Cheryl Sesnon at Washington CASH just passed on to me a new report done by an Evans School MPA Student for the Seattle Office of Economic Development : “ Using Small Business Technical Assistance to Preserve Diversity in Rainier Beach”. Author Andrea Lehner does a great job of showing the disconnect between what happens at a community level in business and what happens at city and regional levels, as well as how much business opportunity and success is shaped by social networks. In that report, she also captures why it’s particularly important to support minority-owned businesses:
“Research indicates that minority-owned small businesses are more likely to employ minorities and are more likely to provide goods and services for minorities that are ignored by the larger chains. In addition, there is indication that some minority-owned businesses do not move out of low income neighborhoods when they become more successful. Instead, they stay and continue to hire from that neighborhood, especially if there are other efforts to regenerate the area.”
Last fall I listened in on a webinar about a Kellogg Foundation funded initiative to develop Rural Entrepreneurship Development Systems. One of the speakers was from North Carolina, where they took a top-down approach and tried to create a one-stop-shopping location for entrepreneurs in NC to identify resources near them. I’ve been thinking I’d love to see something like that in Washington State. Last year I tabled for Washington CASH at a small business assistance fair held at Renton Technical College (The Renton Biz Fair) and I was fascinated by the array of services there – from government agencies to a program doing business assistance out of the Seattle School District, I think aimed at potential contract bidders.
Andrea’s paper does include a survey of Seattle area technical assistance providers on page 27, and that list strikes me as a good one for small and micro businesses. She also notes that providers agree that there is little comprehensive information about how the various services combine to provide a coordinated spectrum. Page 33 has a roundup of all the services and makes an assessment of their combined offerings as “Seattle’s Technical Assistance System”.
Looking beyond the Seattle area: earlier in the paper she references a conversation with someone at the Department of Commerce about survey work they did. Turns out they’ve published it: The Washington State Guide for Small Business, 2010 edition. However when I look at it, it’s much more at what I’d call a small business level, as opposed to the micro-business level that seems appropriate to Rainer Valley local businesses.
More appropriate is the Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA) which I’m familiar with from my experience with Washington CASH. Their member listing is a good assortment of service providers in the state who reach all the way down to microenterprise.
Andrea’s report concludes with a list of recommendations for the city. The ones that resonate for me – creating a service provider roundtable to coordinate provision and having a 3rd party entry point to help entrepreneurs find the right set of services; focusing service provision on business owners as much as businesses; and focusing evaluation on long-term outcomes (the holy grail!) Great reading!