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.
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.
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.
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.
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.