Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 26 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
When Julie Parisi started out as a shopkeeper at NewBo City Market in 2015, she had a young toddler and was pregnant with her second child. “I remember the days of bringing in a stroller and carrying a diaper bag and a pack-and-play tucked away in the corner of my booth here because, at the time, our finances were tight,” she said. “I was starting a business. My husband was working full-time, and we couldn’t afford child care. So, our family option was for me to bring the kids with me to work.” Now she is the market’s executive director, and although her children are in school, she can still relate to parents in a similar position that she was in when starting a business. “It’s hard to really put 100% of your time and effort into starting a small business when you’re also taking care of kids at the same time,” she said. “I really wanted to find a way to address that barrier for them so that they could really come in here and focus on their business becoming successful and growing.” With grants from the CLA Foundation and the Cedar Grove Signature Fund through the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, NewBo City Market offers child care stipends for its eligible shopkeepers. Under the program, which started in late January, shopkeepers can receive up to $300 per month for children up to 13 years of age and $200 for each additional child, and up to 19 years of age for children with disabilities. This is particularly helpful to shopkeeper Cheryl Pledge Kardell, whose daughter, Norah, just turned 14. Norah, who has a cognitive disorder, has often visited her mother’s store, The Artisan’s Emporium, after school and during summer. But as she is getting older, she is ”less content to just sit and play on her tablet,” Ms. Kardell said. “If I can get her in a good program or find somebody that can take care of her, and she can have activities away from me and I can concentrate here, that would be very helpful,” Ms. Kardell said. The stipend can go toward respite care or other licensed programs such as Camp Courageous or The Arc. The recent funding allows the market to implement this program for the first year, but Ms. Parisi fully expects sponsorship and grant funding to keep the program going. This is a step in the right direction in addressing the state’s child care crisis, which Dawn Oliver Wiand, president and CEO of the Coralville-based Iowa Women’s Foundation, called “the biggest economic barrier facing women both before and, especially since, the pandemic,” in the CBJ’s Women in Leadership Series “Her Way” in 2021. The crisis was so great that Gov. Kim Reynolds created the Child Care Task Force last March to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the child care shortage and barrier to work in Iowa. Expanding opportunities NewBo City Market expanded another program this year to expand its business incubator program. The Entrepreneurs Equity Fund – funded by Cedar Grove Signature Fund, the CLA Foundation, MidAmerican Energy Company and UFG Insurance – allows the market to continue supporting guest vendors through rent discounts, entrepreneurial outreach, and specialty Guest Vendors Markets that shine a spotlight on minority-owned small businesses. “What we’ve noticed over the years is that a lot of folks get their start with the market just as a day vendor on the weekend, and they kind of test out their business concept and eventually turn into shopkeepers,” Ms. Parisi said. “What we wanted to be able to do throughout the year is offer specialized days where we’re featuring just Black businesses or women-owned businesses or LGBTQ.” The special days align with months that highlight a specific demographic, such as a Black-owned business day during Black History Month in February and an LGBTQ day during Pride Month in June. These events have been held before, but the discount came out of the market’s own pocket, making it difficult to accommodate many vendors. “It turned out there was so much need for it, we were turning folks away,” Ms. Parisi said of the decision to expand the program with additional grant funding. Programs helping underrepresented business owners align with the NewBo City Market’s efforts to lower barriers to entry for local entrepreneurs with varying backgrounds and experiences. “I’m a white woman, so I have more privileges than many others, but even as a woman, I’ve noticed in my lifetime, going through the business world and trying to navigate some of these negotiations or contracts and things, there tend to be barriers,” Ms. Parisi said. “So I just felt like the city market was a place where we could do what we could to try to reduce or eliminate those barriers for people who faced them in their daily lives. It’s a place that we also want to really spread awareness of the idea of being an inclusive community.”