NewBo City Market hatches new program to revitalize market, help diverse entrepreneurs get started

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 10:45 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids hasn’t escaped the pandemic struggles that have crippled retail and restaurants around the country.

Julie Parisi, the market’s chief operating officer and business development director, said six shops at the market have closed since last March. In a regular year, that turnover would only be one or two businesses in that time.

Now, nine years after the market and nonprofit business incubator opened, about half of its more than two dozen vendor stalls are currently vacant.

“These are some of the lowest numbers that I’ve ever seen for tenancy at the market,” Parisi said.

They’re also drawing in 50 to 60% fewer shoppers since March, according to Parisi, hurting the market’s overall bottom line and the profits of its individual small businesses.

“We’re all in the same boat, just trying to get through it to the end,” she said.

Now they’re hoping a new initiative could be a life preserver for both the market and for entrepreneurs with business aspirations: The Hatchery, an entrepreneurial development program.

“The Hatchery is primarily geared toward helping people of color, immigrants, women, minorities, LGBTQ people who want to start business for themselves,” Parisi said. “This group of entrepreneurs typically face a lot of barriers when trying to start a business.”

The program’s goal is to reduce those barriers and help entrepreneurs develop the tools they need to run a successful business.

It involves three components that business owners must complete: personalized business development, which includes developing business and marketing plans and doing product cost analysis; completing vital signs check-ins, regular reports to see how business is going and that it’s on track to succeed; and continuing education, such as attending seminars.

If business owners complete the steps, they’re eligible to receive grants in the form of a rent discount over the course of their 12-month lease at the market.

“It helps to keep that overhead cost low, especially in the beginning,” Parisi said.

The first shop to join The Hatchery is Herbally Anointed, which sells handmade and organic herbal products, such as teas and bath and beauty items.

Owner Jessica Webb of Cedar Rapids started her business online and participated in NewBo City Market’s Black-owned business guest vendor market. She said moving to the full-time location at the market has boosted her business and taught her how to grow it even more.

“The market has been the best thing that’s happened to me,” she said.

Parisi says their goal is to support and sustain small businesses and that they’ll hatch whatever plans they need to make that happen.

“Any time that we can bring in diverse businesses, it’s going to really increase interest,” she said. “It brings new people to the market who may have never considered coming before.”

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