Sshopping centers are the backbone of communities across the country, and Thurston County is no exception. The Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) is always looking for better ways to support small businesses across Washington. The Business and innovation center (CB&I) is launching an online portal, which will be a single point of access to a variety of resources geared towards the different stages of entrepreneurship. Director Sean Moore shares the ideas behind the portal and delves into some of the resources that will be available online.
During the pandemic, many businesses and organizations shifted gears to adapt. Thurston EDC found virtual training to be the best way to continue to support small business owners safely. So they started to coordinate and develop programs to enable distance learning and coaching. With the online portal, businesses will now have access to a wealth of resources, training videos and modules whenever they want to dig deeper and explore further. Rather than scheduling time outside of their busy schedules to participate in a Zoom call or attend a meeting, business owners can have the freedom to engage in learning when it suits them best.
One of the main drivers of the portal has been to create more accessibility and awareness around the many resources offered by Thurston EDC. It can be difficult to know where to go for help, and people are often discouraged from asking for help if they find themselves in the wrong resource. âWe want to make sure people are accessing the right resource the first time so they can benefit from it immediately,â says Sean. The online portal categorizes resources for three different stages of the business, which can help business owners easily navigate the exceptional services provided by the Thurston EDC CB&I.
Business creation assistance
The first step in the business is the start-up phase. The online portal will contain resources specific to new business owners to help those interested in starting a business, including a free introductory business course offered by the CB&I School. Here, a new entrepreneur can begin to learn about the fundamentals of starting a successful business. They also offer business start-up training, known as BEST, which is a business plan writing course. âThere are learning modules and step-by-step videos,â says Sean. âEach registrant will also have access to a weekly walk-in meeting where they can ask me questions. “
Another interesting resource that will be featured on the online portal is a new program called Quick Start-Up, which was recently launched through the Washington Center for Women in Business. âThe intention is to quickly put people in a position to start selling their products and services,â says Sean. It is an addition to Market W, which is a new Seattle-based online marketplace for women-owned, gender-balanced businesses. âThe W Marketplace is like a Etsy, Sean explains. âIt’s a place where they can start selling their basic products and services. Interested and eligible businesses can apply for a $ 1,500 scholarship to complete a two-day training and a one-year marketing package as part of the program.
Support for business growth
The second category that the online portal targets are people looking to grow their business. They want to help newly established businesses create more success for themselves and grow in their industries, which is why they will be offering a training called To augment on the portal. This statewide training is free to any business that has been in business for 2 years and consists of a combination of live instruction and modules through Teachable that help complete the program. It’s a great resource for businesses looking to learn how to grow strategically.
The online portal will also feature the CB&I Consulting program for newly established businesses. âWe are matching a local Thurston County contractor with those who need services,â says Sean. “The entire program is free for business owners and is designed to pay consultants to work for small businesses.” Services can range from web development to accounting and human resources services. Small businesses are encouraged to take advantage of this exceptional resource to discover exciting new ways to manage and expand their existing operations.
Additional business support
The final category the online portal will target is those of long-established businesses looking for additional resources to support their efforts. The main resource of this group is the Washington Technical Assistance Center for Procurement, which aims to help businesses navigate the process of obtaining government contracts. âThis opens up the possibility of a significant increase in income,â says Sean. âIt can be quite a process, which is why we have advisors who walk business owners through the process. Government contracts can be very lucrative and provide an excellent stable income stream. So this is a great next step for established businesses.
The new online portal will be a single point of access for a multitude of resources and make it easier for businesses to get the help and support they need to be successful. âWe’re really trying to develop this ecosystem of entrepreneurs,â says Sean. “We want to make sure people are aware that there is support for them.” Thurston EDC is always looking for innovative ways to continue to serve the business community, which is why they are very excited to launch the online portal. Whether you are an established business or a brand new start-up, the online portal has the tools, resources and training to help you take your business to the next level. Visit the Website of the Business and Innovation Center to learn more.