Starting a business in downtown Dayton? Retail Lab offering financial, advice help

Downtown Dayton Partnership, along with its small business development partners, is inviting business owners to apply to the Retail Lab small business accelerator program.

Launched in 2020, the Retail Lab is a 12-week experience for business owners aiming to launch or grow their first-floor business in downtown Dayton. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 16.

The Retail Lab has two main goals: To continue energizing downtown with vibrant storefronts, and provide a supportive pathway into the downtown market for emerging first-floor entrepreneurs, especially women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“We’ve witnessed that not even the pandemic could slow downtown’s development boom,” said Sandra K. Gudorf, president of the DDP, in a release. “With these new mixed-use spaces emerging, there is an opportunity to take new business ideas and budding entrepreneurs and show them the support network available in our community to grow or launch their own commercial ventures.”

The Retail Lab will provide a series of workshops, focused one-on-one sessions and a public speaking event that connects the participating businesses to people, ideas, capital and resources to help them thrive and grow in downtown Dayton. Weekly workshops will include facilitated instruction and work sessions with mentors, and the program will culminate with a pitch competition.

Eligible businesses include boutiques, shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants - any consumer business that adds to the vibrancy of downtown’s sidewalks. Applicants should either be located in downtown Dayton or aiming to launch downtown in the next 6 to 12 months. Interested small business owners can find more information, including the program application, at Applications for the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab will be accepted through February 16, with the program slated to begin in March. Workshops will be held in person at the DDP office in KeyBank Tower; however, hybrid options may be made available if public health advises against any in-person activities.

“The Retail Lab experience has given our business the necessary tools to make sure we are set up to succeed, and the opportunity to work with other businesses and collaborate on ways we can support each other,” said Vanessa Lloyd, a previous Retail Lab participant and owner of A+ Cleaners in downtown Dayton.

Participation in the 12-week program is provided at no cost, and in addition to the support businesses receive through the workshops, each participant is eligible for up to $2,500 in professional services from creative, legal, and financial firms to advance their business.

Questions about the Retail Lab should be directed to Val Beerbower,, or call (937) 224-1518 ext. 226.

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