Jason Duff, BSBA ’05, is a forward-thinking entrepreneur who focuses on what is possible, not what is. His outlook has not only led to his success, but also propelled him to invest in the future of his alma mater, Ohio Northern University.
Duff is the owner of multiple businesses, including the innovative Small Nation, a company that “develops places, spaces and dreams for small towns and small-town entrepreneurs across the country,” according to the Small Nation website.
At ONU, he majored in management and found a creative outlet in ONU’s music ensembles, including the Men’s Chorus and the University Singers. He still values the well-rounded education he received at ONU, and the relationships he forged with professors and classmates.
His desire to ensure that future students receive similar opportunities to explore music, academics, research and more, is what spurred him to contribute to the Forward Together campaign. His pledge will support ONU music programs and the Northern Fund, which provides critical annual support for the people, programs and experiences that make ONU special.
Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Duff learned early on the importance of hard work and investing in local communities. After graduating from ONU, he established Community Storage & Properties, a self-storage company, and COMSTOR Outdoor, an outdoor media company with more than 400 billboards in Ohio and Indiana. The success of these two businesses enabled him to tackle his passion project: the revitalization of Bellefontaine, Oh-io.
Duff has always believed in the power of small, even though the trend in recent decades is toward big—big companies, big box stores and big cities. He founded his company, Small Nation, to breathe life back into declining small towns.
In just 10 years, Duff and his Small Nation team renovated more than 56 historic buildings and storefronts in downtown Bellefontaine. These buildings, which had been sitting empty for decades, now house restaurants, loft apartments, and retail stores, creating a vibrant downtown scene.
Now, while continuing his work in Bellefontaine, Duff and his team are helping other small towns across the U.S. undertake similar revitalization projects.
In the nearly two decades since he graduated, Duff has also stayed closely connected to his alma mater. He received the William L. Robinson Young Alumni Award from ONU in 2008 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from ONU in 2014. He is also serving as a member of ONU’s Board of Trustees. His Small Nation team has hosted ONU student groups for tours of downtown Bellefontaine to explain the town’s history and revitalization efforts.
“Jason wholeheartedly believes in giving back and in building community,” said Shannon Spencer, vice president for advancement. “Through his engagement with ONU, he strives to ensure that ONU students have access to amazing opportunities to explore, create and grow. We are so grateful for his commitment to the Forward Together campaign. His gift will truly make a difference in the opportunities we provide students today and in the future.”