City of Tustin Small Business Level Up Training & Grant Program

City of Tustin Small Business Level Up Training & Grant Program

As part of the Tustin Cares Program in 2022, the City of Tustin partnered with the Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to expand SBDC’s online Level Up training program into the Small Business Level Up Training & Grant Program. As a result of two successful Small Business Level Up Training & Grant Programs in 2022, the City and SBDC are offering Tustin small businesses another opportunity to participate in the Program (Phase III Level Up Program). The Phase III Level Up Program will provide growth opportunities through training and funding to small businesses needing financial assistance in overcoming the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All eligible businesses are invited to apply.

Businesses which have previously received alternative sources of funding such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan, State, County of Orange and/or City of Tustin grants are eligible to apply. Businesses that received previous funding from the Level Up Training & Grant Program are not eligible. Businesses with owner(s) and partner(s) who own other business entities and received the Level Up Training & Grant Program under those entities are also not eligible. The program is based on the availability of funds, program guidelines and submission of all required information and supporting documentation. Small businesses with a minimum of five (5) employees – including the owner, and a maximum of one hundred (100) employees (full and part-time) may be eligible to receive a working capital grant of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) after attending four (4) mandatory two hour each virtual training sessions and one (1) mandatory one-on-one business consulting session. The grant may be used for working capital to cover the day-to-day business operating expenses such as rent/lease payments, mortgage payments, payroll and benefit costs, utility expenses, inventory, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of operations.

Application Period

Applications must be submitted online and will be accepted from 9:00 am, Monday, January 23, 2023 to 11:59 pm, Sunday, February 5, 2023. The application period will close promptly at 11:59 pm on February 5, 2023. Applications received online after this due date and time will be considered late and will not be accepted.

The selected businesses will be notified beginning February 16, 2023 and will then be asked to submit all required business and financial documentation for review and verification. The first of four mandatory classes will begin on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 from 10:00 am to Noon.


Please complete the entirety of the application and ensure all of your information is correct. If required fields are not complete you will receive an error notice which will not allow you to submit the application. For best results, we recommend using the following browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox. After submitting your application, you will receive an email confirmation.

The Phase III Level Up Program, is a program developed by SBDC to assist small businesses in expanding and driving their business to the next level. During the four (4) weeks, business owners will work on putting together their path towards progress as they evaluate and develop on their metrics, benchmarks, teams, financials, triggers and strategies to reach the next level of growth. Trainees will learn how to de-risk expansion and get involved in proactive growth and development.

Biggest obstacles in growing your business include:

  • Intelligent Planning
  • Cash
  • People
  • Customers

Categories of growth include:

  • New Revenue Streams
  • Entering New Market Segments/Expanding Customer Base
  • Expanding Team
  • Acquiring New Technology/Equipment
  • Adding Strategic Partners
  • New/Additional Location
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
Program Structure
  • A total of four (4) two-hour mandatory Zoom training sessions. In the event a business misses one of the mandatory training sessions, they can make it up by scheduling an additional 1:1 consultation meeting with their SBDC consultant. If a business misses two (2) or more mandatory training sessions, they will then be ineligible to receive the $10,000 grant.
  • One (1) mandatory 1:1 consultation meeting with a SBDC consultant in between cohort meetings/sessions
Program Outline

The Phase III Level Up Program covers the following topics with a focus on building growth strategies:

Every business faces a series of challenges on its path to growth. This module covers a variety of successful approaches to growth. You will find out how to grow your business as you learn about successful growth opportunities, identify failures in growth and pitfalls to avoid, and take actions setting your growth plan as aligned with your vision. Are you ready to grow?

  • What does growth mean to you? Identifying the key drivers of growth in your business.
  • Building a Strategic Plan that matches your vision. (What goes into your strategic plan?)
  • Conducting Market Research to validate your vision.
  • Establishing Key Performance Indicators(KPI)/Key Performance Areas (KPA) to ensure you achieve your vision.

During this module, you will learn about actionable steps you can take to assess and develop your human capital talent into a formidable all-star force for your company. Utilizing individual skill sets and training to personal strengths ensures all individuals are functioning within the overall team at their highest and best use, creating a competitive edge not easily duplicated.

  • Your workforce
  • Breakdown of your labor force

There is only one boss:  CUSTOMERS! Growth in your business is all about attracting new customers and/or expanding what your existing customers are buying from you. This module will take your growth plan and help you hone in your efforts on bettering the outcomes of your current marketing efforts, defining your target areas that you are trying to reach and developing a strategy to grow your customer base.

Customers: Marketing

  • What is your Marketing Strategy?
  • Breakdown of your Customers – Who Are They?
  • Marketing Channels – Where Are You Marketing? Where Should You be Marketing?

Customers: Sales

  • Revenue Analysis
  • Sales Channel Analysis

Cash & Plan
Cash is king. But the question is: cash for growth or growth for cash? To grow, you need to maintain adequate cash flow. In this module, you will understand your numbers through your Profit & Loss (P&L) and build your financial projection to support your growth plan. This class will teach how to accurately project growth, model it, and stress test it to make sure capital will work effectively with your growth plan.


  • P & L Analysis
  • Financial Forecasting
  • Cash Flow Analysis
  • Funding Options

To be eligible to apply for the Phase III Level Up Program, a business must meet certain criteria that has been established by the City of Tustin and the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury for utilizing ARPA funds. The business must also demonstrate the need for financial support resulting from the loss of revenue due to the impact of COVID-19.

General Terms and Conditions

The business applicant must meet the following minimum requirements to be considered for grant funding:

  • The business must be a for-profit business and physically located in Tustin;
  • The business must be located in a commercial or industrial space;
  • Residential or real estate projects including short-term rental operators are not eligible;
  • The business must have an active Tustin business license since the first quarter of 2019 (January – March 2019);
  • As of December 31, 2022, the business must have at least five (5) employees – including the owner – and no more than a total of one hundred (100) full-time and part-time employees;
  • The business must be in good standing with the City (current on bills, no liens or judgements, etc.), unless directly correlated to COVID-19 impacts;
  • The business must not be suspended or debarred or otherwise excluded from receiving Federal funding;
  • The business has not received previous funding from the Level Up Training & Grant Program; or its owner(s) and partner(s) have not received previous Level Up program funding under another business in which they are an owner/partner.
  • The business must submit the application and all required supporting documentation;
  • The business applicant must certify that it experienced financial hardship related to COVID- 19. Financial hardship is defined as more than a $10,000 loss of revenue due to COVID-19. For example, total revenue for the business during the 2020 calendar year or 2021 calendar year (including any COVID-19 grant assistance received in that calendar year) was down more than $10,000 in comparison to total revenue for the business during the 2019 calendar year; and
  • The amount requested ($10,000) cannot exceed the amount of lost revenue, which must include a reconciling of any previous grants the business received.

* City employees and elected and appointed officials are not eligible to participate in this program

Funds should be used to cover expenses for the business. The primary expenses include such items as rent or mortgage expense, utilities, inventory, marketing, business planning, payroll and benefit costs, PPE, or other operational expenses for the business (“Eligible Expenses”). Applicants will fill out a section of the application form that will breakdown how the funds will be spent within their business (“Spending Plan”). Each applicant will need to sign and verify that the use of funds will be spent on business expenses, such as those expressed above. Any use of funding other than that to support the business is strictly prohibited.

Eligible Expenses are considered necessary expenditures that provide economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency and they were incurred during the period that begins on January 1, 2023 and ends on December 31, 2023. In the event a business does not expend the funds in the manner consistent with the Spending Plan as outlined in the application or does not expend the entire grant amount, the business will be required to submit a report to the City no later than January 31, 2024, identifying how the funds were spent. If there is a remaining balance, the business will be required to return the funds to the City by January 31, 2024.

The following is a nonexclusive list of expenditures that shall not constitute Eligible Expenses payable from the grant amount:

(1) Damages covered by insurance.
(2) Expenses that have been or will be reimbursed or recovered through other funding programs, such as the reimbursement by the federal government pursuant to the CARES Act or contributions by States to State unemployment funds.
(3) Reimbursement to donors for donated items or services.
(4) Workforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime.
(6) Severance pay.
(6) Legal expenses or settlements.
(7) Debt service or loan repayment.

Upon pre-approval and notification of selection for funding, businesses will be required to submit the following documents by February 27, 2023 for review and verification in order to receive the grant:

  • The most recent monthly bank statement; and
  • Current City of Tustin Business License.

In addition, SBDC will provide the selected businesses with the following documents to complete
and submit by February 27, 2023:

  • W-9;
  • Direct Deposit Form (includes voided check which matches account and routing numbers listed on Direct Deposit Form. Grant funds are directly deposited into your account);
  • Check Request Form; and
  • A signed Tustin Small Business Grant Agreement, which includes business impact statement and self-certification.
Although selection is not guaranteed, businesses should begin to collect the required documentation in order to expedite the approval process in the event they are selected.

For additional information regarding the Phase III Level Up Program, please contact the following:

City of Tustin
Economic Development Department
300 Centennial Way
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 573-3117

For questions about the guidelines and application or assistance in completing the application and to set up a one-on-one consultation (at no cost), please contact the SBDC at:

Manal Richa, Director
15375 Barranca Parkway, Suite A111 Irvine, CA 92618
(657) 256-3874 office

City of Tustin Small Business Level Up Training & Grant Program Phase 3

Mike Daniel is the network director of the Orange County Inland Empire SBDC Network, which assists aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners throughout Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Mike was formerly the director of the SBDC office at Long Beach City College. As business owner and entrepreneur himself, he started his career as the owner of a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory location in Manhattan Beach and went on to open a second location in Long Beach in 2001. In 2007, Mike sold the Manhattan Beach store for an above-market offer then invested in several additional locations as a minority shareholder. Mike further expanded his candy empire with venture located in Shoreline Village in Long Beach called Sugar Daddies Sweet Shoppe, based on fill-it yourself candy options.

Mike has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton.