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Start Garden offering grants for entrepreneurs affected by coronavirus

There are many relief options available at the local, state and federal level for established small businesses. But what about incubation-stage businesses?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Entrepreneurs know that unexpected circumstances can come up that can totally throw off your plan. Coronavirus might be the ultimate example.

For the last few years, Start Garden has held its Start Garden 100 competition that allows anyone to pitch their business idea with thousands of dollars of cash on the line. But now that coronavirus has closed Start Garden's doors for the time being, the organization came up with a new plan for that money.

"After talking to our stakeholders and our sponsors, we decided to divert that $300,000 we give out every year to what we now call the Start Garden 100 Comeback," said Start Garden director Jorge Gonzalez.

Between now and noon on Saturday, April 11, entrepreneurs can upload a 100 second video on Start Garden's website talking about how coronavirus has affected their business plan and what they need to get through the next two to three months.

"There are no current relief funds or money available for entrepreneurs," Gonzalez said.

"There is some at the federal, state, and local level that will take care of the small business owners and their employees through payroll protection and so forth. But none of these entrepreneurs that are in the incubation stage qualify for any sort of money out there."

There is no set maximum limit for the grant. Start Garden's selection committee will figure out how to distribute the $300,000 based on need. The money can be used however recipients wish to support themselves, the business or their families.

"If we don’t help them now, it's going to be very detrimental," Gonzalez said.

"Let’s say this is over in August or September. We are not going to have people interested in starting a new business. They’re going to be looking at how do I get income right now, at this moment?"

Applicants must either be in Kent County or must have participated in Start Garden 100 or a 5x5 event in the past.

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