 to 15 women, who are age over 50 who are looking to grow businesses. And a little known fact is that women over 50 are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.”

E-C-D-I runs a program specifically for area women 50 and older looking to launch a business. And members say they've seen it all, even getting area homeless women off the streets and into a kitchen of their own. E-C-D-I leaders say the program helps women tap into their own experiences to help shape their dream. “A lot of who are here always have a passion. So they come here and they have a story of why they’re starting their businesses. I would say 9 out of the 10 women that come here, they have a story or something has happened and are looking to improve something, and it’s always about their journey and they want to start a business out of it.”

Pat's next steps are getting her necessary licenses, and eventually finding a commercial kitchen to work out of. And, she says that even though she finished the E-C-D-I program, the people she met are still helping her now. “These are my village. These are the people who supported me, and I supported them. We’re friends."

To learn more about the E-C-D-I program, visit their website.