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Innovation Fund Spurs Small Business Creativity

Discover the forward-thinking small businesses in and around Center City transforming their business models with support from the Center City Small Business Innovation Fund grant.

Pivot. Adapt. Transition. Rethink. Transform. Innovate. No matter how you say it, small business owners and entrepreneurs had to do all of the above when the pandemic caused customers to stay home and their sales to suddenly and dramatically decline. But like Charlotteans always do, people came together to find a solution that would help small businesses survive and emerge stronger. The result: the Small Business Innovation Fund, a collaborative partnership between Charlotte Center City Partners, Honeywell (who recently moved its headquarters to Charlotte), The Foundation for the Carolinas, Bank of America, The Knight Foundation, and Duke Energy, that provides grants to small businesses to spur innovation, creativity and adaptation to help them advance in the current and future economy.

While small businesses continue to face an uphill battle, these forward-thinking owners and entrepreneurs in and around Center City have implemented innovative and transformative changes or additions to their business models with support from the Innovation Fund and the community. Check out some of the creative changes small businesses in Charlotte have made using the grant—and then get out there and support them!

As restaurants struggled during the pandemic, entrepreneur Dianna Ward, who also owns Charlotte NC Tours and Charlotte Joy Rides, saw an opportunity to create a food delivery service that helps local restaurants rather than charging them exorbitant fees. Using repurposed e-bikes from Charlotte Joy Rides and support from the Small Business Innovation Fund grant, she created and launched the InTown Charlotte E-Delivery Service app. The low-cost, sustainable e-bike delivery service serves area codes 28202, 28203, 28205 and 28208. Users pay a mileage fee and transaction fee. But the best part—the restaurants are charged $0 in commission and the delivery riders make a living wage.

The Small Business Innovation Fund grant has enabled small businesses like Ward’s to better reach consumers through digital and e-commerce opportunities. Other small businesses in Uptown also focused on technology and going digital with support from the grant, like gift shops The Beehive and CLT Find, both of which enhanced their online shopping platforms and expanded pickup and delivery options.

There are so many more stories of innovation, creativity and resilience coming from small business owners across Charlotte’s Center City region. With support from the Small Business Innovation Fund, businesses have been able to identify and implement more efficiencies and take their business models to the next level, achieving goals they never thought would be possible. And with support from community members, these businesses are continuing to achieve their dreams, one customer at a time. 

Learn more about the Small Business Innovation Fund, and keep supporting small businesses like these in Charlotte. To see a full list of Innovation Fund grantees, click here.