Upstart Cocoa Forgivable Loan

Cocoa City Council once again prioritized economic development efforts in the City of Cocoa with the approval of additional grants through the UpStart Cocoa Business Development program. This program which started in 2021, was developed to help promote the growth and expansion of minority and/or women owned small businesses in the City of Cocoa.

The program is designed as a three-year forgivable loan program which awards up to $10,000 to a new start-up business or a business looking to expand into the City of Cocoa. After three years of maintaining the business in Cocoa and successful completion of the program, the loan will be forgiven.

This program is available to empower entrepreneurs to succeed in the City of Cocoa, attract minority businesses to the area, contribute to the economic vitality by promoting small business, and to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods through the encouragement of diverse businesses. The program includes a collaboration with weVENTURE Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech to offer customized business mentorship and education through their signature Ignite 360 business mentorship program.

There will be at least 4 loans available through this program with some dedicated solely for the Diamond Square community. Applications will be open soon for the next round of loans. A review committee will be established to review applications and make recommendations to City Council. Keep an eye out on the City’s social media pages and the website, for the latest on the UpStart Cocoa program.

Upstart Cocoa Minority and Small Business Program has been formulated to encourage businesses to locate or relocate to Cocoa, while supporting minority entrepreneurs with business skill sets, stat-up and marketing expenses.  The forgivable loan is available to racial minorities and women owned small businesses.

Funding is based on budget availability

Application submission does not guarantee approval. The Forgivable Loans are funded between $1,500 and $10,000 as determined by the City Council. For startup businesses, the minority entrepreneur must obtain at least 10% of startup costs from non-Program related funding sources. Funds shall be provided on a reimbursement basis only. 

The application process is not currently open.

The submittal steps:

1)Verify Eligibility 

2)Complete this application.

3) Receive an email from the City confirming receipt of application.

4)  To provide the appropriate protection to your personal information we will need you to drop off a sealed envelope addressed to  Office of Economic Development, with the following items included: 

  • Business Plan
  • Budget
  • City of Cocoa Business Tax Receipt and your FEI/EIN Number (If you haven’t obtained these items please describe your timeline for doing so.)
  • Address of intent to lease or mortgage showing ownership
  • Financial Statement from business bank showing your ability to match the loan with 10%
  • Drawings, plans, etc.

4) Receive an email from the City confirming your successful completion of the application.

The Upstart Cocoa Selection Committee will meet in TBD and applicants will be contacted with further details.  

Minority small business owners and entrepreneurs may advance through the Program as follows:

1. Minority small business owners located outside the City and wishing to relocate to the City of Cocoa and minority entrepreneurs desiring to start a business in Cocoa must submit an application to the Program. This application will require the Applicant to demonstrate need for startup costs or relocation costs and comply with application requirements. A proposed business plan is required upon submission of the application.

2. The Upstart Cocoa Review Committee shall review applications and choose promising candidates for the Program. The number of applications selected shall depend on budget availability. Application selection shall occur at a duly noticed public hearing.

3. The selected applicants complete business coaching and coursework for approximately a 24-week period with WeVenture. Tuition for the business coaching and coursework will be paid for by the City, but all other expenses, such as mileage and supplies for classes, shall be paid for by the applicant. The objective will be to gain further education regarding topics such as business management, finance and budgeting, marketing, product/service development, and human resources. In addition, the selected applicants will work with WeVenture to refine a business plan appropriate for a start-up business or expanding business.

4. At the conclusion of the 24-week period, WeVenture shall provide a funding recommendation to the City’s Office of Economic Development regarding the specific eligible expenses that the City may wish to fund. The Upstart Cocoa Review Committee will make a recommendation to the Cocoa City Council regarding the award of a Forgivable Loan, ranging between $1,500 and $10,000, based on policy factors, including the applicant’s performance during the 24-week period and the strength of the refined business plan. The Upstart Cocoa Review Committee’s recommendation will be made at a duly noticed public hearing.

5. Should a Forgivable Loan be awarded by the Cocoa City Council, the Minority-Owned Business shall execute all required Program Agreements, which may include a Security Agreement for specific equipment or inventory funded by the City. Thereafter, the Minority-Owned Business may begin to submit reimbursement requests for eligible expenses as described in the policy.

6. Minority-Owned Businesses must complete a community enrichment element project or service to “pay back” 25% of the Forgivable Loan amount to the community within three years. After three years of maintaining the business in Cocoa, the loan will be 100% forgiven.

The goals of the Upstart Cocoa Loan are to:

  1. Empower entrepreneurs to succeed in the City of Cocoa,
  2. Attract minority small business to the City,
  3. Contribute to the economic vitality of the City by promoting small business, and
  4. Cultivate vibrant neighborhoods through the encouragement of diverse businesses.

The Upstart Cocoa Loan program is designed as a three-year forgivable loan program with a community enrichment component to “pay back” 25% of the grant to the community within three years.  After three years of maintaining the business in Cocoa and successful completion of the “community enrichment component” the loan will be forgiven at 100%.

The City believes the success of the businesses/entrepreneurs is dependent on an appropriate level of business savvy and a comprehensive understanding of executing a well thought out business plan.  Thus, we are collaborating with weVENTURE WBC (weVENTURE) to provide a customized mentoring program.  Once a business/entrepreneur is selected for an Upstart Cocoa Forgivable Loan, weVENTURE will develop a customized program to guide the recipient through their business plan and completion of course work.  weVENTURE will provide an analysis for funding recommendations at the completion of a 24 week business education track. Partnering with weVENTURE is an opportunity to provide direct business support in a customized accessible way utilizing proven programs of the US Small Business Administration (SBA) WBC model.