SPOKANE, Wash.—Eric Grimstead, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Western Washington University, has been named the state’s small business advising service’s State Star.
Grimstead, who first began working for the SBDC at WWU in Bellingham in 2008, worked with more than 183 clients in 2019 to help them start, grow or buy/sell a business. Those business owners credited Grimstead with helping them obtain nearly $6 million in capital funding in 2019 and create or save more than 90 jobs.
In announcing Grimstead’s selection for the statewide network’s most prestigious award, the selection committee lauded Grimstead for being an exemplar of the network, someone who can help explain financing options or creative marketing strategies with the same enthusiasm and expertise.
“Business advising is an art and a science and he’s the whole package,” said Washington SBDC State Director Duane Fladland. Business owners must be disciplined in financial management, Fladland said, but need to be innovative and creative when it comes to marketing, social media and meeting customer needs.
“What we hear over and over from clients is that Eric has the technical expertise they need to succeed, and also provides the encouragement and support to help them move forward,” Fladland said.
CJ Seitz, director of the SBDC at WWU, said Grimstead is a tremendous asset to Whatcom County’s small business community. “His passion for helping businesses start and grow, technical expertise, and contagious energy result in tangible outcomes for our local small businesses,” she said.
Jeff Caldwell, owner of Heating Green in Bellingham, started working with Grimstead in 2008 and continues to meet with him several times a year to discuss business challenges.
Owning a small business can be a lonely road, Caldwell said, but working with Grimstead makes it less so. “The thing about Eric is his chemistry with people,” he said. “He’s a good advocate.”
Grimstead says he is “cheerleader-esque” in his work with small business owners, but his support is grounded in data. A former accounting major who switched to degrees in business administration and marketing at the University of Puget Sound, Grimstead says it’s critical that business owners understand the numbers.
Grimstead said he first got the entrepreneurship bug while working at a small family-owned boat manufacturing business right out of college. Originally hired to do marketing, over the next decade Grimstead eventually came to understand and be involved in everything from HR to inventory to financial management, and, eventually, to business acquisition and real estate transactions.
Grimstead has owned a number of businesses over the course of his career and he said that experience gave him an early appreciation for the challenges and rewards of being a small business owner. After leaving the boat business, Grimstead spent the next decade working in financial services, marketing consulting, web development and direct mail marketing.
While acknowledging the hard realities that are forcing some business owners to close their business because of the pandemic, Grimstead said he is inspired by business owners who have been able to pivot to new opportunities.
“This is forcing people to think differently and explore how businesses can look,” he said. “You have to be willing to try things. I recommend that people test, test, test and adjust accordingly.”
While the pandemic has changed consumer behaviors across many industry sectors, fundamentals of business development are the same, Grimstead said.
For those seeking to start a new business, Grimstead said, the essential questions are “Why this? Why you? Why now?”
Grimstead, a long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest, lives in Bellingham with his wife of 25 years, Kristal, who is a real estate broker with Compass. Together they have three adult children and enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle and frequent travel.
SBDC advising is provided at no-cost to the client, is completely confidential and is customized to the needs of each client. The Washington SBDC network includes more than 35 business advisors and two international trade specialists working in communities across the state. Washington State University is the statewide host of the Washington SBDC and, along with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), provides administrative support and oversight of state’s two dozen SBDC centers.
The SBDC at Western Washington is funded in part by the City of Bellingham, the Port of Bellingham, Whatcom County and the City of Blaine. For more information, visit their website at https://sbdc.wwu.edu/.
Learn more about the statewide SBDC at https://wsbdc.org.