Small businesses in New Milford can test the window by opening a pop-up, with the rent covered by the city

NEW MILFORD – Small business owners who work virtually or away from home are the target of an opportunity the city offers to have their own showcase, on trial.

The initiative, called Pop-up NM, involves the design, promotion and launch of a temporary showcase for a rotating group of small business owners who want to try out their business concept before making the leap into a contract. rental of bricks and mortar.

The intention of the pop-up is not to have empty windows in the city and also to encourage small businesses to open shops in the city.

At a recent New Milford city council meeting, the council passed a $ 25,000 motion to initiate the initiative. Funds were drawn from the city’s staff line to its economic development company.

“Our goal is to have the $ 25,000 seed, but then get the key money from the outside to supplement it so it becomes self-sufficient,” said Mayor Pete Bass.

The initiative would focus on companies with zero to five employees.

Leading the project is New Milford resident Nicolas Gunkel, who has led downtown small business activation projects in more than 10 cities and towns in the Northeast and Midwest, with help from the New Milford Corporation of Economic Development.

Gunkel will help identify and protect companies that would be interested in leasing the space.

“The opportunity is to reduce the barriers to entry into a retail organization,” said Tony Vengrove, who is part of the city’s economic development company. “This offers the opportunity to go in for a month, which is much cheaper, (and) get the learning that will help them understand what will be required. Also, (to) get some data that would help raise capital if needed to make the leap. “

If entrepreneurs feel their business isn’t thriving, another company could take control of that space at the end of the month.

“We would like to get to a point where the model for this is essentially breakeven because as soon as we know what the place is and the associated costs, and the utilities, insurance and everything else, we can get to a point where we understand what that would be. the fee to enter space, ”Vengrove said.

Additionally, he added that there is an opportunity for the city to reach out and potentially get sponsorship from other companies that may be interested in helping facilitate this.

“We would also like to look at grant opportunities,” Vengrove said.

Another possible idea is to create a team of mentors to help entrepreneurs understand the implications and planning associated with moving to a concrete business.

An empty shop window is being studied for the initiative on Bank Street near Cafe 1840 in the city, which was previously occupied by a music store.

However, pop-up windows aren’t limited to the center – they can be found in all parts of the city.

The project would start in July and would take around three months to plan and design.

Support for “self-sufficient” businesses.

Gunkel said he will work on assessing the needs and interests of entrepreneurs in a space “in order to match the right people to the space available, understanding the constraints we have on spaces but then also following people and creating fabric connections between many other projects. that are out there, “he said.

The monthly rent for pop-ups has not yet been determined.

Bass said the goal is to make the company “self-sufficient”.

For the initiative, Vengrove said the city would be “looking for businesses that are already doing well. So they have a good out-of-home business or a good online business where they pay a commission ranging from $ 2,200 to $ 2,800 per month. to just enter for a month is not a hindrance. They will realize that it is a great opportunity for their business to have this experience, “he said. “The other part is that we’d like to find businesses that are truly incremental and somehow unique to what’s happening downtown.”

Additionally, Vengrove said the opportunity could also be for companies that already have a physical location and are looking for a second location.

“So it could be an opportunity to come to Litchfield County, get experience and meet the community and try to win them over,” he said.

Bass said the pop-ups could attract businesses to the city of New Milford.

“By not having to take a rent for a year or more, this gives them the flexibility to try the physical scenario to see if it is successful,” he said.

If the owners of the business feel that they have been successful by operating out of a storefront, they would move out of the pop-up location and start their own physical business in another storefront in town.

Recruiter Hilary Ram said many entrepreneurs may be reluctant to start a business, which is why they didn’t initially establish their own business as such.

However, he added, while it is a risk, it would encourage entrepreneurs to try it.

“For New Milford, giving people an opportunity like this is the best thing you could do, really,” Ram said.

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