Downtown Springfield Association offers grants to business owners to bring diversity to area

Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:30 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/Edited News Release) - The Downtown Springfield Association (DSA) is partnering with U.S. Bank to support diverse small business development through a new initiative called ASCEND – Advancing Springfield’s Commitment to Entrepreneurship, Networking & Diversity with resources specifically targeted for recruiting and empowering BIPOC business owners.

Through a new $25,000 grant made possible by US Bank, up to five BIPOC business owners will receive a grant to start their business in Center City Springfield.

Executive Director Rusty Worley says these five $5,000 grants will provide resources to BIPOC business owners in the center of Springfield, whether that be downtown or on Commercial street.

”Our business community is not represented sufficiently for that, so that’s something that’s been a priority for us for quite a while,” Worley says.

The grants will go to five different businesses that help fill gaps in those communities.

“We want to have a good mix of retail and restaurants and just see how what they’re proposing fits within the fabric,” Worley says.

The West Central Neighborhood, which is comprised of Springfield’s Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) and the residential neighborhood to the west and south of Downtown, is one of southwest Missouri’s most diverse areas with a 21% black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) population. However, that number goes down to 10% when looking across the Springfield city limits.

President of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, Kai Sutton, says this grant excited her because of the business opportunities it will bring to people of color.

“I think it’s really important for businesses, organizations, advocates and people within the community in general to seek out opportunities and to seek the people that need to be connected to those opportunities so that we can fill more of the gaps,” Sutton says.

According to the Downtown Springfield Association, the number of BIPOC owned businesses in downtown is even smaller still at less than 5%. The DSA is working to close these historical gaps through this new program.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is so important,” Sutton says. “To increase awareness about Black-owned businesses, especially bringing it to an area where it is not common for Black-owned businesses to be in this time right now and to thrive.”

Grants will be awarded by working with the identified needs of the new business and in conjunction with existing resources from the Springfield Finance & Development Corporation, City of Springfield and other community organizations. This grant program is limited to new and expanding businesses with storefront locations in Center City Springfield.

“Maybe go into product lines that they haven’t been able to do before,” Worley says. “Some of these businesses have likely been operating out of their house or online and they want to now graduate into a storefront.”

Recipients must commit to the following milestones for engagement:

  • Meet with representatives from US Bank and City of Springfield Loan Officer to explore financing options.
  • Complete one training program through the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at MSU and efactory to strengthenthe owner’s professional development (offered at no-charge to the award recipient).
  • Engage in one-on-one assistance provided at no-charge with the Missouri SBDC at MSU.
  • Attend one Minority in Business meeting to interact with minority business owners and advocates.
  • Meet with DSA Communications Manager to learn about leveraging Downtown communications.
  • Attend one DSA Mixer to connect with fellow Downtown business owners and stakeholders.

Additional optional support for the business owner provided by the efactory and Missouri SBDC at MSU:

  • Dedicated business consultant to assist with any business guidance needs (e.g. businessplanning, financial projections and assistance, strategic planning).
  • Office Hours – Access to professionals who want to help you and your business succeed (e.g.accountants, attorney, bankers, technology, government contracting).
  • Mentorship – Designed to provide honest and practical feedback based on personal experience,not just business theory.
  • 50% discount on further Missouri SBDC at MSU and efactory training programs.
  • Three 10-Day Coworking passes at the efactory.
  • 50% off conference room and meeting space reservations.
  • One year Downtown Springfield Association (DSA) membership.
  • One year Minorities in Business (MIB) membership.

The deadline to apply is April 29, 2022. All interested applicants can APPLY HERE.

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