LAKEWOOD, Wash.— Even before the pandemic, which hit hair stylists hard, salon owner Tricia Hunter was trying to figure out how to pivot from providing a hair care service to selling a hair care product. Working with a chemist she met through a client, she developed a product called The Mixer that she believes will be a godsend for people with naturally curly hair. Developing The Mixer turned out to be the (relatively) easy part. The challenge now is how to get The Mixer and other products into salons and beauty supply stores across the country.
Hunter said she has explored other career opportunities, including teaching, but meeting a need in the marketplace is what gets her excited. “I’m just an entrepreneur at heart,” she said.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, Hunter will join nearly 30 other ambitious entrepreneurs at the kick-off event for Business Collaborative, a business coaching program at Pierce College for entrepreneurs in underserved communities who have historically faced the biggest obstacles to success.
The Business Collaborative was created by Grant Twyman and Rachel Askew, managing partners of NEXT Consulting, a South Sound-based consulting firm that assists organizations that want to “serve, support and empower black and brown people in every community.”
According to Twyman, the Business Collaborative combines 15 hours of one-on-one mentoring with community-building events to help existing business owners grow their business.
“These business owners have already demonstrated grit, commitment and results,” Twyman said, “but now we are looking at how do they get to the next level?”
Jo Ann Baria, vice president for Workforce, Economic and Professional Development at Pierce College said the Business Collaborative is an exciting initiative to complement the college’s robust business education curriculum.
Emerging entrepreneurs can take a wide range of business-related courses through Community and Continuing Education, or through a longer business pathway, from short certificates through a Bachelor of Applied Business degree, she said. “The college is excited to work with the Business Collaborative and the SBDC to support business success in underserved communities.”
According to a 2022 Brookings Metro report on “Black-owned businesses in U.S. cities”, only 2.3 percent of all employer firms in the U.S. are owned by Black business owners, even though Black people comprise 14.2 percent of the country’s population and account for 11.8 percent of non-employer firms (sole proprietor businesses with no employees).
Askew said the project has three major components: coaching, collaborating and connecting. Coaches working with the Business Collaborative all have experience as small business owners and are themselves part of BIPOC communities. One of the coaches is bilingual and five of the participants speak Spanish as their primary language. The fall 2022 cohort includes business owners in a range of industries, including construction, fashion design, mental health services, and food importing.
Toward the end of those 15 hours, participants will meet with business advisors with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) so that they can continue accessing no-cost technical assistance when the program ends.
The Washington SBDC is a publicly funded network of more than 35 business advisors working in communities across the state to provide no-cost, confidential advising to business owners who want to start, grow or buy/sell a business.
“We are excited to work with NEXT Consulting and Pierce College to provide on-going, expert assistance to these small business owners,” said Duane Fladland, state director of the Washington SBDC. “Working one-on-one with a mentor is a significant commitment of time for these business owners, but we know it’s an investment that will lead to better outcomes for their businesses, their families and the communities where they live.”
One-on-one coaching for the first cohort will begin in early November and a second cohort is slated to start in the spring.
Twyman said the Business Collaborative builds on the success of the Pierce County Business Accelerator, which has assisted more than 200 business owners over the past year.
The Pierce County Business Accelerator was funded with one-time American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The Business Collaborative is being funded through a cooperative agreement with Pierce College, the Washington SBDC and state and federal grants.
The Washington SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Washington State Department of Commerce. Additional funding is from institutions of higher education, economic development agencies, municipal governments and civic and business organizations.
For more information about the Washington SBDC, go to wsbdc.org
Duane Fladland, State Director: [email protected]
Hope Tinney, communications manager: [email protected]; 509-432-8254