Small Business Challenge

central square sign

The Small Business Challenge (SBC) grant offers Cambridge businesses, business associations, and groups of neighborhood businesses the opportunity to secure one-time grant funds between $1,000 and $5,000 for well-designed projects that bring together neighborhood business interests around shared goals of improved design, promotion, and business resilience in a commercial area. 

2019 Small Business Challenge Winners Announced

Program Description

SBC 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 staff from CDD's Economic Development Division, 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 business efficiency, 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. The following past examples meet grant guidelines: 

  • Large, reusable banners for marketing or branding purposes.
  • Decorative and whimsical elements (e.g. streetscape planters) that help act as gateway identifiers to a unique business district.
  • Decorative flags installed along a busy business corridor.
  • Hanging flower baskets installed in a business district to unify area with adjacent business district.
  • Temporary art, or decorative elements, installed in first floor windows of unoccupied or vacant commercial properties.
  • Interactive events (e.g. walking tours) that celebrate a collection of local businesses and engage residents and/or customers.

The following examples would also meet grant guidelines:

  • 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.

Grant awards are determined by the Small Business Challenge review committee, which takes into consideration the following factors: 1) Total project cost 2) Potential impact in community or given area 3) Lasting impact and sustainability of project 4) Feasibility of project and soundness of proposal 5) Ability for project to be replicated.

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 the application guidelines, was due November 16, 2018 at 5:00 PM (EST). Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Completed applications were evaluated by a grant committee and awardees will be announced in January 2019. Awardees confirmed, in writing, acceptance of their award. 

Awardees should be prepared to implement plans no later than April 2019. Projects must be fully paid for by June 1, 2019. CDD staff in the Economic Development Division will work with awardees one-on-one to establish benchmarks to ensure grant projects are realized and on track for completion. Grant funds will be awarded upon project completion.

For more information, please see the Small Business Challenge application form, which includes detailed guidelines, project examples, and a timeline for application submission and review. 

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 page for additional information.

Read about past projects.

If you have questions about the Small Business Challenge grant process, please contact Christina DiLisio at or at 617/349-4601