SEATTLE – For people dreaming of opening a small business, finding funds can be a problem. Often, large financial institutions won’t hand out small-dollar loans to the smallest fledgling companies. Access to capital is even harder for marginalized populations – entrepreneurial women, people of color, veterans, immigrants or members of the LGBTQ community.
The organization Business Impact Northwest has stepped in to fill this void.
Chera Amlag’s Hood Famous Bakeshop, which serves Filipino-inspired desserts in Seattle, is one of its success stories. When she first started out, large financial institutions told her to come back when her shop had grown.
“What’s challenging with somebody who has a lot of drive and a really great product that is selling but not quite at the place where a bank is willing to take a look at you, Business Impact Northwest was the perfect fit for where we were at,” she explains.
Amlag credits Business Impact Northwest for championing her bakery and getting it to where it’s at now. Hood Famous is expanding to a second location this year. Across Idaho, Oregon and Washington, they’ve helped food trucks, dog-supply retailers and even a boxing gym get off the ground.
The organization’s board chair, Phil Jones, who also heads Harborstone Credit Union in Lakewood, says credit unions are focused on building communities and so it’s no coincidence that they’re involved. He says by supporting these small businesses, Business Impact Northwest is providing many perks to communities.
“In our communities that are sort of disadvantaged-type communities, they’ll build the business and they’ll hire from within that community,” he says. “So it’s sort of a double benefit. They get to grow their business but they’re also hiring in that community that might have been experiencing unemployment. and so it’s great.”
Business Impact Northwest also provides business counseling, help with business plans, tips for expanding and more. Amlag says the support it provides beyond lending services is key.
“They see that we’re humans that are scared, that we’re going into a risky business, but they provide more than just the money,” Amlag adds. “They provide the tools, the resources, the education so that once you do get that loan, your chance of succeeding is that much higher.”
Featured Photo: Business Impact Northwest helped Hood Famous Bakeshop, a small Filipino-inspired dessert bakery, get off the ground. (Lauren Stelling)
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.