Racine micro-fund program gives small businesses a boost, 'more opportunities'

RACINE -- Although Racine is home to several corporations, more than 50 percent of the city's jobs come from small businesses. That is why Racine is renewing a micro-fund program made possible with federal funding. Its mission -- to help small businesses grow with a loan from the city.

Steven Chatman

Steven Chatman and his business partners saw a former travel agency in Racine -- and turned it into the new home of Valid Kixx.

"We, I guess basically, love sneakers," Chatman said.

But starting a business from scratch makes money decisions even more important.

"It's hard to like, take a part of the budget that you're already working with for inventory to waste it on advertising. It's kinda like you gotta pick your battle," Chatman said.

That is where the city comes in. Racine wants to treat small businesses like the "soles" of their community -- and take a big step forward regardless of what is on the shelves.

"This was the thing that allowed them to expand and grow or continue to be successful in Racine, and give people who want to come here and enjoy our city more opportunities to do business," said Racine Mayor Cory Mason.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason

Mason launched the pilot program in 2019. He gave five businesses, all minority or female-owned with five or fewer employees, a low-interest loan up to $15,000.

"These are the kind of programs that give just the jolt in the arm that those businesses need at exactly the right time to get to the next level," Mason said.

At Valid Kixx, that money helped pay for advertising and more inventory.

Because of the success in 2019, Racine expects around $100,000 will be available for this year's recipients. Applications are due by March 2.