NewBo City Market has launched an entrepreneurial development program intended to assist underserved entrepreneurs wanting to start a food or retail business.
The Hatchery is meant to help entrepreneurs who typically face more barriers to entering the marketplace, including people of color, immigrants, women and people in the LGBTQ community, said Julie Parisi, the market’s director of business development.
The program, which was announced in late January, has been in the works for about two years but went into “overdrive when the pandemic hit,” Parisi said.
“When I came on staff about two and a half years ago, I just started to see that we were attracting a lot of the same people into the market, and we seemed to be serving a lot of the same entrepreneurs as well,” Parisi told Little Village. “My thought on this [Hatchery program] started coming up about two years ago where I really felt that we needed to diversify many aspects of the market and really cater to be more inclusive of everyone in our community.”
Since last March, the market has lost six businesses, Parisi said. Normally, only one or two businesses leave the market in a given year either because the business concept failed or the business succeeded and was able to expand into their own brick-and-mortar location, Parisi added.
“Seeing the need for creating space and the resources for small businesses to start up and succeed during the pandemic is what really [led me to] kind of decide, ‘OK, we’ve got to hunker down and get this figured out and bring something useful and meaningful to the entrepreneurial community.’”
There are three main components to the Hatchery program that entrepreneurs must complete.
The first is personalized business development guidance, which includes meeting with Parisi to discuss a business plan, forming a business, working on the marketing plan and other important factors to creating a “good foundation,” Parisi said. This happens before the entrepreneur becomes a shopkeeper in the market.
Once the entrepreneur has opened their business in the market, they will have check-ins with Parisi to discuss sales, customer engagement and if they are feeling personally fulfilled from the business they set out to start.
The third and final component is free educational seminars. The entrepreneur is required to choose one per quarter but can attend as many as they wish. The seminars will be on a variety of topics and will feature professionals in the various areas of business.
Once an individual is accepted into the Hatchery program and meets the three requirements, they receive a grant that comes in the form of a rent discount, Parisi said. The goal is keeping the entrepreneur’s costs low as their business is getting started.
“What we do is like a graduated rental structure, so the first six months they have a rent reduction. Then the second six months of their one-year lease, the reduction decreases a little bit,” Parisi said. “… So it kind of helps them acclimate to running a business and what they might expect from a regular, commercial rental situation.”
The market has already welcomed one shopkeeper to the program — Jessica Renee, owner of Herbally Anointed, a health and beauty boutique. Prior to becoming a shopkeeper, Renee brought her products to the market’s Black-owned business guest vendor event last year.
“I wanted to have a personal connection with my customers,” Renee said in a news release. “Being here at the Market has allowed me to meet so many new people and help them
find what they like in my products.”
Those interested in applying for the Hatchery program can find the application on NewBo City Market’s website under “Become a Shopkeeper.”