Downtown Dayton Retail Lab accepting applications


DAYTON — The Downtown Dayton Partnership (DDP), along with its small business development partners, is inviting business owners to apply to the Retail Lab small business accelerator program, presented by Fifth Third Bank.

Launched in 2020, the Retail Lab is an intensive 12-week experience for business owners aiming to launch or grow their first-floor business in downtown Dayton. Applications will be accepted through July 13.

The Retail Lab has two main goals: To continue energizing downtown with vibrant storefronts, and provide a supportive pathway into the downtown market for emerging first-floor entrepreneurs, especially women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“We’re very pleased at the results this program has produced so far in its first four cohorts,” said Sandra K. Gudorf, president of the DDP. “With these new mixed-use spaces emerging, there is an opportunity to take new business ideas and budding entrepreneurs and show them the support network available in our community to grow or launch their own commercial ventures.”

The Retail Lab will provide a series of workshops, focused one-on-one sessions and a public speaking event that connects the participating businesses to people, ideas, capital and resources to help them thrive and grow in downtown Dayton. Weekly workshops will include facilitated instruction and work sessions with mentors, and the program will culminate with a pitch competition.

Eligible businesses include boutiques, shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants — any consumer business that adds to the vibrancy of downtown’s sidewalks. Applicants should either be located in downtown Dayton or aiming to launch downtown in the next 6 to 12 months. Ideal applicants will have had a year or so of sales online and/or pop-up events. Interested small business owners can find more information, including the program application, at Applications for the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab will be accepted through July 13, with classes slated to begin in August. Workshops will be held in person at the DDP office at 10 W. Second St.

The Retail Lab is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and leverages support from resource partners including Entrepreneurs’ Center, the Miami Valley Small Business Development Center, Five Rivers MetroParks – 2nd Street Market, Launch Dayton and The Hub Powered by PNC at the Dayton Arcade.

“Since the launch of the program in 2020, the Retail Lab has graduated 37 people through the program,” said Val Beerbower, director of first-floor development and business marketing with the DDP and coordinator of the Retail Lab program. “We’re especially proud of the fact that 35 of those 37 businesses are woman-owned, and/or minority-owned businesses. We plan to continue efforts to create equitable economic opportunities through programs like the Retail Lab.”

Participation in the 12-week program is provided at no cost, and in addition to the support businesses receive through the workshops, each participant is eligible for up to $2,500 in professional services from creative, legal, and financial firms to advance their business.

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