Rather than sit back and pray for downtown retail growth, a Sacramento business group is taking a proactive approach. The Downtown Sacramento Foundation’s Calling all Dreamers retail business competition provides seed money, business resources, and free rent to the winning proposal. The concept is similar to the local 43North business competition underway to attract start up businesses to Western New York but for retail.
From the Downtown Sacramento Foundation’s (DSF) website:
What is the Calling all Dreamers competition? It is a retail business plan competition produced by the DSF. Our goal is simple. We want to foster Sacramento’s entrepreneurial spirit and cultivate the next generation of dreamers. We know running a small business isn’t easy. So, we’re here to help. The winner of this competition will have the chance to open a downtown storefront, earn a cash prize and gain access to a suite of business services.
The competition is now in its second year.
In 2013, the inaugural business competition attracted 49 aspiring business owners. Andy Paul was selected as the grand-prize winner. The first time entrepreneur received a grand prize valued at $135,000 including a cash prize of $10,000, free rent for a year and business support services including advertising, contractor build-out assistance, graphic design, strategic marketing support, legal and accounting services, and more.
Within nine months of submitting his business concept, he was able to see his vision come to life when he opened his shop, Andy’s Candy Apothecary, in the ground floor of the 800 J Lofts.
With overwhelming online voting support, the DSF also selected the Dailey Method as the people’s choice winner. The Dailey Method will open its third Sacramento area location in the 800 J Lofts building this weekend. The exercise studio combines ballet barre work, core conditioning, stretching, and orthopedic exercise.
“The Calling All Dreamers competition provided a tremendous amount of exposure for the 800 J Lofts building,” said Valerie Mamone-Werder, Downtown Sacramento Partnership Senior Manager of Business Development. “Within 9 months, they were able to fill approximately 2,500 square feet of ground floor retail space and secure five-year leases with the two winners of the competition. The extra exposure and synergy between tenants also helped them secure a third new tenant with Zipcar last year.”
The competition was successful in incubating new entrepreneurs and creating a tangible economic impact for downtown from new jobs to new leasing opportunities. Between the two new businesses, the competition created three new full-time jobs and 11 part-time positions. It also opened the doors for several contestants to find their own storefront. Finalist Sun & Soil Juice Company and a restaurant contestant South will open later this year downtown. Two more applicants have signed Letters of Intent for downtown development projects.
The competition is made possible by a number of private and public sector entities: Sacramento State, College of Business Administration, SMUD, City of Sacramento, Economic Development Department, Vision Launchers, Sacramento Magazine, MeringCarson, Inside Publications, Brown Fink Boyce & Astle, LLP, Law Office of Kristina M. Reed, MarketOne Builders, and SCORE.
Applicants are required to submit a business plan and 60 second video pitch. The Foundation will announce the winner in May and expects the new business to open before year’s end.