Six local aspiring entrepreneurs have been given the opportunity to see their dreams of owning a business become a reality thanks to a new Palo Alto-based community program. The City's pilot Microenterprise Assistance Program (MAP) offers seed grants to low- to moderate-income individuals to help them start their own business or grow an existing one.
Spearheaded by the City’s Planning Department and Economic Development Manager, this year’s pilot program awarded grants of various sizes to six entrepreneurs. The program was funded from the City’s Community Development Block Grant budget. The CDBG is a federal program that provides localities with grants to devise innovative approaches to improve the physical, economic, and social conditions in their communities.
"When I saw this program coming forward from our CDBG funds, I knew that this was going to be the type of program that was going to really set a mark in Palo Alto, taking us in a new direction and to the next level," said Mayor Nancy Shepherd.
MAP was created to provide new opportunities to people who would otherwise not have them. The program seeks to provide an innovative path out of poverty; create self-sufficiency; improve the survival rate of microenterprise businesses; improve employment skills; and promote community economic development.
The program received 26 pre-applications in January. Of those, 11 were selected to work with a mentor from the local business community who helped them with general business questions and to prepare their final application and complete a business plan.
“We’ve reached a major milestone here today by awarding these grants,” said Economic Development Manager Thomas Fehrenbach. “It is largely due to [the applicants’] creativity and efforts, but also helped along from the get-go by this group of dedicated business folks who volunteered their time.”
After a month-long mentorship, seven of the 11 turned in the final application. Of those, the grant review committee approved funding for six grants.
“This has been a very educational experience,” said grant recipient Christopher Murphy. “I’ve learned more about business through the course of this program than I have in my entire life.”
With this year’s program being a pilot, City staff originally thought it would only be possible to award one grant. The hard work and dedication of everyone involved allowed for more grants to be awarded, and staff is already looking to next year and possibly even more grants.
“This program shows that entrepreneurship and innovation is in the water here,” said Director of Planning Hillary Gitelman. “No matter what your income level or circumstances are, people here can get it together, get organized and get it done.”
This year’s grant recipients are:
Sherice Lane, Hand Crafted Items, awarded $1,500
Kathy Wu, Independent Health Insurance Provider, awarded $7,000
Christopher Murphy, Publishing Company, awarded $9,200
Heekyoung Kim, Hair Stylist, awarded $15,000
Robin Angstadt, Fine Art and Jewelry, awarded $4,500
Walter Barnes, Baseball and Softball Umpires, awarded $1,000