Open Access

Open Access

Access to credit is challenging for many who want to open a first-time food business or restaurant—and historically it has been practically impossible for people of color.  The barriers to capital and personal financial risks are much higher. There must be new solutions for cities, counties, and states to reach out and support food entrepreneurs plan, launch, and grow their businesses.

Funded with a scoping grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Open Access: Equitable Equity For Food Entrepreneurs aims to lower barriers to financing and business ownership. The first phase of the initiative is Open Access, an open-source code web portal for local governments or organizations to customize with start-up and working capital financing, education, and support resources.

It is the first open-source code available to cities and other organizations at no cost. Designed to be “out of the box” ready, it is also adaptable to provide easy access to food entrepreneurs looking for technical assistance, capital, and credit in their communities that will help them plan, launch, and grow their businesses.

Download the User guide Watch the Videos Download the Code

The code provides a friendly user design and content structure that creates a centralized pathway to information, training, permits and licenses, and opportunities for small food entrepreneurs and businesses owners of color. Each section, such as Food Business Types (shown above) can be easily customized with a community’s regulations regarding food trucks, for example. The portal also presents the opportunity to educate entrepreneurs (see below) so that they efficiently set up their business, manage the launch, and scale up to meet the demand for their product or service.

Visit the Open Access demonstration site

Open Access DC

The first working test site to model the portal is Open Access DC, which focuses on current  Washington, D.C. resources and programs. A variety of food entrepreneurs can work through the portal to find existing loan and credit opportunities, relevant technical assistance, and permitting and licensing to plan, launch, and grow their businesses.

Visit Open Access DC

Open Access PA

Food entrepreneurs in Philadelphia can now access a new web portal designed to assist community and student businesses in navigating how to plan, launch and grow successful small food enterprises. Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, Drexel Food Lab, and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute together released Open Access Philadelphia to better support local small food businesses. Read the story about how this new portal for small food businesses was launched.

Visit Open Access PA

Screenshot of the web portal with the main title in white set against a dark blue background, Open Access Philadelphia Opportunities and resources for small business entrepreneurs. Small icons of a storefront, food truck, outdoor dining table, food cart, pizza slice on a skate to go, and map icon are in white. Three color bars indicating sections in the portal, Plan in blue, Launch in yellow, and Grow in green. Below are Food Business Types with icons of a Food Truck, Restaurant/Cafe, Private Label, and Catering.

Open Access Baltimore

Dark blue banner with the title, Open Access Baltimore: Opportunities and research for food entrepreneurs in white letters. Along the bottom edge are light blue sketch illustrations of a business front, food truck, table with an umbrella, food cart, pizza, and a map location marker.


Morgan State University, in partnership with the City of Baltimore, today released Open Access Baltimore, a free one-stop shop online portal for student and community food entrepreneurs to find and utilize local resources for capital, permitting and licensing, and training that will help them plan, launch, and grow their businesses in Baltimore.

How do I adapt Open Access in my community?

You can visit Open Access and Open Access DC to experience how the portal works, download the open-source code, and user guide to implement in your community.

To access the code, which you or your web team can duplicate, visit Aspen Institute’s GitHub account. We also created a user guide that can help you through the process and two videos that demonstrate how to customize and update your version of the portal. A developer should be able to set up and host your application with the template language within a few hours.

 Download the User guide Watch the Videos Download the Code

We built Open Access and Open Access DC on Heroku. Heroku is a platform that enables you to build, run, and operate applications in an easy and fast way. Based on your organization’s needs and comfort level, you can use Heroku, AWS or another hosting service.

Once you’ve uploaded the code to your platform of choice, you can edit the content specific to your small business community using the content structure we created: Plan, Launch, and Grow. You can edit the text, add links, images, contact info, and more through the administrative section of the website.

Open Access © 2022 by Food & Society at the Aspen Institute is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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