A Jump Start for Small Business

The Downtown Alliance’s new initiative will provide startups with access to experts

| 18 Oct 2021 | 01:20

With the hopes of boosting small business in Lower Manhattan, the Downtown Alliance is launching a new initiative that will provide new retailers and restaurateurs with free access to experts that will help guide these startups through the challenging task of getting their company up and running.

The Alliance has opened up applications to their program, Jump Start, which will grant 20 new startups with four interactive sessions with the business consultancy firm, and their partner in the initiative, Streetsense. These sessions are valued at $10,000, and will assist businesses with anything from marketing, social media strategies, IT issues to demographic analysis – and any problems that might pop up along the way. Each of the four sessions with Streetsense will be customized based on the needs of each business, and Streetsense will subsequently draft a launch plan for each startup.

“Opening a new storefront business in New York City is incredibly daunting,” Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin said in a statement. “Unexpected challenges surface at every turn. Just because you have the best recipe for pho or a keen eye for tech’s next hottest gadget, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to market it online or efficiently set up a payroll system. That’s why we are committed to helping new retailers survive and thrive in Lower Manhattan.”

Jump Start is a continuation of the Alliance’s effort to aid Downtown businesses recover from the devastation caused by COVID-19, according to the group’s SVP of Economic Development Josh Nachowitz. In 2020, the Alliance ran an emergency rental assistance grant program, handing out over $600,000 directly to struggling small businesses in the direct to help pay rent. In the fall, they partnered with Streetsense to provide 25 small businesses with consulting services to help the companies shift their operations to be more responsive to COVID-19 policies and regulations. The Alliance also worked with a company called Bento Box to help restaurants create their own free, online ordering systems.

“We’ve been really trying to marshal all of our resources as an organization to do everything that we can to help these small businesses,” said Nachowitz.

Still, even with this support, the Alliance knew some businesses just weren’t going to make it through the pandemic. And many did close.

Fill the Gap

As of the third quarter of 2021, 233 businesses have closed in the district, according to the Alliance’s data. Nachowitz noted that 118 new businesses have also opened during this time, which he said is a hopeful sign, but the Alliance is continuing to do the work to fill the gap.

“[We knew] there were going to be vacancies in the neighborhood, and that we were gonna have to step to the plate and play a real role in trying to aggressively help fill some of those vacancies in the district, and try to create an environment for new businesses and new entrepreneurs – really especially small independent operators – to be successful once they come to orbit,” said Nachowitz.

Thus came Jump Start.

The Alliance spent a lot of time engaging with stakeholders to come up with how the group could best employ its resources to help business owners.

“We had conversations with existing small business owners to say, ‘look, if we had been there when you had opened, what sort of services would have been helpful for you? What were you missing when you were putting in your business plan, getting into your space?’” said Nachowitz. “We had extensive conversations with retail brokers to try to get a better sense as to what sort of incentives they thought would really help move the needle on getting leases signed in the district. And of course we have conversations with property owners along those same lines.”

In response, Nachowitz and his team learned startups needed help not just with the big stuff, like finding a brick and mortar location (although the Alliance have compiled a list of 48 vacancies in the district ready for move-in), but with all the small details that go into making a business successful.

And that’s where Streetsense can bring their collective expertise.

“What’s great about Streetsense, and what they really bring to the table here for Jumpstart, is a whole breadth of sources, and they’ve got a really deep bench in terms of professionals that they can bring to the table. It’s not just marketing and e-commerce; they have folks on their consulting team who have operated restaurants, who have operated retailers, from all sorts of different sizes from very small mom and pops to big, national brand names,” said Nachowitz. “They can help a retailer think about how they’re gonna lay out their store to be really successful. They can help restaurants think about how to structure their menu. They can have conversations about how to identify and how to reach customers.”

To qualify for the Jump Start program, businesses must meet the following criteria:

· Have a signed lease or letter of intent, dated on or after July 1, 2021, for a storefront commercial space in Lower Manhattan

· Lease must be of at least one year

· Location cannot be open at the time of application

· Be an independent business with no more than five locations in New York City, including this new one

· Not be a national chain or franchise

· Be located in the Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District

Applications for Jump Start are now open at downtownny.com/jumpstart, and applicants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Opening a new storefront business in New York City is incredibly daunting ...That’s why we are committed to helping new retailers survive and thrive in Lower Manhattan.” Jessica Lappin, Downtown Alliance president