UpStart Cocoa Forgivable Loan

UpStart Cocoa Small Business ProgramCocoa City Council, in its efforts to bolster the economic health of the City of Cocoa, has approved of additional assistance to new businesses 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's Small Business Forgivable Loan program is designed as a three-year forgivable loan program that awards up to $10,000 to a recent or brand-new start-up business, or a business looking to expand into the City of Cocoa; and up to $15,000 to businesses that will open in the City's Diamond Square Community Redevelopment District. After three years of maintaining the business in Cocoa and successful completion of the program, the loan will be forgiven. The program includes a collaboration with weVENTURE Women's Business Center (WBC) at Florida Tech to offer customized business mentorship and education through their signature IGNITE 360® Business Mentoring Program.

About the UpStart Cocoa Grant Program

The UpStart Cocoa Small Business Forgivable Loan program promotes the growth of women and minority-owned small businesses throughout the City of Cocoa. These Forgivable Loans are provided to minority small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the City of Cocoa, relocate an existing business to the City of Cocoa, or for a business recently opened in the City in order to to fund certain eligible expenses. The goal of the Program is 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, rather than a grant.  The approved applicants must complete aforementioned 24-week business education program component, and be approved by City Council in order to be awarded the remaining funds as reimbursements for eligible expenses up to the awarded amount.

Funding provided through the Upstart Cocoa Program is treated as a deferred loan, whereby no interest will accrue upon the principal of the total loan amount and payment to the City is deferred for a three year period after completion of the required IGNITE 360® ADVANTAGE program and execution of the loan agreement by Cocoa City Council and the Upstart Cocoa Review Committee. At the end of the three-year period, the loan will be forgiven in its entirety on the condition that the grantee is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Forgivable Loan Agreement and the UpStart Cocoa Program Policy.

Funds for the eligible business expenses may be awarded after successful completion of IGNITE 360® Business Mentoring Program, administered by weVENTURE Women's Business Center at Florida Tech's Bisk College of Business. The Forgivable Loan funds the IGNITE 360® ADVANTAGE course, which provides six (6) months of customized coaching and educational training to entrepreneurs to ensure their long-term success and is a mandatory part of the program. Upon completion, weVENTURE WBC will submit to the City a report on the business and an approved plan for the funding. Council will then vote to award funding to the business based on that plan.

UpStart Cocoa Application Schedule

  • Next applicant round opens: January 1, 2024 and remains open until all awards are given out by City Council and the Committee.
  • Next Review Committee Meeting: TBD

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UpStart Cocoa Program Informational Session

  • Next informational session: TBD

Meetings are held in Council Chambers at Cocoa City Hall (65 Stone Street), open to public attendance and participation. Attendance is kept and the meetings are recorded.

You can view the recording of the January 31, 2023 session.

Steps in the Process to Complete the UpStart Program

Steps in the Process to Complete the UpStart Program

  1. Apply: All applicants must be eligible to participate in the program and complete the application in full by the posted deadline with all of the required documentation. Any applications received that do not have all of the required documentation may not be considered for the program.
  2. Application Review: Once all applications have been received, the UpStart Cocoa and UpStart Diamond Square committees will review applications.
  3. Q&A with Review Committee: All applicants that have submitted the required documentation and qualify for the program will then be invited to participate in the Question and Answer session with the UpStart committee.
  4. Participant Selection: The UpStart Cocoa and Diamond Square committees will then choose candidates to participate in the program at a Cocoa City Council Meeting. There will be 2 businesses selected for the City of Cocoa and 3 businesses selected for Diamond Square.
  5. Begin 24-Week weVENTURE Program: The chosen businesses will then begin the 24-week business coaching and mentorship program with weVENTURE and work to refine their business plan.
  6. Funding Recommendation: Once the applicants have completed the coursework with weVENTURE, weVENTURE will provide a funding recommendation to the City of Cocoa regarding eligible expenses for the forgivable loan. This will be based on the applicants performance in the program and the strength of the refined business plan.
  7. Loan Agreement: Once the recommendation is made to the City for eligible expenses, the applicant will enter into a loan agreement with the City or the CRA. (See a template of the loan agreement.)
  8. Submit Reimbursement Requests: Once the loan agreement is signed, the eligible business may start submitting reimbursement requests for eligible expenses up to the amount awarded (not to exceed the remaining loan amount of $7,500, or $12,500 for Diamond Square awardees).
  9. Fulfill Terms of Agreement for 3 Years: The approved applicants will be required to stay in business for three years and fulfill the terms of the loan agreement including a community enrichment element where the business gives back to the Cocoa community. Once this occurs, the loan will be 100% forgiven.

Eligible Reimbursable Expenses

  • Rent subsidy for a period not to exceed 3 months. During this period rent payments may gradually decrease in increments to be determined by available funds. Rent subsidy includes only the base rent amount and common area maintenance. Home-based businesses do not qualify for rental subsidies.
  • City fees (i.e. utility deposits, permitting fees, Business Tax Receipt fees).
  • Inventory expenses generally not to exceed 25% of the loan amount.
  • Marketing Expenses, which may include marketing campaigns for goods and services, advertising in local papers and on websites, the use of outside marketing firm to design websites, and signage, with the total amount for Marketing Expenses generally not to exceed 25% of the loan amount.
  • Moving expenses for large equipment and furniture.
  • One Year Membership to the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce and/or Space Coast Black Chamber of Commerce.
  • Other expenses as recommended by weVENTURE.