FAQs

 

As we receive more questions about the fund, we will be posting those questions and answers below for additional insights and application assistance. 

 

Application process

Where can I find the application? The first round of the Small Business Innovation Fund is now closed. Please stay tuned for an update on when the second round opens. 

 

Will I receive confirmation that my application has been accepted? Yes, you will receive a confirmation email once your application has been successfully submitted.

 

General

 

Will every business that applies receive a grant? No, we predict demand to exceed available funds, and this is a competitive grant process. After the second round of applications closes on September 18, 2020 the review committee will evaluate and prioritize applications for funding. Applicants will be notified of their status by October 21, 2020

 

Is this a loan? No. This is an investment our greater community is making in you because we need you and we believe in you. Make Charlotte Center City and the region stronger together.

 

Can I use these funds to cover day-to-day operating expenses, like payroll, vendor payments, losses, utilities, rent, or mortgage? Unfortunately, no. The intent of these limited funds is to help businesses make an innovative investment to adapt to this crisis and be able to be more resilient to future uncertainties.

 

What can I use funds for? Funds can be used for – but are not limited to – these kinds of expenses:

    • Technical assistance and advising
    • Investing in online presence and e-commerce platforms
    • Investing in systems and packaging to allow for contactless distribution of product
    • Business coaching
    • Investing in online and digital consumer experience
    • Marketing related to the adaptations you are making (new product, service, mode of experience)
    • Infrastructure enhancements to lessen crowding, maintain safe distances between customers and associates, and enable safe product testing, try-on, and fittings
    • Investments in keeping font-line associates protected
    • Not limited to the categories above – be creative.

 

Can I use these funds to pay for all my investment? You could, but applications that demonstrate some “skin in the game” for the investment will align better. We want to partner!

 

Can I use these funds to enhance my on-line and/or e-commerce business? We know many businesses are relying more on revenues from on-line purchases. This is just one example of how businesses are adapting to the effects of social distancing, and we are looking to support these investments and other creative ones.

 

Can I use these funds for marketing? Application review will give greater weight to proposals focused on adaptations, so general marketing is less likely to align than marketing related to your innovative investments.

 

Who is reviewing applications? A committee will review the applications for the fund. The committee will reflect Charlotte Center City’s varied subject matter expertise and diverse population with representatives from the private, public and philanthropic sectors.

 

How does this fund relate to other local programs available through the City, County, or others? There are currently several other programs providing much needed resources to small businesses for COVID-19 impacts. The Center City Small Business Innovation Fund is just one of the tools for small businesses, but there are a few distinguishing features enabling this fund to complement those other critical resources. Those features include:

    • If a business has received funds from other programs, they are still eligible for this fund because its designed to help businesses innovate and advance, which differs from COVID-19 relief programs. Successfully accessing other programs for day-to-day expenses could be used to illustrate a business’s financial resiliency and a readiness to innovate.
    • Applying to other programs might be helpful for filling out this application because an applicant will be able to reuse basic business information.
    • Grants are available up to $40,000 per Charlotte Center City business.
    • Grants for joint applications from multiple Charlotte Center City businesses may exceed $40,000 at the discretion of the Grants Committee.
    • Innovative investments made on or after March 1, 2020 are eligible for grant funding.
    • An innovative investment may include a business expanding its business in Uptown, South End, Midtown, Historic West End, or within the 2-mile radius of Trade and Tryon.

 

Will I have to document how the funds were utilized? Yes, grant recipients will be required to respond to a survey documenting how the funds were utilized as well as participate in interviews to share their lessons learned. Charlotte Center City Partners staff will be here to help.

 

Where is the funding coming from? Please refer to the Innovation Fund Partners page to learn more. 

 

What is the average amount of grant to be awarded? The maximum amount is $40,000 for each business. If multiple businesses have formulated an innovative idea that will advance all their companies and they submit one collaborative application the fund has the ability to award more than $40,000. At this point in time, we do not know the average grant size nor do we have a goal of creating an average at a certain amount.

 

Can the grant be used to reimburse funds for equipment that will need to be purchased before the grant is delivered? Yes. You can use these funds to reimburse innovations you’ve made to adapt and advance your business if they were made after March 1, 2020.

 

How confidential is this my application? Businesses’ confidential information (i.e. financial information) will be absolutely be protected and not shared beyond the review committee process. If an applicant receives a grant, there will be interviews to document and share their lessons learned about the innovation and how it advanced the business and not about a business’s confidential information.

 

 

Eligibility

 

Why is this fund limited to small businesses within 2 miles of Trade and Tryon? Why prioritize the neighborhoods of Uptown, South End, Midtown, or Historic West End? Great questions. We have limited the fund to align with these realities and priorities:

    • We believe that healthy, thriving “main street” businesses in Charlotte’s urban core are essential to the resiliency of Charlotte’s regional economy and vibrancy as a city.
    • We defined the urban core for the fund to be 2 miles from Trade and Tryon in an attempt to best balance the number of businesses and the size of the grants to each business in order to be most impactful.
    • Small businesses with storefront businesses create the character that residents, visitors, workers, and major employers crave, and they distinguish Center City as an essential economic engine for the region.
    • Small businesses have been severely and negatively impacted by COVID-19 due to their reliance on foot-traffic and a lack of deep financial reserves.
    • Our mission is to assure Charlotte Center City, is a welcoming and equitable, economically vibrant, culturally rich and beloved place for all.
    • Priority will be shown to storefront businesses located within the boundaries of the Municipal Service Districts that Charlotte Center City Partners serves, plus Historic West End.
    • Our expertise is focused on work, live, and play within Center City and its adjacent neighborhoods.

 

How do you define the Charlotte region, for the purposes of business eligibility? We define the Charlotte region as the 15-county area served by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. There is a map here: https://charlotteregion.com/index.php?src=pages&ref=county-detail

 

Is a company that has been launched virtually during this time eligible? Is moving the business into a brick & mortar space an innovative project?  Yes, if the company meets all the other criteria. The aspect of being a new company or totally virtual does not make the company ineligible for the fund. Since the company is so new and has probably not filed taxes yet or have other full-bodied financial documents, the company will have to figure out how to demonstrate some way of financial durability. The idea of taking the business from being virtual to a physical space in Center City could be an innovation the fund could help with. We’re interested in learning more.

 

Are food trucks eligible? Yes! Here’s how:

  1. The business should be headquartered in the Charlotte-region. See Charlotte region definitions below. AND
  2. The food truck must operate in a regular, permitted location in the Innovation Fund eligible area (Center City). That could include a few different kinds of operations:
    1. A valid, permitted spot in the Tryon Street Vending Program, or
    2. A valid, permitted spot in the On Street Food Truck Program permitted by CDOT and managed by Charlotte Center City Partners, or
    3. A partnership with a private property owner in the eligible area to operate the food truck on their property on a regular basis. Property owner must hold a valid annual permit from the City of Charlotte to host food trucks on private property. Written permission from the property owner (an e-mail is fine), explaining the partnership with the food truck should be submitted as a PDF in the Business Verification field of the application.

 

Are bars and restaurants eligible? Yes!

 

Are businesses in the over street mall in Uptown eligible?Yes!

 

Are there revenue requirements for this fund? There are no requirements.

 

I own a business with several locations, can I apply for every location? You may only submit one application for all locations in Charlotte Center City.

 

My headquarters is not based in the Charlotte region, but my business has a physical location and provides services in Charlotte Center City. Am I eligible to apply? No, only businesses headquartered within the Charlotte region are eligible.

 

My business is in South End (MSD 4) but beyond the 2-mile ring shown on the map. Can I apply? Yes!

 

My business is in Historic West End, but beyond the 2-mile radius shown on the map. Am I eligible to apply? Yes! 

 

Are nonprofits eligible? Yes, nonprofits are eligible for the fund, but the innovative project they are seeking funding for needs to be associated with producing revenue. One simplified example is a museum gift shop. The museum is eligible if it is headquartered in the Charlotte region, has a physical location within the 2-mile radius, had less than 50 employees as of March 1, 2020, has been adversely impacted by COVID-19, and is willing to participate in lesson-sharing interviews. The museum submits an application making a compelling case how the gift shop creates a unique experience for the neighborhood as well as provides character and vibrancy to Center City. The application includes an innovative project that enables the gift shop to adapt to the new economic realities. The funds requested goes towards advancing the innovative project that others could possibly leverage to make Center City and the region’s economy more resilient to this crisis and future ones. 

 

Round 2 FAQs: 

(Please peruse all other FAQs too as they are still pertinent for Round 2)

 

Do I have to change or do anything to my application for Round 2? If you are not interested in editing or refining your application for Round 2, you do not need to take any additional steps. You are automatically entered into Round 2!

 

How do I edit my application if I already have one in the system? You will have the option to edit and refine your proposal from Round 1 during the 15-day application window starting at noon on Friday, September 4th and ending at noon on September 18th.

If you are interested in editing or refining your application, please do the following:

 

Will I get a confirmation email after I edit my Round 1 application for Round 2? Sorry, you will not, but here are a few helpful pieces of information:

  • If you made changes to a submitted application from Round 1, you will not receive a confirmation email as you did before. However, if all of your sections reflect 100% on your end and the content was saved, you are good to go. After saving, please send an email to info@charlottecentercity.org with the subject line “Innovation Fund Round 2 Edit” and simply list what sections you edited in your application.
  • An applicant will receive a submittal confirmation if they are editing a “pending” application from Round 1.
  • An applicant will receive a submittal confirmation if they are submitting a new application for Round 2.

 

Are franchises eligible? The Small Business Innovation Fund will allow a franchise business, which is owned by a local (located in the Charlotte region) entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial group to apply in Round 2. In order for the application to be reviewed and prioritized the applicant still needs to meet all other eligibility criteria for that one physical location in the 2-mile radius and demonstrate how they are operating as a local business, creating that unique experience for the neighborhood, and have the ability to implement their innovation in the eligible location despite their franchise business construct.

 

Can I submit more than one application? You cannot submit two applications under the same account, so you will need to make a new account with a new email address if you have two separate businesses and wish to submit two applications.

 

I’ve already bought my new equipment for innovation, am I eligible to be reimbursed for my expenses? Yes – we know that people have been innovating since March, so explaining how you are ahead of the curve in your application would be helpful. The funds can be used to reimburse you for those expenses.

 

Are first round applicants more of a priority than second round applicants? No. First round candidates who wanted application feedback were provided insights to consider to make their application more compelling, but no priority for Round 1 applicants will be applied in Round 2.

 

Do all applications get reviewed? Yes. All applications will be reviewed by multiple people – all round one and round two applications.

 

Can I withdraw my application? Yes, if you are not interested in automatically entering Round 2, please send an email to info@charlottecentercity.org with the subject line “Innovation Fund Round 2 Opt Out.”

 

Why would someone want to withdraw their application? A business may wish to withdraw their application because their expenses are ineligible for this particular fund, or their project is no longer applicable to this timeline.

 

Is needing a strategic plan an eligible expense? Yes – hiring a local consultant to help figure out the business next steps is an eligible expense.

 

Can I upload pictures of my business or my project? Yes! And we encourage it.

 

If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to innovationfund@charlottecentercity.org