Community Impact with a Personal Touch
The ever growing presence of chain businesses and a surging real estate market have pushed the risk proposition of being a small business owner to a recent extreme. Maintaining market-competitive pricing in some of the more expensive districts of Seattle without the resources of a multi-state or national company can be a great challenge to many local businesses. However, if built to last, local business adds an identity and sense of culture to the surrounding area.
In that effort, Business Impact NW (BIN) has been creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to be successful for 20 years. Many locally owned ventures such as coffee shops, restaurants, and yoga studios that comprise the communal landscape have sought Business Impact NW for support at some point.
“Our goal is to improve quality of life… If you’re reducing the wealth gap then the ability for a family to improve their community and their life grows exponentially.” Danielle Moser, Development and Communications Director at BIN.
BIN’s support of local business comes in two forms: lending and technical assistance. Both services are offered in-house, and the financial startup process can largely happen within the comfort of the same tight-nit team.
Lending can vary from a significant start-up fund to supplementing a heavy operational cost. A burgeoning entrepreneur may have a promising vision, or an existing business takes on a sudden cost. Both can be supplemented by BIN within the flexible range of $5k-$250k.
BIN’s annual event Impact Pitch gives local business owners a chance to pitch their business in a Shark Tank-like scenario for a chance to win up to $25,000. The selection process focuses on quality impact in the community by a diverse set of businesses, including: best startup business, best existing business, and best veteran-, woman-, and community-of-color-owned businesses.
While financial assistance can go a long way, professional guidance and resources can help ensure the success of those expenses. The unfortunate rate of failed startups points to the slim margin of error when planning and executing that process.
Among the many challenges for local business is finding space that is affordable and logical. An uptick of larger commercial spaces and a general expectation that businesses should match market rate out the gates can make for an unwelcoming environment.
“Affordable retail space is a challenge… we want people to have a launch pad into success. If you have to spend 3-4k a month on retail space, you’re going to fail in 2 months.” Joe Sky-Tucker Executive Director at BIN.
Considerations such as service saturation in a region or accessibility to a target demographic are also evaluated by BIN counselors and loan officers when game planning with a prospective entrepreneur. Similar to their lending assistance, BIN’s technical assistance can be called upon by established businesses should they need direction with accounting or similar concerns.
A recommended inroad with BIN is the Square One training, which serves as an introduction to BIN and their scale of service. Further opportunities include private consultancy, as well as group training through the Small Business Administration-funded Women’s Business Center (WBC) and Veteran’s Business Center (VBC).
Although BIN has a wide range of clientele, additional consideration is given to underserved populations or historically disenfranchised communities, such as women, veterans, immigrants, refugees, communities of color, and LGBTQ populations.
“The integrity of the community and the way you identify with your community is based in the public spaces and the small businesses that are in it… not only are the small businesses disappearing but also the ability to walk to anything is slowly going away… we want people to succeed in their own community.” Moser
The aforementioned Women’s Business Center and Veteran’s Business Center have reportedly helped start over 175 businesses and over 73 businesses respectively.
Central to the ethos of BIN is to bolster diversity among entrepreneurship, as well as locally driven employment, provide services and capital to potentially vulnerable business owners, and subsequently play a role in creating communities of opportunity for all economic classes.
“I believe strongly that cross-sector work is key… [for example] you can’t solve mental health if you only work with mental health organizations. That’s a key part of it, but if you aren’t building infrastructure around it then it doesn’t work – the same with affordable housing” Sky-Tucker