Open Access Provides No-Cost Portal for Cities and Small Business Organizations to Support Small Food Business Owners

May 3, 2022

Food & Society at the Aspen Institute launches open-source code web portal that cities and organizations can use to help navigate how to plan, launch, and grow small food businesses

 

Contact:
Mary Castillo, [email protected]

May 3, 2022, Washington, DCFood & Society at the Aspen Institute is pleased to release Open Access, an open-source web portal that cities and other organizations can use at no cost to direct food entrepreneurs to critical resources and information that will help them plan, launch, and grow their businesses. The first demonstration of the new portal, Open Access DC, demonstrates how it can serve as a bridge to specific and tailored information in the Washington, DC area, including local resources with information about capital, permitting, and effective business planning.

“Empowering local organizations to reach local food entrepreneurs will help remove some of the many barriers Latino, Black, Indigenous, and woman-owned small businesses face in accessing capital, technical assistance, and guidance,” says Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute. “Open Access is designed to make it easy for localities to adapt and input the resources that both hard-hit and new entrepreneurs need to lead all kinds of food businesses.”

Open Access and Open Access DC are projects developed under Food & Society’s Equitable Equity For Food Entrepreneurs initiative, which aims to help food entrepreneurs navigate through and over the many challenges to financing and business ownership. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the portal is the result of 18 months of wide-ranging work and interviews with groups including, among others, Capital Impact Partners/Nourish DC, Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA), Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF), Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), District of Columbia Small Business Development Center. Devita Davison, co-founder of the Detroit Food Lab and a national leader in helping underserved food entrepreneurs, provided key initial insights that led the initiative.

Through all the groups’ interviews and guidance from leaders in the field, the EAE team discovered:

  • Food businesses have different needs from other small businesses. A few cities have small business portals, but very few are designed to assist underserved food entrepreneurs directly in the areas of lending, leasing, and especially licensing.
  • Cities that developed small business portals also broke down the silos within their organizations and created more synergies between departments. Staff in permitting learned about how their colleagues in planning, for example, operated and vice versa. The portal was also a helpful reference when fielding phone calls from business owners.
  • The majority of Latino and Black entrepreneurs disproportionately rely on personal savings, credit cards, and loans from family and friends. Many do not have a relationship with a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. These factors put them at greater personal financial risk, and their debt may hinder their ability to secure loans for operating capital that can help scale their business.
  • There is a lot of innovative work happening across the country and Washington, DC is no exception. Open Access DC is designed to lift up and make accessible the work of other organizations and government agencies across the city.
  • There are specific funding opportunities that food entrepreneurs may not be aware of, such as resources for grocers to open stores in food deserts. Also, locally owned banks may be more willing to take a risk on a locally owned and operated business.

Open Access DC’s launch also coincides with DC Business EXPO: Resources for Financial Success from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday May 4, 2022 at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library – Central Library. The event is hosted by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), Department of Insurance Securities and Banking (DISB) and DC Public Library (DCPL) and their access to capital partners. For more information please visit: https://dclibrary.libnet.info/event/6552907.

Prospective users can view the Open Access web portal and download the open-source code and accompanying user guide. For more information, please visit AspenInstitute.org/Food.

 

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ABOUT THE ASPEN INSTITUTE FOOD AND SOCIETY PROGRAM

Food & Society at the Aspen Institute brings together leaders and decision-makers in the food and beverage industry and the public health community—scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food makers of all kinds—to find solutions to production, health, and communications challenges in the food system. The goal is for people of all income levels to eat better and more healthful diets—and to enjoy them bite by bite. For more information, please visit AspenInstitute.org/Food or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.  Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, New York and an international network of partners.  For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

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