Many organizations say they support small businesses, but the Community Corporation of Santa Monica plans on putting its money where its mouth is and opening a shared marketplace specifically for hyper-local vendors.

The collaborative retail space will offer a unique opportunity for small businesses to get their products in front of customers without paying the often prohibitively high costs of entering a brick and mortar. 

The marketplace is slated to open in January 2023 in the ground floor of CCSM’s new 48-unit affordable housing development Brunson Terrace, which is located at 1819 Pico Blvd. 

CCSM is currently soliciting applications for any small business interested in selling their wares in the marketplace, with a particular interest in businesses located in the Pico neighborhood. To curate the vendors, CCSM is enlisting the assistance of small business shopping platform Streetlet, which was co-founded by former executive director of the Santa Monica Pier, Negin Singh. 

“When we were in the beginning stages of planning the development for 1819 Pico, we did a series of community meetings and one thing that came out of those meetings is that community stakeholders said ‘you know, we support the affordable housing, but we also really need small business space that’s affordable’,” said CCSM Executive Director Tara Barauskas. “This [the marketplace] kind of goes a little bit beyond what we typically do, which is affordable housing… but we thought that this would be a great way to expand the ways that we’re trying to uplift lower income communities.”

The marketplace is specifically designed to eliminate the barriers to entry small businesses face when entering a retail space. 

CCSM will be completing all of the fundraising for tenant improvements and renovations to the physical space. CCSM will also eliminate the need for businesses to pay for their own day-to-day labor and plans on running the marketplace with a staff member they hire in addition to limited volunteer shifts from vendors. All businesses will keep 100 percent of the sales revenue from their products.

“So the idea is that we’re creating opportunities to get business started in an affordable way and hopefully they’re wildly successful, in a perfect world, and then they can move on to bigger spaces and free up the space for a new small business that wants to come in,” said Barauskas.

The marketplace also has flexible rents so that it can support small businesses of all sizes. Vendors can pay as little as $10 to $50 dollars a month per type of product they wish to sell in the store or they can pay approximately $400 a month to rent and stock their own 10 square foot space. 

The pay-per-product option is for hyper small or early stage small businesses with a limited range of products or products they are interested in testing on a market. These “incubator businesses” are only required to commit for three months at a time and are asked to sign up for one volunteer shift every 2-3 months to work alongside the store clerk.

The second option is for more established businesses, which have a range of products and are interested in having their own brand space within the marketplace. These “anchor businesses” will be able to design and alter their rented space however they like and are asked to work two shifts a month alongside the store clerk. 

“Originally, we had started out thinking we’re just going to do like 10 anchor businesses, but then as we started talking more to the community, we realized that there’s a spectrum of where small businesses are at in their journeys,” said Barauskas. “Our idea is this is a way to sort of incubate new business ideas in a very low risk and low cost way.”

CCSM is currently seeking to raise money to build out the space and Barauskas said anyone interested in contributing or sharing ideas for potential grant applications should email marketplace@communitycorp.org

The application is open to small businesses of all types with a preference for retail businesses over service oriented businesses, businesses with a strong connection to the Pico community, businesses with underrepresented owners and businesses with sustainable/non-toxic offerings.

The space is designed to be flexible and make it easy for businesses to come and go, expand and contract as well as collaborate with other businesses. There will also be a coffee shop called Jus’ Family Cafe and Coffee Bar, run by Pico local Robbie Jones, next door to the marketplace, which Barauskas hopes will have a symbiotic business relationship with the vendors. In the future CCSM hopes to host events and pop-ups in the coffee shop and marketplace. 

The vendor application is currently open at tinyurl.com/1819Pico with a June 30 deadline for the inaugural business selection. The application will remain open for the foreseeable future with additional vendors considered on a rolling basis. Inaugural businesses will be selected in August and the marketplace is expected to open in January. 

The affordable housing development Brunson Terrace is scheduled to open around October/November and will contain a mix of one, two and three bedroom units for households making between 30 percent and 80 percent of the area median income. The development is named after Charles and Vernon Brunson, who were the first known Black children born in Santa Monica and important community leaders. 

Anyone interested in moving into Brunson Terrace should apply to be on the City’s Below Market Housing waitlist at https://www.santamonica.gov/housing-apply.

Clara@smdp.com