This fall, two sites in downtown Milford will house new businesses through DEDO's Project Pop-Up program, which helps entrepreneurs get on their feet with three months rent-free and special business and financial literacy classes.

Paige Deiner never planned on owning her own business, and definitely never expected to buy a property and hire outside help.

Even when she started her massage and yoga business out of her home in Lewes, continued it after moving to Milford a little more than two years ago, it was still more of a hobby, she said.

That all changed when she decided to apply for the Delaware of Economic Development Office’s (DEDO) Project Pop-Up program.

“I don’t think I ever would have done a storefront,” said the owner of Milford Massage, Wellness and Yoga, which is currently located in converted residence at 626 Northwest Front Street. “Project Pop-Up really gave me confidence, a place to be and a formal job. Instead of being a hobby, now it’s a career.”

After being named Milford’s Project Pop-Up business in 2013, Deiner was provided a commercial space at 127 N.W. Front St. for three-months, rent-free. She also worked with DEDO officials on business and financial literacy to ensure her success.

Since participating in Project Pop-Up, Deiner has purchased a larger property to house her growing business, added services like fitness classes, meditation, tai chi and acupuncture, and hired more than 10 contractually-based employees. When she worked from home, she had three or four massage clients a month. Now she sees about 60 massage clients and about 100 visitors for her other services.

Two sites in downtown Milford are slated for Project Pop-Up locations this fall. One of the locations is Deiner’s original storefront on Northwest Front Street. The second is the former location of Coolspring Cottage at 22 S. Walnut St.

Ken Anderson, DEDO’s director of entrepreneurial and small business support, said the program will likely have 10 to 12 sites throughout the state although it is still working secure most of those locations. Seaford is most recent addition to the list of participating municipalities that also includes Milford, Milton, Smyrna, Middletown and Wilmington.

Anderson said the program is limited by the number of available properties that fit the criteria for participating Project Pop-Up locations and businesses.

“The support that we give them once they’re placed, we [expect to have] very, very good results,” he said. “The possible outcome in some of these towns will be less vacancies and less of a need for a program like this.”

Applications for businesses will be accepted through the first week of August, with final selections hopefully taking place in the third week of August, Anderson said.

A soft opening for selected businesses will be held on Sept. 15, followed by an official opening date of Oct. 1. Participating businesses will receive three months rent-free before deciding whether or not to sign a lease with the property owner.

To qualify as a Project Pop Up business, entrepreneurs must have an existing business that is already generating some revenue, a state-issued business license, a completed application and compatibility with the selected sites.

For more information or for an application, call Ken Anderson or Diane Laird at (302) 577-8477.