This month's "Business Spotlight" is Ward 8 resident, Mike Belofi, and his company - Puzzle Creative Solutions

How did you get started? What made you want to start this business?

MIKE: Basically, I was the production manager for Power Media in Akron for 21 years. Upon that company dissolving, myself and a few select employees decided we liked what we do and started Puzzle to continue doing what we do. Puzzle is co-owned by two lifelong Akron residents. We are both graduates of Firestone High School. We hire Akron folks, because that's where we are from. 

What does Puzzle Creative do?

MIKE: The new industry catchphrase is "environmental graphics." In reality we machine, fabricate, and print props, large-scale graphics, and other materials to create a sense of place or experience. Think corporate trade show booths, custom activations for events like the upcoming NCAA Women's Final Four in Cleveland. Your experience at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza was likely designed and built by Puzzle right here in Akron. 

How long have you been in business?

MIKE: Since March of 2019.

If you could go back to the beginning of the business, what would you tell yourself?

MIKE: Probably nothing different. I would say we were lucky that we had already been in the industry so long we had a great customer base to build on. It was almost turn-key for us getting started. We were able to start this company without borrowing any capital. 

From your perspective, what is the business climate like in Akron?

MIKE: From my perspective, Puzzle has a lot of local customers we've been doing business with for a long time. Which is why we chose to stay in Akron. As a resident of Akron, I think it's sad to see a lot of small businesses struggle or fail. There doesn't seem to be enough jobs in Akron to support retail. Being a downtown Akron business, we've seen a lot of that. 

Thinking of downtown Akron, what would you like to see for the neighborhood?

MIKE: I guess it goes back to what I was saying...I would like to see more employment opportunities come back to downtown to help drive retail and entertainment businesses. It would be nice to see folks walking around downtown on a sunny day again. 

What is your favorite things about your business?

MIKE: We love what we do. We love our customers. We hire Akron folks. That's why downtown Akron works for Puzzle, it's central for everyone and everything we do. Puzzle needed a mix of industrial and office space and you can find that in downtown Akron.  People who come to visit us are quite surprised to see what we do here.