Small Business Relaunch Grant Program

Small Business Pandemic Relaunch Grant Program

The Pandemic Relaunch Grant program provided independently owned, ground floor small businesses in Downtown Bridgeport with $2,500 and technical assistance to implement a reopening plan.

The grant was paired with pro bono technical assistance with the aim for the participant business owner to make informed decisions about how to grow and thrive in Downtown Bridgeport. The deliverable of the technical assistance was a relaunch plan that addressed these topic areas:

  • Capital access and management tactics
  • Accounting and inventory (if applicable) management
  • Operational guidance on how to relaunch and when, including responsibilities to employees and customers
  • Messaging and channels to help attract customers new and old to the business

Technical assistance providers came from the fields of finance, accounting, legal, and marketing. We acknowledged that having “credible messengers” who can shepherd our diverse Downtown businesses through this program contributed to its success. In keeping with that premise, the DSSD partnered with Led by Us to spearhead the management of the program. Led By Us facilitated match making between participant businesses and technical assistance providers, oversaw the connections to resources, and checked in with businesses upon implementation of the reopening plan.


Grants were awarded to the following businesses:

  • Bocados Espresso Café, located at 881 Lafayette Boulevard
  • BPT Creates, located at 1001 Main Street, Suite 14
  • Creative Instinkts Tattoo Studio, located at 138 Fairfield Avenue
  • Downtown Café, located at 211 State Street
  • Funchal Americana Buffet, located at 100 Fairfield Avenue
  • Lafayette Barber Shop, located at 1016 Broad Street
  • Leisha’s Bakeria, located at 7 Lafayette Circle
  • Metric Bar and Grill, located at 39 Cannon Street
  • Qwikpack, located at 1019 Main Street
  • Rapha Massage, located at 25 Elm Street
  • Rum & Tequilla Fusion, located at 211 State Street
  • Trattoria ‘A Vucchella, located at 272 Fairfield Avenue

Two nonprofit organizations – City Lights Gallery and Cook and Grow – that are key to the Downtown community’s character and fabric were also selected to receive a $1,000 grant each to implement a Relaunch Plan.


The Pandemic Relaunch Grant program was aimed at small businesses that had difficulty obtaining funding from federal or state initiatives, with a particular focus on aiding small businesses owned by women and people of color. Eligibility criteria included:

  • Must be located within the Downtown Special Services District boundaries and operating in a ground floor location.
  • Must be independently owned. Businesses owned by women and people of color were given preference.
  • In an effort to make grants available to as many business owners as possible, principal owners of multiple businesses were eligible only for one grant.
  • Must show the business had difficulty obtaining funding from federal or state initiatives.
  • Must provide at least one federal tax return.
  • Must have an EIN and/or DUNS number, as applicable.


Potentially, any legitimate business expense or cost necessary to implement the relaunch plan was an eligible use of funds. Program staff made the determination of eligible costs after reviewing the completed application. Examples of eligible use of funds were:

  • Improvements to allow business to increase or start take out/carry out services, and physical improvements that would help the business meet social distancing requirements
  • Inventory
  • Advertising or marketing expenses
  • Employee training in new operating procedures, protocols, and policies. This could also include customer service training.
  • Technology hardware and subscriptions, such as Zoom, Shopify, Google Business, QuickBooks, laptop, video equipment.
  • Note: Selected participants could not use the Pandemic Relaunch Grant funds to pay rent or utility bills.

The DSSD was proud to partner with the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation to assist with disbursing the micro-grants to selected entrepreneurs.


  • June 5, 2020: Applications open
  • June 15, 2020: Applications are due by 11:59 p.m.
  • June 22, 2020: Selected participants are notified of their grant award.
  • June 24, 2020: Program introduction and technical assistance matching
  • No later than July 17, 2020: Micro-grant disbursement and plan implementation begins
  • Implementation check ins: July 31, August 31, and December 31, 2020; as well as June 1, 2021.


Applications were completed and submitted by Monday, June 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. online OR mailed in hard copy format to the DSSD office: 938 Broad Street, Bridgeport CT, 06604. A selection committee reviewed complete, eligible applications and selected grantees with an eye towards the long-term viability of the businesses, distribution across sectors, and consideration of support businesses may have already received through other aid programs. Awards first focused on aiding small businesses owned by women and people of color.


The Bridgeport DSSD wishes to thank SCG & UI, part of the AVANGRID Family; PSEG; the City of Bridgeport; and the People’s United Bank for their leadership gifts that allowed us to establish this program. Their support made the Relaunch Grant Program possible and they have our deepest gratitude.

City of Bridgeport