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

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/Edited Press Release) — The Downtown Springfield Association (DSA) is working with US Bank to advance the development of various small businesses through a new initiative called ASCEND – Promoting Springfield’s commitment to entrepreneurship, networking and diversity with resources specifically geared towards recruiting and empowering BIPOC business owners.

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

Executive Director Rusty Worley says these five $5,000 grants will provide resources for BIPOC business owners in central Springfield, whether downtown or on Commercial Street.

“Our business community doesn’t have enough representation for that, so it’s been a priority for us for a while,” says Worley.

The grants go to five different companies that are helping to fill gaps in these communities.

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

The West Central Neighborhood, consisting of Springfield’s Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) and the residential area west and south of downtown is one of the most diverse areas in southwest Missouri, with a 21% Black, Indigenous and Colored population (BIPOC). However, that number drops to 10% when you look beyond the Springfield city limits.

Kai Sutton, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, says she is excited about this grant because of the business opportunities it will bring to people of color.

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

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

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are so important,” says Sutton. “To raise awareness of Black-owned businesses, particularly to bring them into an area where it is not currently common for Black-owned businesses to be and thrive at this time.”

Grants are 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 retail locations in Center City Springfield.

“Maybe getting into product lines that they weren’t able to do before,” says Worley. “Some of these businesses probably operated from home or online and now they want to go physical.”

Recipients must commit to the following engagement milestones:

  • Meet with representatives from US Bank and the City of Springfield Loan Officer to explore financing options.
  • Complete an exercise program through the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at MSU and Factory to strengthen the professional development of the owner (is offered free of charge to the laureate).
  • Join the Missouri SBDC for free one-on-one help at MSU.
  • Attend a Minority in Business meeting to connect with business owners and minority advocates.
  • Meet with the DSA Communications Manager to learn more about utilizing downtown communications.
  • Join a DSA mixer to connect with other downtown business owners and stakeholders.

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

  • Dedicated business consultant to assist with all business consulting needs (e.g. business planning, financial forecasting and support, strategic planning).
  • Office Hours – Access to professionals who want to help you and your business succeed (eg accountantlawyer, banker, technology, public procurement).
  • Mentoring – Designed to provide honest and practical feedback based on personal experience and not just business theory.
  • 50% off additional Missouri SBDC at MSU and efactory training programs.
  • Three 10 days coworking passes in the factory.
  • 50% discount on conference room and meeting space reservations.
  • A year Membership in the Downtown Springfield Association (DSA)..
  • One year Minorities in Business (MIB) membership.

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

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