COSE has been the leading small business expert organization in Northeast Ohio for over 40 years. Over the decades, COSE has grown to comprise thousands of members. The collective voice of its members allows COSE to offer cost-effective purchasing programs, advocacy on legislative and regulatory issues and networking and educational events to assist in the expansion of the small business community of Northeast Ohio.

The idea of a small business advocate organization began with the 1970 Ohio Trucker's strike. The strike involved over 10,000 Ohio truck drivers and paralyzed small businesses across the state, forcing many into bankruptcy. Prominent small business owner Edward H. Richard banded together 200 small business owners to apply pressure on political leaders to resolve the strike. Their demonstration against the strike, known as the “March on City Hall,” put the spotlight on small business and their need for one strong, unified voice. 

During the strike, Richard tried to start the Industrial Action Group (IAG) due to the lack of small business leadership in the Growth Association. The IAG was designed to be an organization that focused on protecting the rights of small businesses. The IAG was unsuccessful due to lack of interest once the truckers’ strike ended.

However, in 1972, Bill Jones, another successful small business owner, was appointed to oversee a committee whose main goal was to attract small business membership to the Growth Association. However, with some skillful diplomacy, Jones created a small business owner board and their own committees within the Growth Association. In July 1972, this board became known as the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). Original founders included Bill Jones, Edward H. Richard, Margaret Kahliff, Bob Rose, Dick Lezius, Jack Findeisen, Bob Shultz and George Bodwell.

Over the years, the organization began offering educational seminars, networking events and business advisors for members. As the number of opportunities increased with the organization, more small business owners saw the value of becoming a COSE member. 

Today, COSE is one of leading business expert organizations in the United States. Similar organizations across the country reach out to COSE to identify best practices when building their own development programs. COSE owns their role as the leading small business expert and continually works to improve the organization to better serve the needs of the members.