Seattle-based KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn was one of 11 small businesses featured during the America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) annual legislative meetings in Washington, D.C.
Grant Jones, owner of KuKuRuZa Popcorn, was invited to the legislative reception in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Feb. 1 to highlight the diversity of small businesses that benefit from SBDC advising.
Jones and his wife, Ashley, opened their first gourmet popcorn store under a different name in Bellevue Square 2009 and then bought the KuKuRuZa store in downtown Seattle in 2011. They have since expanded to four KuKuRuZa stores in the north Puget Sound region and 15 overseas in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Cairo, Riyadh, and Taipei where they sell more than a dozen flavors of small batch, handcrafted popcorn.
Other members of the Washington SBDC delegation on Capitol Hill included Shavenor Winters, policy coordinator with Washington State University’s Federal Relations Office, Rich Shockley, Jones’ SBDC advisor at Highline College in Des Moines, Duane Fladland, state director of the Washington SBDC, and Terry Chambers, interim associate state director. The group was also joined by Craig Murchison, a graduate of Washington State University who now lives in Virginia. Murchison was an SBDC research intern for two years and helped compile information useful to Jones as he moved forward with international franchise agreements.
“I appreciate Grant’s willingness to share his story with decision-makers in Congress,” Fladland said. “Popcorn might be commonplace, but Grant saw an opportunity for an uncommon approach to selling gourmet popcorn around the world and he’s done that with the help of his SBDC advisor. Stories like his are what make our jobs at the SBDC so inspiring.”
Jones said he first began meeting with Shockley, his SBDC business advisor, in 2012 and now, 15 international stores later, they continue to meet. “I had a two-hour meeting with Rich yesterday,” Jones said, and they discussed a range of issues, including new franchise opportunities and managing growth.
“Without the SBDC, we simply would not be where we are today,” Jones said. “For entrepreneurs with energy but perhaps not a lot of experience, the SBDC is an incredible resource.”
While in D.C., Jones said he enjoyed meeting with several Washington State legislators including Rep. Rick Larsen who represents District 2 where the KuKuRuZa’s Alderwood Mall store is located; Rep. Jim McDermott, who represents District 7, home to KuKuRuZa’s flagship store and production facility; and Rep. Derek Kilmer, who represents District 6, where Jones grew up.
The Washington SBDC is one of 63 state and regional Small Business Development Center Networks that provide free one-on-one consulting to small businesses at nearly 1,000 locations across the country. In 2015 SBDC clients reported in an independent study that they experienced job growth of 17.6% versus the national average of 1.8%. According to data provided by an independent study of the SBDC, every federal dollar spent on the SBDC network helped small businesses access $43.26 in new capital. The SBDC program is a public-private partnership in cooperation with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Washington State University has been the state host of the Washington SBDC since its inception 36 years ago. The Washington SBDC receives additional support from other institutions of higher education and economic development.
“America’s small businesses are truly the engine of economic growth, America’s SBDCs have been like spark plugs helping to keep that engine going,” said Charles “Tee” Rowe, president of America’s SBDC. “SBDCs are driving small business growth by helping to create a new business every 31 minutes and a new job every five minutes.”
Small businesses are job creators and innovators. Supporting their formation and growth moves our economy forward and makes our communities healthier. With nearly 1,000 locations across the country, SBDCs provide local businesses and entrepreneurs the resources they need to thrive, compete and succeed. For more information on America’s SBDC or to find a SBDC near you, go to www.AmericasSBDC.org
By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC
Duane Fladland: firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-358-7765
Terry Chambers: email@example.com, 509-358-7894