In South St. Pete, dozens of businesses are now recipients of a microfund grant program, helping them take the next step in growth.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — South St. Pete is becoming more and more of a destination as people moving to the area look for affordable housing and business locations.
The city of St. Petersburg established a community redevelopment area (CRA) to provide homeowners and business owners with resources to make improvements.
“The South St. Petersburg CRA is a redevelopment district, which is the largest in St. Petersburg, and one of the largest in Florida,” George Smith, the economic development officer for the city of St. Petersburg said. “This over seven square mile-area is comprised of over 20 neighborhood and business associations and two main streets.”
“We have a tremendous amount of resources invested primarily in areas of affordable housing, workforce development, micro-lending, micro funds, if you will, which are grants, as well as commercial development,” he continued.
Smith said the goal of the grant program is for the South St. Pete area to grow into what the downtown Central District looks like today.
“It’d be great if we could look very similar to our downtown area,” Smith said. “We know we’re starting from a deficit in the community. So it will take a tremendous amount of investment, which we are already doing. So the ultimate goal is for the city to look seamless, regardless of whatever area that you may live.”
Through the South St. Pete CRA Microfund Program, dozens of businesses are eligible to receive funding, without providing a match in dollars. $350,000 was budgeted for the initial Microfund cohort in which 56 businesses were awarded funds.
Businesses of all kinds could apply, receiving up to $10,000 from the city:
- Existing Brick and Mortar – $10,000
- Existing Family Childcare – $10,000
- Existing Home-Based Business – $5,000
- Existing Shared Commercial Space – $5,000
- Early-Stage Startup – $2,500
10 Tampa Bay spoke with three businesses about what these funds mean for them. Elizabeth Welhouse is the owner and chef at Thyme Saver Meals.
“[We provide] ready-to-eat meals that are all purchased online, we have our menu online every week,” Welhouse said. “And people can go in and see what we have coming out for delivery. And then we come to the kitchen. We bring all of our groceries and supplies in and we prepare all of the food here and then deliver it to people’s doors.”
Right now, Welhouse works out of a commissary kitchen. She was awarded $5,000 through the grant program. Her goal is to one day open a brick-and-mortar storefront. But for now, this money will help her in getting her name and her food in front of more people.
“We’re hoping to get some materials for doing farmer’s markets, some signage, and also a big food chopper,” Welhouse said “We are wanting to help our prepping of chopping different vegetables and like really hard to cut things that we’re cutting up– about 50 pounds of like sweet potatoes at a time.”
Welhouse said making those purchases would have taken longer on her own. With this program, not only are business owners receiving grant dollars, but they’re also networking with business mentors.
“I am really excited to also get the mentoring with it to be able to kind of motivate myself to go out and doing something different with marketing and being out at the farmers markets,” Welhouse said.
A home-based business now making plans to put $5,000 to use is Peas & Love Edible Gardening. Owner Desiree Sims is a gardening consultant, helping people transform spaces into gardens that can fill a dinner plate.
Right now, the working mom uses her minivan to get the job done.
“So I am applying to buy a pickup truck for the business,” Sims said. “So right now I’m working out of the minivan. And I don’t have a way to transport soil or a lot of the larger tools or larger lumber.”
Her business has been open for three years, and it was not until now that buying a work truck was possible.
“You get a lot of educational resources,” Sims said. “So you’ll be taking classes and workshops that aren’t only going to help you right now with just the money but it’s going to help you long term to build your business to grow it to be more sustainable. So they’re giving you capital now to help you and then they’re giving you education and resources like to continue for that money to go further.”
For businesses that already have a physical space, the grant money makes improvements on that space possible.
“Doing some improvements inside the building, some plumbing, some adding more lighting, maybe a little more electrical, and then upgrading the amenities that we do have,” Lauren Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland owns Parlour 727 in South St. Pete. The salon offers full hair and makeup services, specializing in bridal events.
“Seeing, just by being here, there has been so many new businesses pop up, and it’s just busy,” Westmoreland said. “It’s, it’s getting more walkable up until this spot which it wasn’t in the past. So we’re getting a lot, a lot more people and a lot more foot traffic than we ever have.”
Westmoreland was awarded $10,000 to make improvements to her business.
From 2015 to 2020, the assessed real property value in the South St. Pete area has more than doubled.
To learn more about the grant program and when the next application period will open, click here.