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UpStart Cocoa is a small business development program designed to empower entrepreneurs to succeed in Cocoa, attract Minority-Owned Businesses to the City, contribute to the City's economic vitality by promoting small business, and to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods through diverse businesses in Cocoa. The Program is designed as a forgivable loan program, which may be awarded after successful completion of business coaching and educational training for entrepreneurs offered through the weVENTURE Program. Loans are available up to $10,000 which includes $2,500 towards the weVENTURE program and $7,500 for eligible refundable expenses.
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The following are the eligibility requirements for the UpStart Cocoa program:
All applicants who are awarded a forgivable loan through the UpStart Cocoa program are required to give back to the Cocoa community through the donation of volunteer hours, goods or services. Donations shall be made to a public entity (schools, non-profit organizations, etc.) or a 501(c)(3) providing services to the Cocoa community. This must be completed within the three year term of the loan agreement.
Eligible funds will be reimbursed to the chosen applicants based on the recommendations of the weVENTURE program and the refined business plan.
The 24-week weVENTURE business coaching and mentorship program will help applicants 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 existing business expansion.
The UpStart Cocoa and UpStart Diamond Square review committees will be comprised of one member of the City's Finance Department, a member of a local banking institution, a member of the weVENTURE team, and a member of the Diamond Square CRA board.
All applications submitted by the posted deadline will be reviewed for completeness, and compliance with the program criteria and then forwarded for review to the review committees. Businesses that do not comply with the program criteria and conditions will not be eligible for funding.
The following factors will be considered for the eligible reimbursable expenses as part of the UpStart Cocoa forgivable loan:
Conditions included in the UpStart Cocoa agreement may include, but are not limited to:
To be reimbursed, the Grantee must provide to the Office of Economic Development paid receipts from laborers, suppliers, materialmen, contractors, and subcontractors. The receipts must include the following information:
Payment is made to the grantee on a reimbursement basis. The grantee must submit invoices with original receipts to the Program Manager for items and services purchased in accordance with the terms of the Forgivable Loan Agreement and this Policy. The expenses will only be reimbursed for items and services purchased after the effective date of the Forgivable Loan Agreement, unless the Board approves otherwise. If rent abatement has been awarded, payments will be made to the grantee upon proof of payment to the landlord for each month that is specified in the Forgivable Loan Agreement. All payments will be made to the grantee approximately thirty (30) days from the date of receipt of the requisite documentation. The Program Manager will establish the necessary administrative procedures for processing payment.
If the grantee fails to comply with one of the conditions to receiving funds under the Upstart Cocoa Agreement, the Program Manager will contact the grantee in an effort to determine the reason for the noncompliance. Without compromising the integrity of the program, the Program Manager shall attempt to accommodate legitimate and substantiated problems being faced by the grantee.
If a suspected default or breach occurs, as defined in the Forgivable Loan Agreements, the Program Manager will first contact the grantee in an effort to verify the occurrence of a default and determine the reason for the default. If the Program Manager is not successful in contacting the grantee, he/she will inform the City’s Attorney of the suspected default. Once the City’s Attorney confirms the default, the Manager will cease further payments to the grantee and instruct the City Attorney to send a letter, notifying the grantee of the default and demanding either the grantee cure the default or reimburse the City of Cocoa. The letter will also instruct the grantee to contact the Program Manager to further discuss the matter. If the grantee fails to respond to the demand letter, fails to cure the default or reimburse the CRA/City the stated amount, or proposes a settlement, the Program Manager will coordinate a meeting of the Upstart Cocoa Review Committee. The Program Manager will send a letter to the grantee notifying him/her of the date and time of the meeting.
The Upstart Cocoa Review Committee will meet on an as-needed basis and will make recommendations to the City Council regarding the appropriate action to take with regard to seeking reimbursement of funds already paid to the grantee, including, but not limited to: (1) recommending that the City Attorney’s Office initiate litigation in the event the grantee fails to respond to the demand letter or refuses to reimburse the City of Cocoa; (2) recommending mediation or other alternative dispute resolution actions; (3) recommending terms of a mutually agreeable settlement in the event the grantee proposes a payment schedule; or (4) recommending no further collection action and termination of the Agreement. The Committee’s decision will be reported to the City Council for final approval.