Some New London businesses can now apply for grants of up to $10,000
New London ― The Women’s Business Development Council on Wednesday launched a grant program in which New London businesses can receive between $2,500 and $10,000 to help them grow.
Eligible businesses must be at least two years old and have annual revenue between $25,000 and $2 million for the past year; female- and male-owned businesses can apply.
Funding for the New London/WBDC Small Business Grant Program comes from the City of New London’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
“Ten thousand dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it is a kind of vote of confidence in a business plan and business model,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. He also called WBDC’s relocation to a larger downtown office a vote of confidence in New London.
WBDC announced the grant program at a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new eastern Connecticut regional office at 61 Bank St. This comes more than four years after WBDC held a ribbon-cutting for an office less than a half-mile away, at 300 State St. But WBDC CEO Fran Pastore said earlier this year the organization outgrew its space and wanted to be “in the heart of the business district.”
The Women’s Business Center on Bank Street includes an open co-working space, closed offices and conference rooms, and training rooms that can be used for in-person or Zoom meetings. Project director Wendy Vincent said the co-working space is open to clients and will eventually be open to the community, including for events.
The building ― now owned by David Preka, owner of Advanced Group in Mystic and Muddy Waters Café across the street in New London ― was built in 1905 and for decades was home to Liberty Bank. The bank vault will be used as a podcast studio.
The City Council in the spring approved giving $260,000 in ARPA funds to the WBDC, to be used for both investment in the building and the new grant program.
WBDC is also investing money from the state and private donors into the grant program, said Brenda Thickett, vice president for programs and people. She doesn’t know yet how many businesses will receive a grant.
The first application period runs from now until Dec. 1, and then WBDC will evaluate grant applications on a monthly basis and accept applications until the funding runs out.
The “idea is you’re investing in something to help your business grow,” Thickett said, noting the grant program is “not about keeping them alive.” That means grants can’t be used for salaries, inventory, real estate or utilities.
Applicants are required to submit extensive documentation, but Thickett said this process will set them up to prepare other grant applications. More information can be found at bit.ly/WBDCapp.
While this program is specific to New London, WBDC has other grants available for businesses throughout the region.
Mayor Michael Passero called the new office “a great sign of what’s happening in New London,” also pointing to the redevelopment of State Pier for offshore wind and the start of Coast Guard Museum construction.
Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, credited Preka for helping revitalize small cities and said as a small business owner for 25 years, she knows how difficult and lonely it can be as a woman. She said $10,000 can be make or break for a business looking to do a marketing plan or hire an engineer, for example.