The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Association (CRA), and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties (Knight Foundation) extended the collaboration with local nonprofit business incubator and business accelerator, 1909, to provide paid expertise from freelancers associated with 1909 for downtown West Palm Beach’s small businesses. The three organizations and private donors provided an additional $150,000 to PROJECT-1909 to get businesses the help they need to survive and thrive during the pandemic.
The first iteration of PROJECT-1909 launched in July of 2020 and assisted 13 businesses with their creative needs through microgrants. The microgrants were allocated to branding, custom photography, search engine optimization (SEO), and design services. Overall, 22 freelance jobs were created for the 1909-based services.
“We had a lot of positive feedback from businesses following our first round of microgrant-funded projects,” says Shana Ostrovitz, executive eirector of 1909. “But we also learned a lot from this initial program, allowing us to retool and refocus ahead of this new round of funding to create an even more significant impact on business recovery during this difficult time.”
PROJECT-1909’s second round of grants will focus on two businesses that have been significantly impacted due to the length of the pandemic: Palm Beach Dramaworks and Salento Coffee Shop. 1909 entrepreneurs will assist Palm Beach Dramaworks with promotion and videography for its annual gala, which will take place virtually this year. Salento Coffee Shop will receive help with its plan to activate a nearby alleyway into an expanded service area with art and music.
Financial support will also be allocated to launching a new idea: the 1909 Downtown Co-Lab Weekend. Similar to 1909’s annual “hackathon,” the Co-Lab Weekend will assemble four teams of 1909 entrepreneurs to assist four downtown businesses in need of support. The businesses will bring their challenges to the 1909 participants who will have the weekend to develop and present a solution.
“The DDA is once again proud to join the Knight Foundation and the CRA in supporting PROJECT-1909,” says Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority. “PROJECT-1909 provides the kind of support our downtown businesses need right now and gives local freelancers the opportunities to expand their network of connections, too. This is a smart and effective way to grow our local economy.”
1909 and the DDA will be hosting a free, virtual meeting for businesses in the DDA District about PROJECT-1909 over Zoom on Wednesday, February 17 at 3 p.m. Businesses are invited to register for the event here. Applications to participate will open following the informative meeting.
Community members are welcome to visit WeAre1909.org/Project-1909 to learn more or to donate to PROJECT-1909.