Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Enterprise for Equity

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Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that positively impact our communities. In July 2024, Mission Nonprofit host Deborah Vinsel sat down with Beth Henriquez, executive director of Enterprise for Equity and Aubrey “Abe” Burt, co-founder of ilk Lodge.

Enterprise for Equity is a nonprofit that supports aspiring and existing entrepreneurs through education mentoring, technical assistance and microloans. The idea for Enterprise for Equity came from a movement in the 1970s when Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Eunice started to support small, rural businesses in his home country of Bangladesh through microloans. “He had this inspiration that we really should be focusing economic development efforts on micro-businesses,” shares Beth, “and helping to get financing to people who were running those businesses that nobody was thinking about, certainly not in terms of economic development.”

After a Microcredit Summit in Washington, D.C. in 1997, a group of Thurston County volunteers spread the knowledge they had learned to low-income serving agencies in the South Sound Area. Enterprise for Equity was born out of this idea – that small businesses need to be supported and nurtured.

Today, Enterprise for Equity is a resource for those in Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Wahkiakum, Pacific, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Clallam and Pierce counties.

Enterprise for Equity Programs

“A micro business it typically less than five full-time employees and typically takes less than $50,000 to get started,” explains Beth. “We have a microloan program that is funded through the USDA microloan program and our loans run from a $1,000 to $25,000.”

Enterprise for Equity offers many programs to help business owners, including information sessions, 2-day Business Readiness Workshop and a 10- to 12-week Business Planning Workshop. In all of these, entrepreneurs get to meet other entrepreneurs and form relationships so they can help and support each other. “Being an entrepreneur can be a very overwhelming and lonely experience and we were built on the desire to bring something to the community and to create a community in our classes, so as people go through as a cohort are resourcing each other and forming relationships that last way beyond the program,” shares Beth.

All of their programs have at their core the organization’s triple bottom line focus: People, Planet, Profit.

“I kind of cooked in that triple bottom line concept in our business plan pretty heavily,” shares Abe, who went through Enterprise for Equity’s program.

Abe mentions that the sliding scale that Enterprise for Equity uses helped the team at ilk Lodge immensely. “When Pat and I went into this process, we were starting from zero and we both had terrible credit and all that thing felt like a huge barrier and so even paying, you know, any amount of money for education seemed daunting,” Abe shares. “So when they were like, “But it’s a sliding scale and you know as a business, no matter how many business partners you have, you can all attend the class for one fee.”

And currently, the business classes are all free thanks to a subsidy.

For more information, watch the full video above or visit the Enterprise for Equity website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 22 on Sundays at 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 10 a.m. You can also watch on TCMedia website, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thurston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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