Meet Renay Dossman, President of the Neighborhood Development Center in Minnesota
As President of the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), Renay Dossman oversees efforts to support sustainable community development and equitable economic opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners—35 percent of whom are immigrants and refugees—in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Working at NDC is a mix of everything I’ve loved doing in my career—I get to lead an incredible team, support retail incubators, and fuel my entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.
Renay spent most of her career in business, leading product development, design, and merchandising for large companies such as Target. Following the 2016 election, Renay returned to Minneapolis and focused on helping her community, becoming closely engaged with a local non-profit that supports men experiencing homelessness. Renay’s culminating interest in non-profit work and supporting her community led her to the role at NDC in 2019, which she sees as a full circle moment in her career.
NDC is a recognized community development financial institution (CDFI) that supports entrepreneurs from low-income communities who often face barriers accessing capital and successfully building their businesses. In 2020, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund made a grant to NDC to expand their work and support more immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs as they start and grow their own businesses, rise from poverty, and revitalize and transform their neighborhoods. NDC meets entrepreneurs where they are and provides them with the resources they need—whether that be accessing a loan or finding retail space, technical assistance, or technology support.
“It’s not about us, it’s about the entrepreneurs,” Renay says. “Our programs center around the gaps we’re trying to fill so they can be successful, and we think carefully about what people need. By training entrepreneurs so they can build up their businesses, they are able to create jobs, and their communities can grow and transform.”
The Midtown Global Market, a key program of NDC, is a vibrant entrepreneur incubator in Minneapolis, home to more than 45 businesses spanning over 22 cultures.
A major focus of the last year has been on ensuring equitable economic recovery for the business owners NDC supports, including in the Midtown Global Market, which is located eight blocks from where George Floyd was murdered. When the pandemic hit, businesses had to close and pivot to delivery or takeout options. Many entrepreneurs, Renay says, did not have websites or social media to share updates with customers. In response, NDC created a “tech pack” to help businesses meet their technology needs, among other tailored solutions. NDC also started a “Mindset Reset” pilot program, offering culturally specific mental health coaching for entrepreneurs.
Looking ahead, Renay is particularly excited about new lending opportunities and forgivable loans for businesses, as well as expanding their emergency grant program. A major priority for her and the NDC team is finding ways to get capital out faster. They hope to improve their processes and be more creative and innovative distributing capital to entrepreneurs.
Renay is also looking forward to building the bench of NDC’s team and tapping into her staff’s diverse talents and resources. When reflecting on her work, Renay emphasizes the importance of her team, identifying their strengths and supporting their mental health and well-being so they can thrive.