Emerald Austin had always dreamed about opening her own baking business and sharing her sweets with the community. But for years, she never took the time to act on her passion. A health scare in October 2018 changed everything. “That prompted me to say, ‘You know what, I finally have to do what I want to do,’” she said.

The Bixby Knolls resident then took efforts to make her concept come to life. After utilizing the resources of the Long Beach Small Business Development Center to expand her knowledge of being a business owner, she applied for a business license in February to introduce her dream to Long Beach: Royal Gourmet Cookies.

Currently operating out of her home, Austin said she aspires to open an actual shop for the community to visit. Later this year, she will get a chance to run a pop-up version of her business as the first entrepreneur to utilize the Corner Pop-Up.

Corner Pop Up Ribbon Cutting
The City of Long Beach, LINC Housing and the Pacific Gateway Workforce Innovation Network hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 15 to for the Corner Pop-Up, a creative space where startup businesses will be able to pilot their products. Pictured, from left: Erick Serrato, deputy director of Pacific Gateway; Zane Kupper, Egg Productions; Krystal Ray Moreno, founder of Micho & Mary; Karina Martinez, founder of Avana Creative; Arturo Enciso, founder of Gusto Bread; Seyed Jalali, City of Long Beach economic development officer; Jay Trinidad, Aguas Way; Suny Lay Chang, chief operating officer of LINC Housing; Leoh Sandoval, founder of Aguas Way; Dina Feldman, founder of Feel Good Salsa; Emerald Austin, founder of Royal Gourmet Cookies; and Kim Armstrong, board chair of Pacific Gateway. (Photograph by Brandon Richardson)

Introduced to the community at a ribbon-cutting ceremony August 15, the Corner Pop-Up is a site for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to showcase their products and services on a cyclical basis. The space is a partnership between the City of Long Beach, LINC Housing and Pacific Gateway Workforce Innovation Network.

Nestled in a corner space of the historic Palace Hotel at 2640 E. Anaheim St., the Corner Pop-Up will also provide youth programming and workforce development services. At its August 13 meeting, the Long Beach City Council approved the lease agreement with property owner LINC Housing for the city to use the suite. The Corner Pop-Up is funded in part by a $100,000 grant provided to the city by the Citi Foundation and Living Cities, a collaborative of foundations and financial institutions, according to Seyed Jalali, the city’s economic development officer.

John Keisler, the city’s director of economic and property development, said the Corner Pop-Up will officially launch in October. On average, individual pop-ups within the shop will last for about two weeks each, at no cost to the entrepreneurs.

Keisler said the city’s motivation in opening the facility is to allow business owners to pilot their concepts with zero risk. “What we found in a lot of our work with entrepreneurs is that, to test out their first business, they have to sign a lease, take a huge financial commitment and then try and work out all the kinks,” he said. “And, oftentimes, they struggle and fail.” He said the Corner Pop-Up is the city’s attempt to find a solution to that problem.

As they operate at the site, business owners will test prices for their products, promote their services on social media and potentially partner with other businesses involved with the Corner Pop-Up during a two-week cycle, Keisler said.

Suny Lay Chang, chief operating officer of LINC Housing, said the nonprofit took ownership of the Palace Hotel in June 2010. Renovations were completed in 2012. The site offers 14 apartment units for transitional age youth, individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 who are in transition from state custody or foster care. The units are located above the Corner Pop-Up.

“These are kids who are coming out of the foster care system and are on their own for the first time and need a place to stay,” Chang said, adding that LINC’s mission is to build and preserve affordable housing to benefit the community. “Ultimately, it’s not about providing the housing; it’s about serving the individual,” she said. “And in addition to housing, an individual needs employable skills.”

Erick Serrato, deputy director at Pacific Gateway, said the workforce agency has two focuses: to help the youth living onsite and to expand workforce training for the community. “Our primary focus is finding ways to connect the entrepreneurs – the activity on the first floor – with the youth upstairs,” he said. “Every time there’s a pop-up, there is a ready supply of workers upstairs who can develop their skills.”

As businesses use the space to pilot their concepts, Pacific Gateway will concurrently host workforce development workshops and counseling. Serrato said the business owners who have been connected with the city through its business development programs, such as Kiva Loan, will be the primary target for the pop-up. However, he indicated that applications will open for all businesses for the pop-up in September.

Visit popuplb.com for more information.