Center @ Sixth helps launch Black-owned businesses at farmers' market - Des Moines Register

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Ashworth said the concept appears to be working, and both owners have regularly sold out of their products each Saturday.
, covered up-front costs for necessities like the pop-up tents, cash registers, tables and signage — "everything these businesses need to slide in and start making money," Ashworth said.
" Ashworth said Nadia La Baker, which started at the market a few weeks earlier, is in the same position.
"It will be mimosas one day and samosas another day," Ashworth said.
Hy-Vee has pledged to sell some of the successful products, Ashworth said.

Center @ Sixth helps launch Black-owned businesses at farmers' market - Des Moines Register

Marquas Ashworth doesn't plan to break ground on his Center @ Sixth project until the spring, but he's already sending two businesses through its incubator program. Once complete, the building at 1714 Sixth Ave. will house a nonprofit that helps Black and brown entrepreneurs build their businesses with the help of area professionals like lawyers, accountants and planners. To help test the concept, he's working with Nadia La Baker and Jambo African Cuisine, helping both launch booths at the Des Moines' Downtown Farmers' Market. Ashworth said the concept appears to be working, and both owners have regularly sold out of their products each Saturday. More:Rapper and entrepreneur Marquas Ashworth is working to build up Black-owned businesses: 'We can unite ourselves' "This has been cool to watch it work," he said, adding "It's more fun than making money, making music, making whiskey." Beyond developing Center @ Sixth, Ashworth is a hip-hop artist, producer and founder of Media Fresh Records and creator of Ziyad Rye small-batch whiskey. To get the businesses going, Center @ Sixth, in partnership with Principal Financial Group and EMC Insurance Cos., covered up-front costs for necessities like the pop-up tents, cash registers, tables and signage — "everything these businesses need to slide in and start making money," Ashworth said. It also paid their Farmers' Market fees, which can be more than $1,000, said Aminatha Mkama, owner of Jambo African Cuisine. "It's helped a lot, especially since I'm starting out, of course," she said. "I would have to buy all of those things while I still invested a lot in this business." More:Des Moines woman-owned businesses support one another. These are a few of our favorite shops Mkama sells East African cuisine, primarily from Tanzania, where she originally was from. The main dish is a coconut cream rice filled with chicken, beans and vegetables. She said she wasn't sure Iowans would embrace her cuisine — especially at 7 a.m. — but that the customer base she built as a caterer and at festivals has grown tremendously since she started just a month ago. Last week's market was slow due to the Iowa State Fair, she said, but she was left with just four servings by the time the market closed. "I am so blessed," Mkama said. "We have a lot of customers that we met from the festivals, so I see them almost every Saturday. They're coming to pick up their lunches, their dinner." Ashworth said Nadia La Baker, which started at the market a few weeks earlier, is in the same position. Owner Nadia Ahissou, a French-style home baker of croissants, baguettes and other pastries, already has been able to upgrade her equipment and is looking for a storefront, he said. could not be reached for comment. More:New Ingersoll development to include fine-dining restaurant, garden, retail space Meanwhile, Ashworth is preparing to break ground on the four-story, $10 million development in the spring. The first floor will include three anchor tenants — a yet-to-be-announced local coffee shop and a restaurant, as well as a tasting room for Ashworth's Ziyad Rye, featuring new and favorite products plus guest pours from other Black and brown whiskey producers. In between the anchors, there will be 1,000 square feet of retail space and two food stands for businesses going through the incubator. The products will rotate as businesses come in and out of the program, with the idea that customers can drop by any day and find something new. "It will be mimosas one day and samosas another day," Ashworth said. More:See new images of SingleSpeed Brewing Co.'s planned location in Des Moines' Market District The mezzanine will have classrooms for the entrepreneurs to learn business skills and offices they can use. Ultimately, the goal is to get business owners prepared to set out on their own, whether it's in a storefront or partnering with another business. Hy-Vee has pledged to sell some of the successful products, Ashworth said. The building also will have 32 apartments, with 51% of the units reserved for renters earning 80% or less of the area median income. Center @ Sixth recently received $1.8 million in tax increment financing from the Des Moines City Council. The council also agreed to provide a $300,000 match should the Iowa Economic Development Authority choose Ashworth for a grant from the state's new Nonprofit Innovation Fund. Gov. Kim Reynolds created the $20 million fund this year with federal American Rescue Plan Act money to help nonprofit organizations expand to meet the needs of Iowans. Ashworth said he was personally invited by Reynolds to apply. Eligible expenses include costs for construction, acquisition, site development, engineering and architectural services. Center @ Sixth is also accepting donations through the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Construction should take about 14 months. Kim Norvell covers growth and development for the Register. Reach her at knorvell@dmreg.com or 515-284-8259. Follow her on Twitter @KimNorvellDMR.
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