Small businesses are the backbone of every community, and Enterprise for Equity recognizes how powerful entrepreneurship is for so many individuals and families. Executive Director Lisa Smith expresses exceptional passion for the health and livelihood of small businesses in our community. “When you have a job, you go to your job, and that’s great for 90% of the people on the planet,” says Lisa, who is also one of the founders of Enterprise for Equity. “But there are people who really need to be their own boss, and when we can open up opportunities and reduce the barriers to business ownership, it creates power and leverage in their lives. They build their confidence, and they make changes in our community that make life better for everybody.” The agency will celebrate these business owners on Thursday, December 10 at their 20th Anniversary “Stories of Resilience” Virtual Fundraising Gala.
The nonprofit organization has dedicated 20 years to helping people with entrepreneurial aspirations make their dreams a reality by offering business training programs, technical assistance, financial education classes, and microloans. These programs set new and established business owners on the right track by providing the tools and resources necessary to be successful in today’s economy. “All we do day in and day out is help people with limited incomes start small businesses, or if they are already in business, we help them grow stronger,” Lisa says.
The organization has served hundreds of businesses, including local favorites such as Sofie’s Scoops Gelateria, Nineveh Assyrian, Deschutes River Cyclery, Stone Creek Wood Fired Pizza, My Thai Food Truck, OlyKraut, Sound Fresh Clams & Oysters, KinderGarden In The Garden, Gallery Boom, and The Wayside Cafe. In addition to these and many more businesses, the organization provides artists and other creatives a way to work for themselves doing what they love. “We do a lot of work with artists, musicians, writers, brewers, and foodies to support these creatives, who are essential to the life-blood of our community, creating beauty on every corner,” Lisa says. With Enterprise for Equity behind them, local businesses, farmers, midwives’, photographers, muralists, landscapers, and more have experienced success despite the hardships that come with starting a business.
During times like these, it is especially important to keep the community connected and ensure our local business owners get the support they need and have the right foundation to be successful. The programs through Enterprise for Equity are offered in nine counties in Western Washington and create access to essential business services for new and established business owners alike. The success Enterprise for Equity fosters goes beyond simply making money. Their 10-week business planning program requires every business to have a triple bottom line. This means that the program emphasizes three areas for a business owner to focus on as part of their bottom line: profitability, ecological impact and social value, or, as Lisa says, “People, profit, planet.” This encourages every business to bring something exceptional to the community by keeping their business centered around ideas such as civic engagement, conserving energy and water, reducing waste, and sourcing locally. Building these foundations within their business structure makes them stronger and creates lasting change in our community. With this mindset, businesses that have graduated from the program have been able to truly thrive.
If you are a local business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, register for an information session to learn more about their training programs and microloans, and how this incredible organization can support you and your small business.
Partnering For Change
To make lasting change, it takes true unity and collaboration within a community, and Enterprise for Equity is grateful for the support it has received from local agencies, organizations, and businesses that have helped make all they do possible. For years, Enterprise for Equity has worked closely with critical partners like Timberland Regional Libraries, city governments like City of Olympia, asset building coalitions such as Thurston Asset Building Coalition, Chambers of Commerce in several communities , and Economic Development Councils (EDC) in several counties, including Thurston EDC & Center for Business Innovation. Through this dedicated teamwork, Enterprise for Equity has been able to help businesses along and support entrepreneurs in their endeavors. Enterprise for Equity is humbled by the generous support from long standing contributors, including this year’s Catalyst Sponsor, WSECU, along with the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, Olympia Federal Savings, Heritage Bank, HomeStreet Bank and many others.
Celebrating 20 Years
This is a special year for Enterprise for Equity as it marks their 20th anniversary in operation. On December 10 the organization invites the community to join its celebration by attending the premiere of Enterprise for Equity’s 20th Anniversary “Stories of Resilience” Fundraising Gala. This no-cost virtual gala will showcase local business owners that have launched from their programs and will speak to the resiliency of these entrepreneurs. Enterprise for Equity wants to focus on the perseverance of their local business owners, especially considering the struggles brought on by this global pandemic. In addition to the speakers, there will be an online auction featuring goods and services from Enterprise for Equity graduates.
Community members are encouraged to come out to show their support at the virtual gala by registering online and donating what they can during the event. Even if guests can’t attend the night of the event, Enterprise for Equity encourages you to register to learn how you can access the gala recording later and join the online auction.
If you are unable to attend or donate, there is still something you can do to help support this exceptional cause and the community it serves: Buy locally. Lisa’s recent note of gratitude to the community reminds all of us to recognize how impactful these small choices can really be. “It matters when we buy locally!” she says. “As we approach the holidays we encourage you to shop at local businesses and especially from companies owned by Black, Indigenous and other Entrepreneurs of Color in our area. Consider giving a gift of a yoga class, delicious chocolate, a bike tune-up, take-out for a relative, a doula consultation for your pregnant friend or a piece of art! Now is the time to support these entrepreneurs, so discover your new favorite local business today.”
When we come together and support our local business owners by buying their goods and services, we become stronger as a community. We see businesses grow, families thrive, and communities prosper. “The seeds we have all planted will bloom and it is important that we water and nourish these businesses now and for the long haul as we prepare for the harvest in the future,” Lisa shares. So, plant some seeds of your own and show your support by shopping locally, and be sure to attend the fundraising gala so that our local business owners can continue to flourish under the exceptional mission of Enterprise for Equity.