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CMSC Webinar

Supporting Small Businesses on Main Street

Webinar Summary

The findings in Main Street America’s 2022 Small Business Survey give great insight into the concerns, needs, and wants from Main Street businesses. This survey (and asking your business community directly) gives excellent guidance to Main Streets on what types of programs that should be focused on implementing. In fact, according to Main Street America 26% of survey respondents say that they are receiving assistance from Main Street programs, which has increased 4% prior to COVID indicating Main Street programs are becoming more important in supporting their small businesses.

Presentation Highlights
Desired Support #1: Incentives & Financial support

Example Hart Lift Program

The Hart Life Program is in partnership with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hartford to help property owners secure tenants in their vacant storefronts with up to a $150,000 grant.

There have been 46 approved applicants since the launch of the program and 6 businesses have opened to date. The businesses supported through this program are diverse in terms of types of businesses and 72% are MWBE-owned businesses.

The program is open to property owners that are in good standing with the City of Hartford with vacant ground floor retail space and who are actively working with a prospective tenant. The matching grants can be used only for buildout and furniture, fixture, and equipment costs, and the new business must conform with POCD and all planning and zoning requirements and guidelines.

The second phase of the program will include more targeted neighborhood outreach and networking events and workshops to support the business owners.

Learn more at

Desired Support #2: Increased district-wide marketing & promotion

Example Colorful Bridgeport

Colorful Bridgeport is Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District’s branding and marketing campaign launched in 2019. It “spreads color and joy through business features, public art, activations, and events with the goals of economic development, distinct identity, positive perception, and an in improved quality of life for all.”

Critical to any downtown branding is highlighting the assets of the district. Colorful Bridgeport focuses on highlighting its people – not buildings or other geographic markers. The whole branding scheme “personalizes and humanizes” its district by using images of real people you will find downtown. This approach is an excellent example of creating a sense of pride in place, but it also is a strategic way to overcome negative perceptions.

Consistency and the use of partnerships are critical to the success of the branding campaign. All district events and activations align with the Colorful Bridgeport brand, small business owners who have not been engaged previously have a renewed sense of getting involved, and partners are equipped with marketing and branding tools to align with Colorful Bridgeport. 

Visit Downtown Bridgeport’s website to see Colorful Bridgeport in action.

Desired Support #3: Stronger organization of businesses in the area

Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs is an alternative to a traditional merchant meetup. Focused on storytelling in an informal setting, this event highlights a small business owner’s story and brings together the business community, entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the general community.

There are no sales pitches and no PowerPoints – just stories. Speakers are coached on how to tell great stories pulling on lessons from “The Storyteller’s Secret” by Carmine Gallo and “Start with Story” by Lyn Graft.

Read the story of how Silver City Main Street in Silver City, New Mexico used this storytelling format to engage the business community and greater community in their small town of under 10,000.

Connect with Melanie Lenci, founder of Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs, and learn more about Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs program:

View the Recording

Key findings from the 2022 Small Business Survey:
Top 5 Biggest Concerns of Small Business
    1. Shrinking margins
    2. Challenges with inflation
    3. Challenges hiring and filling positions with qualified applicants
    4. Cost of rent
    5. Supply chain issues
Top 5 Desired Types of Support
    1. Incentives and financial support for small business
    2. Increased district-wide marketing and promotion
    3. Stronger organization of businesses in the area
    4. Improvements to the physical design of the area (e.g. accessibility, lighting, wayfinding, streetscape)
    5. Incentives, support, or technical assistance for storefront/façade renovations or energy efficiency
Top 5 Topics Small Businesses are Interested in Developing
    1. Online marketing
    2. Partnerships with other local businesses and business groups
    3. Leveraging data to improve marketing and inventory
    4. Strengthening relationships with local and state government
    5. Ecommerce

Learn more at Main Street America.

About the Presenters

© Connecticut Main Street Center 
P.O. Box 270, Hartford, CT 06141 | 860.280.2337