reSET, a non-profit entrepreneur support organization, in partnership with Breakfast Lunch & Dinner (BL&D), a community venture building studio, announces the completion of 12 Hartford-based retail businesses from a pilot Retail Incubator made possible by Launc[H] Hartford funding. The Retail Incubator program supports entrepreneurs ready to sell their unique products in Hartford and beyond, focusing on what it takes to create a strong, agile business that can adapt to the changing times of the COVID-19 era. The program culminates with an October 28 Floor-Plan Pop Up Event at 88 Pratt Street at 6:00 p.m., as part of the larger KNOW GOOD Nights event.

The Retail Incubator is one component of the larger initiative led by BL&D called Floor-Plan in response to a lack of local retail options. This initiative brings a broad array of community partners together to create large-scale retail activations throughout downtown Hartford and into the city’s neighborhoods. Vacant storefronts and pedestrian areas will partner with existing programming such as community events and live music to create new programming to drive foot traffic and help the wider community begin to shift their consumer habits back to Hartford.

“As a young, black male, I am very grateful to see this program come alive after weeks of planning with the talented team at reSET. Our goal with Floor-Plan is to create a staircase that any entrepreneur or small business can access and ascend at their own pace. We’re excited to see this cohort advance and look forward to exploring new ways to offer connectivity within our community and retail landscape,” said Joshua Jenkins, Partner BL&D.

The program, free for participants, ran from September through October 2021 and was led by Dawn Leaks, a reSET Impact Accelerator alumna and founder of Lioness Magazine. Dawn holds three professional certifications and an MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovation as well as a Master’s in Communication and Information Management. She was named “Top Woman in Life/Business Coaching” by Western Mass Women Magazine and honored with the BusinessWest “40 Under Forty” award. Dawn successfully sold Lioness Magazine after years of building a strong company foundation.

Over the eight-week program, participants learned the basics of business planning, emphasizing the need for a flexible business model and resiliency. Topics included creating a business plan and elevator pitch, understanding your customer, developing an online presence, marketing and branding, pricing your products, getting to market, and understanding and accessing resources to grow. The pop-up event is a chance for participants to demonstrate their progress in the community and be able to sell locally.

“I’ve been so impressed with the drive and passion of these entrepreneurs over the last few months. Our goal is to make sure they are well positioned to grow here in Hartford, and beyond. Over the last few months, they have focused on getting to know their customers, so they can meet the public’s demand and needs in a changing COVID-19 retail landscape. We can’t wait to see where they go from here,” noted reSET Executive Director Sarah Bodley.

Participants were individuals and micro-enterprises (businesses of five people or less) who were looking to scale their product based business to the next level. The program prioritized Hartford residents, Hartford-based businesses, businesses owned by women and people of color, and businesses that primarily serve Hartford residents.

The graduating cohort includes:

The graduating cohort includes (*visit IDH for featured story):

  • African Adornments an African-woman-owned business that aims to celebrate sisterhood by sharing African culture through empowering pieces including handmade waistbeads made by women in Ghana and Nigeria, handbags, and accessories
  • Bloom Bake Shop* a pop-up bakery with made from scratch and custom made goods offering everything from farmers’ market pastries to wedding cakes
  • Funnybone Records* a Hartford-based community-based independent record label and promoter
  • Hartford Gear Company provides custom and hand-sewn lightweight, durable bags and accessories that can be used for backpacking, hiking, or in everyday life
  • Ital Creations* a natural body care line providing handmade body butters, scrubs, soaps, oils, and other care items
  • Lady Jane a Black and female-led cannabis company with a vision of creating a luxurious hospitality and retail experience for our guests while delivering high-quality cannabis and cannabis-infused products
  • Nabii Organics* creates high-quality body butters, soaps, serums, and more
  • Omni Print Plus a community print shop with a purpose
  • Reboot Eco a refillery and zero-waste shop with a mission to reduce single use plastics and plastic waste
  • ShadeBySmoove  a unisex sunglasses business that provides an immediate confidence boost and outfit enhancement
  • Victory Jump a pop and geek culture accessory and apparel store focused on fandoms from a wide variety of media, including anime, video games, and comics
  • Years of Progress Clothing an EastCost premium urban clothing brand spreading a worldwide aura of peace, perseverance, and progress via garments and accessories