City Grant for Small Businesses Has Cincinnati Pop-Up Shop Bursting at Seams

The newest business in Cincinnati is bursting at the seams, thanks to a grant from the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development which has enabled a woman entrepreneur to join the ranks of neighborhood pop-up shops.

Prior to her grand opening a couple of weeks ago, Corless Berry had operated her boutique, ChoZen 4 U, out of her home, where an inventory of unique, high-quality affordably priced apparel had begun to take over her living and dining rooms.

Berry said the grant, which offers up to $1,000 to small businesses to help with rent and non-structural needs, will give her the opportunity to pursue her passion and impact women and their style of dress in a much larger space.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of, said identifying funding other than loans can be a challenge for small business owners.  The SBA doesn’t give grants to start or expand most businesses. Through the SBA limited grants are available for exporting, as well as research and development.

Small businesses, particularly, those that will aid the community, can find grants from federal, state and local agencies, as well as foundations and corporations on GrantWatch.

Grants are available to for-profit organizations across the United States for agricultural or health-related research, creating educational opportunities in computer science for PreK-12 students, or for developing certificate and training programs in worker safety and health, among others. Local grants are generally less competitive and can be applied to a variety of initiatives including the purchase of new equipment, advertising and marketing, product launches, upgrading technology, hiring additional employees and expanding inventory.

Many city officials including leaders in Cincinnati believe that small businesses are still the engines for local growth and have incorporated creative new ways into their economic development strategies to promote more fledgling enterprises.

From Los Angeles to London, pop-up shops emerged on the small business landscape almost two decades ago to help ambitious online merchants thwart the spiraling costs of rent. Since then, entrepreneurs have taken advantage of closed urban storefronts to establish temporary sites to showcase products — often those from large and established brands – reach new customers and test a unique physical environment.

The Cincy Pop Shop program was established two years ago to connect entrepreneurs, artists and small businesses owners with local property owners to fill vacant spaces and activate neighborhoods across the city. The grants provide low-risk support for owners who have had trouble finding accessible, affordable and flexible space needed to create and expand their small businesses

Similar approaches have popped up elsewhere including Battle Creek, Mich., where the city’s Small Business Development Office has purchased seven shipping containers, each about 160 square feet, to be used as retail space. The BC Pop-Up Shops is a pilot program that hopes to give startup businesses a softer entry into the downtown market by reducing the cost to operate within the district. Each shop, which will be outfitted with electric heating and air conditioning and interior and exterior lighting, will lease for $1,645 for an entire seven-month period and include utilities and membership in the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce. The goal is for participating shops to eventually transition to more permanent locations in Battle Creek.

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