After a four-year hiatus, the Mission Economic Development Corporation is relaunching its popular Ruby Red Ventures entrepreneurial program. But this time, there is a new spin on the original concept.
Ruby Red Ventures began in 2013 as a Shark Tank-style program geared toward helping people get their business ideas off the ground. But now, in Ruby Red Ventures 2.0, the Mission EDC aims to help businesses that are already established. And instead of one winner at the end of the program, the MEDC has a $200,000 grant to divide between multiple recipients.
“It used to be that people would do an entire pitch like they would on the Shark Tank show. But this time around, we’re doing it so that small businesses in general can apply,” said Brianna Casares, the MEDC manager of marketing and programs. “So for example, if they are looking to make improvements to the façade or if they’re looking to buy more inventory. We’re assisting in operations, facility improvements, expansions, working capital and job retainment.”
Director of Strategic Partnerships & Program Development Belen Guerrero said even though the original version of Ruby Red Ventures had much success in the community, the EDC had no way of helping businesses that already had a long-standing track record. And many of those businesses were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was our way to help already functioning small businesses that, day-to-day, are grinding to keep our local economy going. They make up the most of our economy,” Guerrero said. “And we felt that this was a good way for them to get that assistance that they needed to just do a little bit more than they were already doing. Because we know that capital is tight, we know money is tight, resources are tight, so this is a good way for them to have just a little more wiggle room in their budget to train or make improvements to their products or their services, get some new equipment, anything to help them do business better.”
To be eligible for the new Ruby Red Ventures, the applicants must be within the Mission city limits, have no more than 30 employees, make less than $1 million in annual revenue, be legally registered and in good standing with local tax entities and be in operation for at least two years.
Business owners can apply for up to $15,000 and must provide a detailed project plan with verified cost estimates and a timeline. Ineligible businesses include non-profits, government entities, franchises and sexually oriented or drug-related operations. Additionally, applicants cannot have received financial assistance from the Mission EDC within the last two years.
For the grant recipients, Mission EDC will conduct 30, 60 and 120-day check-ins to ensure they are utilizing the funds in the way they detailed in their application. If the recipients fail to use the funds currently, they must pay back the money to the MEDC.
The application deadline for Ruby Red Ventures is Nov. 30, and more than 35 business owners have already applied. Guerrero said the MEDC is excited about the initial response. Depending on the reception, they plan to continue the program annually.
“We’re excited to see what change and impact the grant is going to make to our local economy, in terms of jobs and innovation and new projects that are going to be popping up,” she said. “We wish all the applicants the very best luck.”