The Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) has announced that the organization is accepting applications from local business owners to participate in this year’s Project Pop-Up. This will be the forth consecutive year that Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI), a local organization aimed at economic development in the downtown area, and local landlords partner with DEDO in a small business incubator program. This year’s site will include Milford include 127 NW Front Street, the historic Tharp-Jewell House on the corner of NW Front and Church Streets, and 22 S Walnut Street as State Coordinator Diane Laird is excited to partner with other landlords for the 2015 program to offer additional commercial space.
The goal of Project Pop-up is to offer business owners a limited-risk opportunity in an effort to stimulate economic activity in the town. The project brings together downtown organizations, the property owner and a potential tenant in an effort to turn vacant buildings into thriving businesses. Director of Downtown Milford Inc. Lee Nelson is looking forward to the continued partnership with DEDO on this project and judges the success of this program on the three past years where successful businesses were brought to the downtown area.
“The businesses that move into the Project Pop-Up locations receive three months free rent but just as important they get coaching, direction and support from the professionals at the Delaware Economic Development Office,” said Nelson. “ They learn how to write a business plan, how to control inventory, how to make the location look better, how to understand marketing. Those resources are normally not available to people unless they proactively look for them.”
In 2012 Jennifer White of Little Posies Photography participated in the inaugural program in Milford. A night nurse at Kent General Hospital Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, Ms. White was able to embrace her passion for photography as she opened a storefront on NW Front Street. In 2013 Paige Deiner, owner of a home-based business Milford Massage, Wellness and Yoga, participated in the program opening her storefront on SW Front Street. She has since expanded her services and moved her business into a larger location on NW Front Street. In 2014 two businesses were given the opportunity to participate in Project Pop-Up as Patty Cakes, a bakery located on Walnut Street, and Delaware Branding Company, a tattoo, vinyl signs and screen printing company located on Front Street, opened their doors. Patty Cakes announced last week that she is moving from the storefront but will continue to expand her business making specialty cakes. Delaware Branding Company continues to see success and has been featured in several statewide publications.
Mr. Nelson states that although the program prefers retail facilities in downtown areas, any type of business, including non-profits, are eligible to apply for the program. “The focus is on retail business primarily since they will be part of the program during the holiday season; October, November and December,” stated Nelson. “We would like to see a business that helps to bring people into town and adds to the mix of what downtown Milford already has to offer. The more diversity we have in our retail in downtown the more people we will attract as they will compliment each other.”
Applications from property owners will be accepted by the Delaware Economic Development Office before July 21. The final selection of the Milford businesses will be completed by Labor Day. Applications for the program and more information on the application process can be found online at http://inde.delaware.gov/popup/. Qualified recipients will be chosen for each of the available locations in downtown Milford. A panel of representatives from DEDO, Downtown Delaware, and Downtown Milford Inc. will review the applications, select the qualified applicants and notify them in early fall. Winners must participate in a one-on-one consultation with a business coach in September and a successful launch of the business must occur by October 1.
“Downtowns are the heart of the community and if the downtown is beating well so will the rest of the community,” said Nelson. “By making a connection between the downtown businesses and the local residents, through programs, events and creating an attractive downtown, it creates economic vitality that would not exist if those activities did not happen.”