Local skincare brand opens storefront

Local skincare brand opens storefront

RALEIGH, N.C. — The pandemic has created plenty of challenges for small businesses, but the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) has a financial resource, known as the Storefront Upfit Grant, to help them thrive.


What You Need To Know

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has a program known as the Storefront Upfit Grant

The grant can help with costs like electrical work, HVAC, design costs and even furniture

The owner of Anne’s Apothecary says the grant helped her take the risk of opening a brick and mortar store


The current grant window closes on Oct. 15, but there are other opportunities in the future

The program basically reimburses small business owners who open up a location in downtown Raleigh. Anne’s Apothecary is one of the businesses that received a grant and the owner, Anne Suinner-Lawoyin, says she likely wouldn’t have taken this leap if it weren’t for the financial help.

Anne’s Apothecary is still getting settled in.

“My name is on the product. I never thought that would be. I still can’t really put it together,” Suinner-Lawoyin said. “COVID really kind of opened your eyes to see what was missing, what could be possible. And for me, what could be possible was I could be in my own retail space and offer my products and even more.”

Suinner-Lawoyin started making clean beauty products after her mom received a life-changing diagnosis.

“I was graduating from nursing school, and my mother came for graduation, and she got diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. As someone who has never been sick most of her life and is not a smoker, it was a big shock to everyone,” Suinner-Lawoyin said.

She took it as an opportunity to make some changes.

“As a family, collectively, we made the decision to be more conscious about what we ate, products that we used,” Suinner-Lawoyin said.

Making these products started as a form of therapy. Now, it’s her passion as she continues the entrepreneurial spirit that her mom instilled in her.

“I just want to be able to say, ‘Hey mom. See? This is all kind of you.’ I use the tragedy and the heartbreak to build something that benefits other people and makes them happy,” Suinner-Lawoyin said.

As for the Storefront Upfit Grant, Suinner-Lawoyin says the process was easier than she expected.

“I saw the form, and I was like, ‘Oh God. This is too much. I don’t like forms. I’m not going to do this.’ But I took a leap of faith and reached out and the process wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was actually pretty straightforward,” Suinner-Lawoyin said. “I did the numbers and I said, ‘OK. I think this can work.’ And that is how I got here.”

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has given out $15,000 since the program started in July. The grant can cover electrical work, HVAC, design costs and even expenses like furniture.

This support enables new businesses to put their resources in other important elements of starting up, says Will Gaskins, director of economic development planning for the DRA.

“It’s also just a means to get funds to businesses and helpful in launching them forward at the start of their business,” Gaskins said. “That need of a proto-entrepreneur or first-time business owner of having the surety of, OK, this is where I’m going to source funds from.’ And having the grant is a means for them to be able to uplift and to stand up in a downtown environment where costs can be higher.”

He notes that not all communities in the Triangle have this kind of program to attract and develop retail enterprises downtown.

“It’s extremely helpful in terms of business recruitment being able to attract businesses to space in downtown,” Gaskins said. “It’s also helpful as a tactical tool for a storefront space that hasn’t been leased and being able to recruit tenants for that space and uplift it.” 

There are different tiers of grants based on the type of business, including some for female-owned and miniority-owned businesses. The current grant window closes Oct. 15, but other opportunities will be available in coming months. Gaskins says the program has been successful, so the Downtown Raleigh Alliance plans to continue it for the foreseeable future.

To lean more about the Storefront Upfit Grant, visit the Downtown Raleigh Alliance website.

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