In its nine years of existence, NewBo City Market has always been a popular destination for shoppers, diners, and those seeking unique and local entertainment in Cedar Rapids. It's also been a hotspot for local entrepreneurs seeking a foot in the door without much risk.

But, thanks to the pandemic, that risk has increased, with fewer business owners moving in and a lot of them moving out.

KCRG now says that nearly half the Market's available spaces are emptied, and they want to keep doing everything they can to welcome new restaurants and shops before it's too late.

They have launched a new initiative called "The Hatchery". It's a program primarily geared toward "helping people of color, immigrants, women, minorities, LGBTQ people who want to start a business for themselves", according to NewBo City Market COO Julie Parsi.

Its goal will be to reduce barriers to individuals in those groups wanting to open a business while helping to fill the empty vendor stalls at the Market. Three simple components will be part of the process. First, completing business and marketing plans and doing a product cost analysis. Then, a vital signs check-in, or regular progress reports. Finally, ongoing business education support for the owner.

Once they're signed on as willing to complete these steps, they are eligible to receive grants over their initial 12-month lease at the Market. Already signed on for the Hatchery program is owner Jessica Webb, who says joining the program was just the kind of fast-track she needed and her business is thriving. At Herbally Anointed, Jessica sells herbal teas and bath and beauty products.

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If you're in the aforementioned groups The Hatchery is designed to help and would be interested in learning more, visit the website set up by NewBo City Market here.

READ MORE: See how some companies are changing their businesses to combat COVID-19

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READ MORE: See how some companies are changing their businesses to combat COVID-19


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