Lisa Toro is a Memphis native who’s grown right along with the city. And while she started off in a number of higher profile corporate positions, she didn’t feel these jobs were her true calling. She wanted to help others experience success and grow their passions. So, Toro and her husband eventually went on to open City & State, a small concept shop in the Broad Avenue Arts District.

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The Idea of the Concept Shop

A concept shop is a destination where small artisans and business owners are able to showcase their goods. One of the main hang-ups for small business owners is the ability to get their products in front of customers. E-commerce is one way, but it is a crowded market. It’s often easier to push a locally crafted product to locals, but investing in the necessary real estate is also expensive.

With the help of City & State, small artisans in the area were able to highlight and showcase their products to people who came into their stores as well as to those who walked past.

Expanding to Women Business Owners

As Toro saw the growth of City & State and the entire Broad Avenue Arts District, she wanted to expand her outreach to local business owners. However, she noticed that despite the growing professional community, women and minorities were not highly represented. To help, she decided to assist these business owners in landing real estate.

She went back and talked with her own professional network and went on to create the Broad Angels Network. Toro and her partners wanted to assist female and minority Memphis entrepreneurs who were struggling to move into a brick-and-mortar location.

Oftentimes, finding the right real estate at an affordable price point is especially difficult. With her Memphis Entrepreneurship programs, Toro has helped local professionals connect with banks and receive the necessary funding required to open up a business in the first place.

Helping Through Education

While Toro is assisting up-and-coming professionals with opening their dream businesses and getting them off the ground, she’s also helping through education.

Toro found that one of the biggest issues individuals face when it comes to opening a business isn’t necessarily the lack of access to loans, but it is the lack of understanding of how to secure these loans and other forms of financial assistance. There are loans, offered through the city of Memphis and the state of Tennessee, as well as federal loans, all of which are specifically designed for female and minority entrepreneurs. However, many business owners are not aware that these loans are available.

To help, Toro has worked with business owners to educate them about the documentation and financial information that is required to open such a business. It is her goal to clear up confusion about the loan process and how entrepreneurs can access such loans from local lenders.

Additional Reading:

Original Saveur Magazine Article

Greater Memphis Chamber

We Are Memphis

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