Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s Small Business Grant program is in its third year of supporting passionate entrepreneurs. The DLBA, in an ongoing partnership with the California State University Long Beach’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, continues to provide resources and services which help Downtown entrepreneurs grow and expand their businesses.
“The idea was to provide technical assistance training and skill sets for entrepreneurs and small business owners in Downtown Long Beach, or individuals who are looking to start a business Downtown,” said Austin Metoyer, the DLBA’s Economic Development and Policy Manager. “We want to help them gain a baseline understanding of how to operate their business.”
Last year’s grant recipients were required to engage in a six-week course of study, in which the first five weeks focused on essential business skill sets; learning how to structure a business plan, understanding accounting and human resources practices, marketing concepts, business site selection, and how to negotiate a lease. In the sixth week, aspiring entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to a panel of judges, who were looking for proven business concepts and sustainable business models in a pitchfest competition.
“The one lesson we want entrepreneurs to walk away with from the programs is that they need to have passion and belief in their idea,” said Dr. Wade Martin, Director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We want them to take ownership of the idea and then realize that the concepts we teach are to support them in achieving their dream so that they can avoid some of the pitfalls that all entrepreneurs are going to face as they move ahead. There will always be challenges and their passion will keep them moving forward,” Dr. Martin said.
The DLBA recently checked in with four of last year’s seven Small Business Grant recipients to shed light on how the grants have positively affected their Downtown Long Beach businesses:
“Passion you can taste!” Ashley Arnold’s Downtown-based bakery motto is the second thing that jumps out at a visitor to her Ladie Kakes bakery website. The first thing is the photos of the enticing and colorful whoopie pies, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats.
“Interest to pursue my business came from a desire to combine my love of food, dessert, and butter with my gift and creativity,” said Arnold, who creates custom orders for all types of social functions. She also sells her wares at various pop-up locations.
Last year’s DLBA grant helped Ladie Kakes establish its presence in Downtown Long Beach.
“The grant provided a variety of resources, and tremendous amounts of continuous exposure,” Arnold said. “I love to see the smiles on the faces of those who try my treats. The best compliment is when they come back and bring friends and family.”
“Growing up, I never wanted to start my own business: What inspired me to start my own business was other business owners,” said 2018 DLBA Small Business Grant recipient Roger Abea, Creative Director for Vista Pacific, a full-service marketing consulting agency based Downtown. “I worked for a couple of successful business owners first-hand for a couple of years and realized, ‘Hey! I can do that better than they can,’ so I did, and years later it’s still working.”
“We can tackle projects of any size and scope,” added Abea. “We’ve done work for movie studios, international sports associations, politicians, U.S. Cities, pro athletes and of course celebrities, models and other creative agencies.”
Abea cited the counsel he received from the DLBA staff as being a particularly helpful aspect of the grant process.
“I received priceless advice,” said Abea. “The entire DLBA staff was helpful and informative. I would recommend the grant program to any business owner.”
Jayro Sandoval makes premium men’s grooming, hair and skin products here in Long Beach. They can be bought at MADE by Millworks, the Pine Avenue shop which stocks items made exclusively by Long Beach artisans.
“I was awarded the grant last year to help increase my inventory, invest in marketing, and build up legal formation,” Sandoval said. “The grant experience validated my business and products. It definitely helped evolve my business.
“My passion for healthy grooming products comes from the inequity we have as consumers when faced with heavy chemical based producers in the industry,” said Sandoval. “I set out to make great healthy products at an affordable price while finding ways to be environmentally conscious.
“The community that has gathered around my business has great value,” continued Sandoval. “The resources and contacts I have made help encourage growth. This creates enthusiasm and creativity. I can’t thank my customers and friends enough for all of their support.”
“Over 20% of Americans have some form of disability, and my goal is to increase their ability to safely enjoy all the public and consumer experiences that a majority of Americans take for granted,” said Kevin Laut, whose company, Shoreline Access Solutions, is based in Downtown Long Beach.
Shoreline Access Solutions provides the professional expertise business owners need to navigate thousands of complex regulations put in place by the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, and helps them update and/or build their facilities to meet accessibility requirements to provide unobstructed access for all.
“With the DLBA grant was I able to fund a majority of my administrative start-up costs such as my business license, DBA fees, and marketing materials,” said Laut. “As with most other business owners, even though I spent months meticulously estimating start-up costs there were still surprise expenses that I could not have anticipated and this grant was able to cover some of those costs.”
“I’ve lived in Downtown Long Beach for several years now,” Laut continued, “and I appreciate the amount of effort that has been put into this area. I want to be part of this effort and in ten years, when the Olympics are in town, I want to be able to look back and be able to say that I was part of the efforts that transformed this city into a global destination.”