BRENHAM CITY COUNCIL HEARS NEW DETAILS ON DOWNTOWN BUSINESS INCUBATOR

  
Brenham Economic Development Director Susan Cates provides details on the retail incubator program opening this fall in downtown Brenham at Thursday's Brenham City Council meeting.

Brenham City Councilmembers received an update Thursday on a retail incubator opening this fall in downtown Brenham.

Brenham Economic Development Director Susan Cates provided an overview of YellowTruck Market, which will launch out of the old Bode and Tonn building at 101 East Main Street.

Cates said attracting large employers and expanding and retaining current businesses is very important, but so is providing an opportunity to new small businesses.  She said the goal of the incubator is to foster growth of small businesses and mitigate risks for them as they launch.

 

 

According to Cates, YellowTruck Market will be a two-year program that will provide a space for participating businesses and assist them with rent while they take part in educational sessions covering various aspects of business management, such as marketing, human resources management and contingency planning.

Cates said target participants must be within a 60-mile radius of Brenham and will have established products that they are already selling, whether through local farmers markets or online through avenues like Etsy.  Participants must maintain an internet presence for their business while they are a part of the program, and must take part in a minimum of 10 educational sessions per year.  Cates noted that the sessions are open to all local businesses.

Participants must also hit a series of benchmarks every six months for financial accountability, having a viable business plan and having a launch plan for when they exit the program.  After 24 months, participants “graduate” to launch their business either locally or elsewhere.

Cates said the retail space of this program acts as the lab portion of an educational endeavor for businesses.

 

 

Cates said the incubator will offer an opportunity to grow businesses that fill downtown Brenham retail business gaps, such as items catered for male shoppers.  The application process will award bonus points to candidates that fill those gaps, as well as minority-owned businesses.

The incubator will also provide extended shopping hours to be more tourism-friendly.  The incubator will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Data on retail sales during extended hours will be gathered and provided to existing businesses for them to decide whether they would benefit from being open longer.

An advisory board will oversee the business plan of the incubator.  Members of the board will include YellowTruck LLC owner, Tiffany McMordie-Morisak, as well as representatives from Brenham | Washington County Economic Development, Brenham Main Street, the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Brenham Community Development Corporation (BCDC), and Blinn College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The economic development budget allocated by the BCDC will cover the rent stipend for participants, who will have discounted rent through their first year in the program.  For the first six months, participant rent of $400 paid to YellowTruck will be discounted by $200, then by $100 in their second six months.  The total rent discount for the first year in the program will be $1,800 per participant.

Participants will then spend $450 per month over their third six months and $600 a month over their fourth and final six months.  The $1,500 from increased rent over the last year in the program will be presented to participants as they exit the program as a form of graduation gift.

Cates is projecting seven program participants to begin, and 17 applications have been received thus far.  She hopes that what is learned from this incubator can be used to launch other types of incubators, such as for the manufacturing and technology sectors, in the future.

Applications for the first round of businesses remain open through August 30th, and interviews will begin next week.  Applications and more information are available online at www.yellowtruckllc.com.

The full draft business plan for the incubator can be read in Thursday's council agenda packet, starting on page 53.

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