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Decatur DDA announces three businesses that will participate in retail recruitment incubator program

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Decatur DDA announces three businesses that will participate in retail recruitment incubator program

E. Court Square in downtown Decatur on May 18, 2021. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Downtown Development Authority has announced three businesses that will be part of the retail recruitment incubator program. The businesses will move into the brick-and-mortar location at 431 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. and will open on Oct. 15. The program aims to provide online businesses the opportunity to test their concepts in a physical space for six months, according to a press release.

The three businesses that met all the requirements and signed leases with the DDA are ABETTERBUZZ Brand Goods, Dope Coffee Company and Royal Thanaka Natural Skincare.

ABETTERBUZZ launched in 2016. It is a bold, graphics-inspired apparel and goods provider. Founded by “Buzz” Busbee, the company’s mission is to create high-quality, fun and affordable goods, while giving back to the communities they serve.

“As we continue to grow and expand our customer base and product line, the incubator gives us the chance to test a brick-and-mortar approach within our main demographic before diving in headfirst,” Busbee said. “As a micro-business, opening up our own retail store is a huge risk, so this is a perfect opportunity to test our reach.”

Dope Coffee Company is a Black-owned beverage business that creates special products inspired by Black culture to reject the stereotypes surrounding premium coffee and the people who drink it.

“We have been seeking a retail opportunity since our last two stores were closed in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence in 2018,” said Michael Loyd, co-founder of Dope Coffee Company. “Our goal for participating in the incubator is simple – to build brand awareness and traction in the community that will allow us to establish a long-term, physical presence here in Decatur.”

Royal Thanaka Natural Skincare is a socially conscious skincare brand proudly representing the dreams of immigrants, with co-founders Htwe Htwe and Myo Naing emigrating from Myanmar (Burma) to the U.S. in 2002, while fellow co-founder Mary Ellen Sheehan spent many years in Ireland.

“While we have built a successful e-commerce company, our growth ultimately depends on more demonstration, as people need to see and feel our products to fall in love with them,” Htwe said. “Thinking long term, our business began as a collaboration of cultures and ideas born at the International Community School just around the corner, so having a permanent retail space in Decatur would be the true culmination of our journey.”

A key aspect of the retail incubator is the included mentorship from established brick-and-mortar business owners, including Sean Crotty of Kelly’s Market; Lisa Bobb of Squash Blossom), Raj Mehta ofTres Jolie Boutique and Lori Ronca of Homegrown Decatur.

“We are thrilled with the three entrepreneurs helping us launch this program and proud of how well they showcase Decatur’s diversity, as they are owned and operated by women, people of color and a member of the LGBT community,” DDA Chair Conor McNally said. “These businesses represent the best of Decatur, so we certainly hope the community will visit them and make their long-term dreams a reality.”

The DDA allocated $25,000 for this program during the July 9 board meeting. The funding will go toward rental assistance of the retail space for up to six businesses that currently operate either solely online or in festival settings. The DDA will to fund half of the rent for the commercial space.

“From The Square to the Old Depot District, our economy is largely built on experiences, so the incubator is an investment both in our future and budding entrepreneurs,” Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett in the press release. “This program signals Decatur is committed to bringing people back together and supporting the brick-and-mortar retailers that make our culture second to none.”

During the Sept. 10 meeting, Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis requested an additional $6,000 to provide training and cover additional costs of the lease. The DDA signed a 12-month lease but initially looked at a shorter term lease and had allocated $12,500 to pay for half the lease. An extra $3,500 was needed to secure the 12-month lease. The DDA will now budget $16,000 for the lease.

In the initial budget for the program, Baylis did not include funding for training.

“In looking at it, we feel that we want to have some professional trainers come in and there’s a cost that is with that, and so I ask for an additional $2,500 for training, which brings the total now up to $31,000,” Baylis said.

The incubator program will also offer a training and mentorship component to help business owners gain institutional knowledge from a wide variety of members of the Decatur business community, including small business owners, accountants, bank representatives and more.

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