For the fourth year, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) and its partners have given a big boost to a group of new local businesses; After an extensive selection process, three innovative entrepreneurs will share in a grant totaling $20,000 to help them establish and develop their new businesses.  

DLBA partnered with California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, along with Farmers & Merchants Bank, to create the Pitchfest Business Incubator Award program, in which candidates participate in the five-week Entrepreneur and Small Business Education Series, then pitch their business plans to a panel of local economic and community leaders.  

“The Education Series really inspired me to build a business that can be successful for the long run,” said Incubator Award recipient Janine Solano. “The classes were well organized and each speaker was very informative. I really appreciated the social media class. It helped me understand how easy it is to use social media to advertise and build connections.” 

This year’s Incubator Award winners:

  • Elva Garcia, who was awarded $5,000 to help develop Mariscos El Compa Ivan, her family-style restaurant that will be serving authentic Mexican seafood in a beach-side location 
  • Saren Rem, who received $5,000 to support Sarenity Floral, her new floral studio in which she plans to teach in-person and online floral arrangement workshops in addition to selling floral arrangements
  • Janine Solano, who was awarded $10,000 to create Dopey’s Dog House, a pet supply kiosk in Shoreline Village that will meet the needs of the many pet owners who bring their dogs to visit the Downtown Waterfront.  

Pitchfest judges included Long Beach Second District Councilwoman Cindy Allen; Walter Larkins, Chair of the Long Beach Economic Development Commission; Loara Cadavona, Chair-Elect of the DLBA Board of Directors; Sam Pierzina, Chair of the DLBA Economic Development Committee; and Kourosh Davatolhagh, Vice President and Relationship Manager at Farmers & Merchants Bank. 

“Participating in the Entrepreneur and Small Business Education Series was incredibly helpful and inspiring,” said Elva Garcia. “I enjoyed learning the various aspects of starting a business, from the marketing plan to finding a location and negotiating a lease. This grant will have a huge impact on our family business.”  

The Business Incubator Award program will continue at least through 2023; Farmers & Merchants Bank committed $90,000 in grant money through that year. Meanwhile, DLBA is developing other grant programs to help nourish the Downtown small business economy. 

“We plan to launch a diverse set of new grant programs this year, including opportunities for retail pop-ups, entrepreneurs of color, and women-owned businesses,” said Austin Metoyer, Economic Development and Policy Manager for DLBA. “I am proud that DLBA is able to continue to create opportunities for local entrepreneurs to grow into successful businesses that will enhance our Downtown economy.”