Microbiz Case Study: Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon Downtown Association: A Pop-Up Incubator to Test a Business Model

Mount Vernon Downtown Association (MVDA) creates a business community through regular business visits, collective marketing promotion of the district, a pop-up business incubator, and events.

Since 2019, MVDA has offered discounted short-term subleases of a pop-up business incubator for entrepreneurs. MVDA launched the incubator for three purposes: (1) connect early-on with entrepreneurs to direct them to resources that maximize their chance of long-term success; (2) allow entrepreneurs to test a business concept without brick-and-mortar startup costs or the burden of a long-term lease; and (3) create a pipeline of businesses to occupy upcoming vacancies as buildings are renovated. MVDA rents the 500-square foot space from a community partner at one-third market price as an in-kind donation, and in turn offers it to businesses at a monthly rate of $300, including fiber internet.

The incubator provides an essential opportunity for microenterprises to test and perfect their business models before signing a long-term lease. For example, the incubator once hosted a mother-daughter business partnership that both taught craft classes and produced craft goods for sale. During their time in the incubator, the pair discovered that they should focus their business model solely on classes and stopped producing goods for sale. Once they outgrew the incubator, the partners narrowed their brick-and-mortar search to locations that solely supported their classes.

Microenterprises provide a diverse business mix offering goods or experiences that are difficult to replicate online or in a big-box store. MVDA hopes to acquire funding to more frequently hire expert consultants to offer free-of-charge services to downtown businesses, as well as create a revolving loan account to support microenterprises with small, low-risk loans.

Read the full case study in the Main Street & Microenterprise report.