116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — With long, often irregular hours, child care can be challenge for any independent business owner.
“It’s very important, especially for those of us with younger kids,” Cheryl Pledge Kardell said one morning this week.
Only Roaster’s Coffee House is open at NewBo City Market Mondays through Wednesdays, but Kardell was updating inventory at Artisan’s Emporium, the art-and-gift shop she opened there in 2016 after a few years as a guest vendor.
One of the first NewBo shopkeepers to take advantage of a child care stipend offered by the market, she thinks the new benefit will lift a barrier for many would-be small business owners.
“It will be a nice perk, if people have been hesitating to start their business,” she said.
The $300 monthly stipend will help with care for Kardell’s daughter Norah, who just turned 14. A cognitive disorder means supervision is a must for Norah when she’s not in school.
“Part of the child care stipends program was also a hope for us to attract more mothers for entrepreneurs,” said Sarah Blais, the market’s development director.
“Moms who previously didn’t conceive of themselves as being able to afford child care and being able to launch a small business might see that opportunity here.”
The market also works with parents to locate child care providers who have openings.
“This solves about half of the problem,” Executive Director Julie Parisi admitted. “It’s still very difficult to find placement in day care services, so we can help with the financial aspect of it, but the fact remains there’s still a need.”
During the school year, Norah goes home with a friend after school, her mother said. Finding a qualified provider is a priority for summer vacation.
“That’s going to be the biggest challenge,” said Kardell, who lives in rural Benton County. Norah’s on a waiting list for a program at the Arc of East Central Iowa in Cedar Rapids.
“I have a few options,” she said. “It’s really, really nice that they have included kids like mine, who need care after the sixth grade.”
Child care aid is one of four new initiatives designed around one of NewBo City Market’s core missions — to support start-up businesses and their owners.
The market also has launched a new Entrepreneurs Equity Fund offering 50 percent discounts for vendors on NewBo’s Guest Market weekends. Booths for student entrepreneurs are free.
“That is a fund that our community is putting money directly towards, giving those discounts to underrepresented populations who are guest vendors,” Blais said.
Blais is working on scheduling what are planned to be monthly themed guest-market weekends, including a quarterly Young Entrepreneurs Market. A March 26 event will include four or five vendors from the neighborhood’s Metro High School.
“We’ve always been looking for a way for kids to get more access, and really NewBo Market is it,” said Shannon Ellis, a Metro science teacher who helps run the school’s STEAM Academy for project-based education.
“One of the things we really try to do is involve the kids in the neighborhood.”
Three NewBo City Market vendors work with STEAM students as mentors, according to Ellis. The market also provides $100 seed-money grants to help Metro students launch start-ups at the Young Entrepreneurs Market.
Just what those new businesses will be still is being worked out.
“We’re encouraging kids to look at their talents and interests, and then grow a business out of that,” Ellis said. “It’s a pop-up market style.”
“From that point onward, it’s in the students’ hands,” Blais said. “But our hope is that after they launch and they see how successful they can be, that they would just continue booking guest vendor markets and hopefully become a permanent shopkeeper here.”
About 15 Metro students are finalizing their business plans for the March market weekend, Ellis said.
“There’s a number of kids that have identified a candle company,” he said. “For $100, there’s quite a few candles you can make. Another student, she’s a crocheter, and she’s working on a number of products.
“That is part of this process, this iteration that pivots. You look at what’s available and what it might cost you.”
The child care stipends and Equity Fund discounts are funded through donations, Blais said.
“That is a fund that our community is putting money directly toward, giving those discounts to underrepresented populations who are guest vendors, but particularly students who might become guest vendors here,” she said.
NewBo City Market also is developing a lending library for market entrepreneurs.
“We get a lot of questions,” said Parisi, the market’s executive director. “They have legal questions, accounting questions.
“We can send them off to a resource we might know in the community, but sometimes it can be just as easy to read through a chapter.”
The reference library is funded through the CLA Foundation, launched by Minnesota-based CliftonLarsonAllen, an accounting and financial consultancy firm that specializes in not-for-profits and has offices in Cedar Rapids.
Kardell recently took space in the nearby Cherry Building for room to produce the stuffed animals and hats she sells alongside the work of about 20 Iowa artists. She said the market’s new initiatives will support those who are just starting out.
“It will help get them out of the house and off the ground,” she said. “This is a great place to start a business.”
Women-Owned Business Market — March 12
Young Entrepreneurs Market — March 26
Eco Market — April 23
Iowa Pop Art Market— May 21