Small Business Challenge

Flower box benches in Central Square

The Small Business Challenge Grant offers Cambridge businesses, business associations, and groups of neighborhood businesses the opportunity to secure one-time grant funding in increments of $1,000 for well-designed projects that bring together neighborhood business interests around shared goals of improved design, promotion, and business resilience in a commercial area.

Program Description

The Challenge encourages applicants to develop innovative ways to invigorate their commercial areas and business districts. This could include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Neighborhood Tourism/Events Planning – Work with Economic Development Division (EDD) of CDD, Cambridge Office of Tourism, Cambridge Arts Council, or other city departments to create one-time promotional marketing materials or events around a shared common vision for the district.
  • Technology & Skill Training – Partner with local expert technology and/or skill trainers to build the skills of businesses, and/or local business associations, to help increase sales, increase efficiencies, and develop online marketing and social media strategies.

Projects conducted through the Challenge aim to bring a positive benefit to a given community in which businesses, residents, and visitors alike will benefit. Examples would include, but are not limited to:

  • Large, reusable banners for marketing or branding purposes.
  • Decorative and whimsical elements (e.g. flower boxes) that help act as gateway identifiers to a unique business district.
  • Social media workshops or financial management trainings for business groups.
  • One-time marketing and promotional materials to boost a commercial area or new event (e.g. “swag bags” or branded items like T-shirts and hats).
  • Adding a one-time pop-up retail component or additional innovation to an existing, or established, event (e.g. a craft market at a movie night).
  • Launching a business-to-business network or business-to-resident network with targeted goals and an annual plan.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must be a Cambridge business association or group of neighborhood businesses. More details about eligibility requirements are included in the application form.

Deadlines & Review Process

A completed application, that includes a signed application along with a full grant proposal narrative and supporting documentation (e.g. letters of support) as detailed on the last page of these guidelines, is due March 8th 2017, at 5:00 PM (EST). Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Completed applications will be evaluated by a grant committee and awardees will be announced by the end of March 2017. Awardees will have until April 5th 2017 to confirm, in writing, acceptance of their award. Failure to confirm will result in a forfeiture.

Awardees should be prepared to implement plans in early May 2017. EDD staff will work with awardees one-on-one to establish bench marks to ensure grant projects are realized and on track for completion by June 19th, 2017. Grant funds will be awarded upon project completion.

Application Form

To participate in the Small Business Challenge Grant applicants must review and complete the Small Business Challenge Grant application form.

For More Information

Visit the FAQs for additional information, or review the application.

If you have questions about the Small Business Challenge Grant, please contact Christina DiLisio, cdilisio@cambridgema.gov or at 617/349-4601. The City of Cambridge will provide auxiliary aids and services, written materials in alternative formats, and reasonable modifications in policies and procedures to persons with disabilities upon request.