Seattle-based food co-op PCC Community Markets is known for stocking (and supporting) local brands. Recently, the natural retailer took this commitment one step further by forming the Diverse Entrepreneur Incubation Program. In addition to mentorship, courses and the opportunity to sell products in PCC's 15 stores over the winter holidays, the program offers microgrants of up to $2,000 to support BIPOC, female and LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs. The program is offered in partnership with Ventures, a Seattle nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups start and grow businesses.
The Diverse Entrepreneur Incubation Program is the result of a longtime relationship between PCC and Ventures, says PCC director of communications Kristen Woody. While PCC has supported Ventures with donations in the past, Ventures tapped PCC experts in 2019 to develop the syllabus for a new five-session course called Scaling for Success, which delved into all aspects of developing a wholesale business. The course covered topics such as creating business plans with a focus on wholesaling, inventory management and efficient communication between business owners and potential customers. On top of all that, PCC went the extra mile by providing a measure of funding for these entrepreneurs.
Because access to capital represents a significant barrier for underrepresented business owners, it was important for the Diverse Entrepreneur Incubation Program to include microgrants. Indeed, even a small amount of money can make a huge difference: one grant recipient utilized funds to print a test run of new labels; another required $1,000 to reach a minimum order for a co-packer; yet another purchased non-acetate boxes to meet PCC’s environmental standards.
The inaugural 2020 class of grant recipients includes brands offering greeting cards, barbecue sauce, skincare, snack foods, holistic wellness services and more. Proposals for the next round of grants will be open fall 2021.
A certified organic retailer, PCC operates 15 stores in Washington’s Puget Sound area, with a focus on natural, sustainable and better-for-you products and foodservice. The company describes itself as the nation’s largest community-owned food market and said it plans to open new stores in downtown Seattle and Madison Valley.
The company recently saw a change at the helm when Suzy Monford stepped down as CEO in early August and was replaced by interim CEO Brad Brown, a retired REI executive and former PCC board member. Brown previously served as interim CEO in 2020 prior to Monford coming aboard in December. PCC Community Markets is currently searching for a new chief executive.
This article originally appeared on New Hope Network, a Supermarket News sister website.