The Recorder – Greenfield, GCC partnership looks to create ‘strong entrepreneurial system’

GREENFIELD – Greenfield Community College is working with the city to offer local entrepreneurs a space on Main Street called The Goods Pop-Up Shop to test their ideas.

“The Goods came about as an idea a few years ago when GCC still had the Downtown Center,” said Max Fripp, the college’s director of innovation and entrepreneurship. “The idea was, ‘How can we do two things – help renovate vacant downtown storefronts to revitalize our downtown community, and how can we support entrepreneurs and others who dream of owning their own business?’ ”

Fast forward, he said, to the city, which secured a $50,000 grant earlier this year — $32,000 of which was used to beautify the space at 357 Main St., which has rent through December to cover and pay a stipend to Mpress Bennu who will help providers ensure they have the necessary insurance and help them run their social media pages.

“We’re trying to reach people who may be about to open a business in our downtown area,” said MJ Adams, director of community and economic development. “We’re hoping that once they’re done with the pop-up, we’ll get them on their way to look at another business downtown that might work.”

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She said the remaining dollars from the grant will be used to help business owners improve their storefronts by funding signs, awnings, window lighting and storefronts. The city also plans to hire a design consultant to work with companies.

Thanks to the city’s grant, Fripp said the vendors keep 100% of the profits.

“We’re looking for companies that are mature or mature — not necessarily early, early startups — so we know they have enough product to fill a store,” he noted.

That’s with the exception of two companies, he said.

“We’re going to have two youth-run pop-ups, including a cafe where they’ll be serving smoothies,” Fripp said. These students, he explained, are part of the BEACON program, a partnership between GCC and Greenfield High School.

According to Fripp, among the first to open a business is entrepreneur Kelly Surprenant. The Wendell resident takes vintage clothing and recycles it (creative reuse of an item) with intricate embroidery and handwoven designs. She said the business, which she has been running from home for a year, was inspired by her love of embroidery and her family background in square dancing.

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“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” said Surprenant, owner of The Rainbow Rack, which opened at the pop-up shop this week. “It will give me an opportunity to see what a store would look like in a storefront.”

Surprant typically sells their products at live events as well as online through Etsy.

“Something like this is an incredible opportunity not only to make sales, but also to gain this invaluable data,” she said.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Fripp said pop-up shops are an important part of the entrepreneurial work at GCC.

“Through multiple touchpoints and opportunities to support entrepreneurs, we believe we will create a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Franklin County with Greenfield as the hub,” he said.

Following The Rainbow Rack, which will take up the Main Street spot through October 15, the program is scheduled for the Children’s Business Fair on October 21-23. Mother Hen’s Pantry will be there from October 24th to November 6th, Beeso Box from November 7th to 13th, Crown Top Designs from December 2nd to 4th and finally Africana Store and Fitness from December 15th to 31st.

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“With GCC’s Downtown Center on the market, we don’t want to lose GCC’s presence downtown,” Adams said, referring to the January announcement that the college would be consolidating on its main campus. “So that’s been a great partnership with the GCC people because they’re actually running it and making connections and connecting it to their entrepreneurial endeavors.”

Fripp said he hopes the Goods model of offering pop-up shops becomes a long-term strategy to help landlords and entrepreneurs and create a sense of community pride by showcasing local artisans and manufacturers.

“We envision these pop-ups as an opportunity to literally start businesses,” he said, “and businesses that are financially stable.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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