New retail lab aims to launch, support new downtown businesses

Kate Rivers, owner of Twist Cupcakery at 25 S. St. Clair St., started her downtown Dayton business 5 years ago as part of the Downtown Dayton Partnership Activated Spaces program. The DDP’s new Retail Lab program aims to take downtown business owner’s ideas to the next level in order for them to open their own storefronts. Contributed photo

The Downtown Dayton Partnership will host a 12-week retail lab to help small businesses launch, grow and establish in downtown Dayton.

Selected applicants will take part in online workshops and receive financial and creative support from partners of the lab, such as The Entrepreneurs Center, the Miami Valley Small Business Development Center, Launch Dayton and more.

“The Retail Lab really builds on the success of the pop-up shop program,” said AJ Ferguson, economic development manager at the partnership. “(It) brings the focus even further to providing resources to entrepreneurs who are either already down here or trying to find their way into the downtown market.”

The Downtown Dayton Partnership’s goals for the lab are energizing downtown and supporting women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

According to the Ohio Office of Advocacy, the number of minority-owned small businesses increased by 48.9% from 2007 to 2012.

“Our whole community is more thoughtful than ever on the barriers and challenges facing entrepreneurs of color or women in business,” Ferguson said. “It’s become a priority for the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem, and we will internalize that in the retail lab.”

Scott Koorndyk, president of The Entrepreneur Center, said the center is providing entrepreneurial training and financial support to the lab.

“We really view this as a stepping stone for these great entrepreneurs to take their concepts into the community,” Koorndyk said. “(Local businesses) are critically important to the vibrancy of our community, so we just want to give participants in this program that heads up and that push and provide a lot of great support to them.”

Participants of the lab do not have to pay for the experience and are also eligible for up to $2,500 worth of professional services over the course of the workshops.

Ferguson said this workshop was in the works well before the pandemic, but added that sessions will be held virtually often.

“Now more than ever with the challenges of (coronavirus) we need bold, visionary entrepreneurs to really step up and create these great concepts and these great opportunities for the community,” Koorndyk said.

“Really simply, we want (the participants) to be more successful than they would have been just trying to get by on their own,” Ferguson said. “Through this intensive program, the participating business is going to leave more aware of the resources that are at their fingertips.”

Applications for the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab will be accepted through July 14, with the program slated to begin in August.

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