Entrepreneurial groups hope to create program to help Raleigh minority, start-up business owners

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A vacant restaurant space in downtown Raleigh will soon be turned into a new hub for minority-owned start-up businesses to grow their new companies.

Jason Johnson, owner of H.U.B.B Kitchens, knows what it takes to start up a new business. He says it often can even be harder for disadvantaged or minority entrepreneurs.

“The things that make it extra hard on minority and poor is not having the access earlier in life to learn how to navigate the pathways,” Johnson said. “Not having the education to learn about marketing strategies, how to write a business plan, how to do a budget and financial forecast.”

Nearly a year ago, he opened his first H.U.B.B Kitchens location, a shared kitchen workspace for small business owners.

Now, he’s working with organizations like Raleigh Founded and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to do the same for even more business owners of color.

“Now I’m able to look back and create a road map for other disadvantaged, minority, low income or women entrepreneurs,” Johnson said.

Jessica Porta, executive director of Raleigh Founded, said they’re looking to start the Raleigh Main Street Program in a vacant restaurant space on Fayetteville Street. The program would support small food, beverage and retail businesses, especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need more. We need more resources, we need more capital flowing to small businesses. We need to give people a chance to really test out their idea,” Porta said.

But it’s more than just kitchen and restaurant space, the program will help the business owners get connected with mentors and other start-up resources.

“Over the last 10 years, the Triangle innovation ecosystem has really been developing and blossoming and supporting a lot of high-growth, high-impact tech companies, but has not supported a lot of small businesses,” Porta said. “What we’re creating here is really a test kitchen space for food and beverage entrepreneurs so they’re going to be able to test out their idea the way a tech company would and get real-time feedback.”

Tuesday, Raleigh city council members approved both the restaurant space on the ground floor of the One Exchange Plaza Building, and $584,965 in seed money to kick off the program.