Some vacant buildings in downtown Wilmington are full of life once again thanks to Project Pop-Up, a program that gives entrepreneurs a helping hand during the crucial first few months of business.
On Thursday, Mayor Dennis Williams and Downtown Visions Executive Director Marty Hageman welcomed the owners of 10 new businesses with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.
Most of the new businesses operate inside the old Commerce Bank building located at 101 W. 9th Street. The former bank provides open floor space to a jewelry designer, homemade desserts stands, children’s clothing boutique, a men’s image consulting firm, a homemade soaps business and job training services.
“It takes a real smart person to go out on their own and open up a business and sink their life savings or whatever they have to start up a business. That’s real commitment and courage,” Williams said.
“These energetic new businesses will help us to continue the fantastic growth that’s been witnessed in our downtown community over the last several years,” Hageman said.
Project Pop-Up is a great example of how Downtown Visions connect small business entrepreneurs to property owners of unoccupied buildings, according to Hageman. The commercial property owners involved in the program have donated their buildings rent-free for three months to ‘Pop-Up’ entrepreneurs.
The Delaware Economic Development Office has been very active in this process too. DEDO and Downtown Visions financially helped the new businesses with renovations and marketing campaigns. As a result, 10 full-time and 14 part-time jobs have been created.
“Now our hope is that all of these businesses will fill the buildings on a short term basis and then decide to become long term tenants,” Hageman said.
Also on the 100 Block of 9th Street, vacant spaces are now filled with three other businesses including a yoga studio called Flyogi.
In the meantime, all of the ‘Pop-Up’ owners are looking forward to the future. Theresa Holland, owner of Tasty Couture Catering which specializes in organic desserts expressed her gratitude.
“This is a piece of our dreams and to start businesses mean a lot,” Holland said.