Local entrepreneurs: You've got resources 

Could your enterprise use some funding, consulting, or networking help?  At a CEZ-sponsored workshop in January, three panelists showed us how to tap into some of the resources at hand for small businesses and startups.

For starters, visit St. Paul's "Open For Business" web page, said city staffers Hilary Holmes and Jef Yang. Download the pocket guide "Opening a Business in St. Paul" (PDF), which outlines your resources each step of the way, starting with the graphic here. (Copyright 2017 by the city of St. Paul, used with permission)

You could also be eligible for:

  • certification as a small business... or a minority-owned and/or women-owned business (meeting one, two, or all three of these criteria). The city's Central CERT program is also recognized by Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and St. Paul aims for 25% of its spending to go to these certified enterprises. Will public benefit corporations be eligible for CERT in the future? The city is considering that question. 
  • a loan or grant as a Cultural STAR, or to fund capital improvements through the Neighborhood STAR program (apply Feb 14-March 21). 

The nonprofit Springboard for the Arts also partners with artists and creative entrepreneurs, said panelist Caroline Taiwo. For example:  

  • interest-free Kiva microloans for artist-run businesses: up to $10K; $25K for Springboard-endorsed applicants 
  • the Incubator fiscal sponsorshop program for artists and arts groups without nonprofit status

Small Business Association loans may be an option whether you're just launching or up-and-running. Area SBA lenders include Women Venture and the Neighborhood Development Center, whose languages include Spanish, Somali, Oromo, Arabic, and Hmong. Both offer many other services, too.

In a post-panel discussion, topics included striking a balance between welcoming new business and preserving plenty of maker spaces... using the hashtags #makeithere and #makeitcez to raise the Zone's profile... and the goals of new St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter. Among us was Bruce Corrie, now heading the planning and economic development department. He described the Carter team's main priorities as equity, innovation, and resilience. Corrie also reminded us that the World Heritage District along the Green Line— Little Mekong and Little Africa in particular— could offer synergies with the CEZ. 

Julie James