Business Enhancement Labs

What is a BEL?

District Bridges’ Business Enhancement Labs (BELs) are strategic partnerships with urban place-management organizations, property owners, financial institutions, and local government agencies that serve diverse commercial landscapes and seek hands-on support for their small business community. By developing and delivering holistic technical assistance programming directly to small businesses, our team provides wrap-around support for small business development to improve long-term economic growth for commercial corridors in urban environments.

It can be hard for a small business owner to navigate all of the challenges of running a successful business. That reality is even harder for minority and immigrant-owned businesses who may encounter other barriers to accessing the resources, information, and opportunities they need to grow and thrive.

For those providing support to small businesses, often the most proactive and responsive business owners are the ones who receive the most support, resulting in a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Unfortunately, too often, the businesses that need the most help are the ones least likely to seek it out or even know where to start their search for support. The BEL program is designed to assess each unique commercial corridor’s specific business needs to design a technical assistance program that prioritizes and engages the most vulnerable and often overlooked businesses first to provide equitable and holistic solutions.

The BEL program moves at the speed of trust and is flexible enough to adapt to the changing environment. Because BEL was designed with an equity lens, we prioritize cultural preservation through a focus on preserving existing small businesses

The How

The BEL program is designed around the best practices we’ve learned working directly with small businesses through our successful Main Street programs. Our relational approach to small business technical assistance holistically and systematically identifies the individual goals of each business and then designs a strategy to help them leverage opportunities and overcome the obstacles that come along to ensure they can achieve their goals. We utilize several tools to capture data to make informed decisions and design for the outcomes we seek to achieve.

Business Health Checks

The District Bridges’ Business Health Check is a diagnostic tool to collect critical information about businesses we serve. While the data is important, the tool enables us to get to know business owners, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and identify the resources and assistance to support them.

Business Development Plans

Our Business Development Plans (BDP) are where data meet dreams. By identifying business owners’ goals the BDP is designed to tangibly outline immediate next steps to move business owners closer to their long-term goals. We also identify milestones and check-in points to keep them on track to achieve their goals.

Access Point

Access Point is an online technical assistance platform giving small business owners access to a wide variety of training and resources to help grow their businesses. We work with subject matter experts to curate and develop robust video content & curriculum on topics like financial literacy, digital marketing, e-commerce, real estate law, and government compliance that business owners can work through at their own pace. If you are looking to develop specific content for your corridor to address a pressing need your businesses are facing we can work with you to develop a custom curriculum for your businesses.

Understanding Your Ecosystem

We help community development organizations better understand their small business ecosystem and build their internal capacity to ensure the services and support they develop are meeting the needs of the small business community. We use a variety of tools such as:

Business Surveys

Before designing a technical assistance program to serve your small business community it’s important to understand the challenges they face. We help you identify those challenges and opportunities through business surveys. Once the survey is developed, we work with clients to circulate it through a variety of methods to ensure a representative response from the business community is captured.

Ecosystem Mapping

Ecosystem mapping is a method we use to understand all the stakeholders working within a community. Once the stakeholders have been identified, we map how they are connected, the influence or power they have, and the past battles that may impact the outcomes we seek to achieve.

Salesforce Technical Assistance Instance

Salesforce is one of the most dynamic and customizable CRMs out there, and… it’s FREE for nonprofits! The challenge with a super customizable system is it must be built to suit your needs and that’s no small feat. Our Technical Assistance for Salesforce app gives you access to our Technical Assistance instance. The beauty of this instance is that it enables you to run standard reports that streamline grant reporting and helps you better share your story and demonstrate your impact. This is a managed app meaning, as we improve and add capabilities they will get pushed to you automatically. We also will provide you training and support to ensure you are getting the most out of your Salesforce platform.