Seed money

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Dream, get the money: Sacramentans have until June 26 to vote for one local business to win a “startup package,” valued at more than $100,000, offered by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. The six finalists want to sell milkshakes, churros, whiskey, skin care products, “curated” kitchen items and commercial shelf space for makers who don’t want the overhead of a brick-and-mortar shop.

“We want to make sure small businesses get off the ground on the best foot possible,” said the Partnership’s Valerie Mamone, noting that when the competition started in 2013, it was a challenge to attract businesses downtown “without any incentive.”

Since then, the Calling All Dreamers contest has helped launch 16 businesses, including winners like Andy’s Candy Apothecary (1012 Ninth Street) and runners-up like Sun & Soil Juice Co. (1912 P Street) and Benjamin’s Shoes (1104 R Street).

The selection process acts as a crucible for businesses as they prove their merit in front of a selection panel that includes Erika Bjork of Sacramento Republic FC and Ali Youssefi, developer of the Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street.

The teams that make it to the semifinals spend a couple of weeks with retired business mentors, who help refine their pitches. The winning team gets everything from free rent to tenant improvements to legal, accounting and branding assistance. The winner will be announced in the second week of July.

Last year, Oblivion Comics & Coffee (1020 11th Street), which opened on May 10, won. Co-owner Neil Estaris said that, before entering the competition, he and Laura Benson had their idea for about a year but not much traction.

“We couldn’t get anyone’s attention,” he said. “Realtors wouldn’t talk to us. Banks didn’t take us seriously. We hit a wall.”

Their mentor advised them to ditch their original food truck proposal and pivot to their brick-and-mortar concept, where people sip coffee and steep in the bright colors of comic books.

To vote, go to

Bargain market: The demolition of an abandoned building began on June 12 on a lot that will be the future home of North Sacramento’s first Grocery Outlet—and one of very few grocery stores in the neighborhood. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, developer Paul Petrovich said the supermarket will focus on hiring its 35 employees from the local area.