Bolstering creative entrepreneurs

The Creative & Culinary Entrepreneur Scholarship program is an economic development initiative by the Greater Kokomo Downtown Association.

Through the program, Susan Alexander, manager of Downtown Initiatives for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, is bolstering budding entrepreneurs and helping them navigate the path to their business launch or growth.

It’s been shown that locally grown entrepreneurs have more longevity in their space, which makes for a more stable and sustainable economy. The scholarship program affords creative entrepreneurs an opportunity to conduct a market test for their business ideas.

The program also benefits the community by creating additional retail, culinary and entertainment options in downtown Kokomo.

It helps art and culinary entrepreneurs make valuable connections, whether that’s plugging them into local events to help them gain more exposure or securing space for pop-up retail shops.

The scholarships are being funded by the Taking Care of Main Street program, an initiative of the Indiana Main Street. The Downtown Association was awarded a total of $25,000 through the state program. Of that, $15,000 is dedicated to operational expenses so that the association may continue its arts and culture development goals within its downtown revitalization mission in a time of decreased event revenue due to COVID.

The Downtown Association was one of just two applicants — out of 60 across the state — to be awarded an additional $10,000, which is being used for the Creative & Culinary Entrepreneur Scholarship program.

The scholarship program will help up to 20 entrepreneurs who were selected through an application process.

Program’s successes

While the Downtown Association continues to work with budding entrepreneurs, many participants have already found some success through the program, including the following:

• MacLand: Offered a pop-up eatery at First Friday and Strawberry Festival and was able to connect with a commercial kitchen.

• Middle of Nowhere: Food truck took part in First Friday and Strawberry Festival and has partnered with downtown businesses to create more opportunities for possible pop-up locations.

• Rona’s Artyside Studio: Had work showcased in a large commercial window display downtown.

• Essie Foster: Obtained ServSafe certification for a specialty truffle business and has connected with a commercial kitchen and downtown businesses.

Projects on the horizon:

In the coming weeks look for an art workshop, pop-up retail shop for jewelry and plus-size apparel, and an experiential dinner theatre opportunity.