Rediscover why downtown Dayton is the top location for retailers, eateries, and other first-floor businesses.

Downtown Dayton’s first-floor businesses – boutiques, shops, cafes, yoga studios, restaurants, pubs, and more – are the lifeblood of our downtown community. These entrepreneurs create the amenities, connections, and experiences that make our downtown a vibrant place to live, work, and play.

The Retail Lab invites business owners to advance their first-floor concept through an intensive series of workshops, pitch events, and strategic business improvement projects. Each program element connects participants to new mentors, experts, ideas, capital, and resources that will help the businesses thrive and grow in downtown Dayton.

Business Outcomes
Business owners who complete the program will…

  • Invest 30+ hours in intensive workshops and opportunities to build and improve their business
  • Build valuable relationships with mentors and fellow business owners in the Retail Lab
  • Clarify and strengthen their business model with the support of local experts
  • Explore technologies to streamline and scale their business
  • Put their business on track to access capital for growth
  • Pilot their new concept or new approach in the downtown market
  • Pitch their business to downtown developers, investors, and stakeholders for additional support (Demo Day)
  • Receive up to $1,500 in professional services and consulting at no cost to your business

  • Retail Lab Partners & Collaborators

  • Downtown Dayton Partnership
  • The Entrepreneurs’ Center
  • Miami Valley Small Business Development Center
  • Launch Dayton
  • Parallax Advanced Research
  • Five Rivers MetroParks – 2nd Street Market
  • DACC Minority Business Partnership
  • Minority Business Assistance Center
  • CityWide Development
  • The Hub at the Dayton Arcade
  • Greater West Dayton Incubator

  • Program Format
    Cohorts of approximately 10 businesses are selected for each round of the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab. Participants work together with Retail Lab mentors and experts to advance their business through a series of 12 weekly workshops. Businesses will then test their progress with creative pop-ups, promotions, or marketing campaigns as a capstone to their Retail Lab experience. The program concludes with a Demo Day in which participants have a chance to pitch their business to downtown developers, supporters, and other stakeholders who can help them take their business to the next level. Participants will have ongoing support from the Downtown Dayton Partnership and program partners as they search for the resources and space to succeed and grow.


    Cohort 2
    February – April 2021 | Weekly Workshops
    May – July 2021 | Capstone Project & Service Provider Support
    August 2021 | Demo Day

    Cohort 3
    July 2021 | Application & Selection Process
    Deadline to apply: Tuesday, August 3, 2021 at 11:59pm
    August – October 2021 | Weekly Workshops (tentatively Tuesdays from 9am to 11am)
    November – January 2021 | Capstone Project with Service Provider Support
    February 2022 | Demo Day Presentations

    AJ Ferguson – ferguson@downtowndayton.org

    How to Apply

    Please scroll to the bottom of this page to find the application form.

    Deadline: Tuesday, August 3rd (extended form July 22)

    Learn More

    If you would like to learn more before you apply, please contact AJ Ferguson at ferguson@downtowndayton.org or fill out the interest form below.

    Retail Lab Interest Form

    Project Support

    In addition to the generous contributions of time and expertise from our partners and collaborators, the Retail Lab is made possible by the financial support of the Entrepreneurs’ Center’s Entrepreneurial Services Provider (ESP) Program. Thank you!

    The Downtown Dayton Partnership is a proud partner of the Launch Dayton community. Launch Dayton partners believe everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to determine their own economic prosperity. This community exists to support and inspire all Daytonians who are building businesses. Launch Dayton partners collaborate to build an easily accessible environment, run high-caliber programming, and connect a network of champions, mentors, and resource providers.



    Please complete and submit the application below by Tuesday, August 3rd at 11:59pm. If you have questions, contact AJ Ferguson at ferguson@downtowndayton.org.

    1About You
    2About Your Business
    3Taking the Leap
    • Examples: owner, founder, general manager, partner, employee, etc.
    • Summarize the experiences or expertise that led you to creating this business. Both professional and personal perspectives are welcome.
    • (Optional) Upload your resume or other documents that help us learn more about you.
      Drop files here or
      Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, Max. file size: 64 MB, Max. files: 5.