Kitsap's Accelerator Program - Unveiling Pathways for Micro Business Growth in Kitsap County

Kitsap's Accelerator Program - Unveiling Pathways for Micro Business Growth in Kitsap County Main Photo

22 Nov 2023

The Micro Business Accelerator Program, orchestrated by Kitsap EDA (Economic Development Alliance), has fostered a vibrant ecosystem for micro-entrepreneurs within Kitsap County. Anchored by James Davis, Economic Development Manager, Kitsap EDA,  the program has been collaborative, weaving together diverse expertise and resources to propel micro-enterprises growth.

A Holistic Approach: Nurturing Micro Businesses

Davis outlines the program's blueprint, emphasizing its tri-fold structure:

  • Business Education Startup Training: Equipping entrepreneurs with foundational knowledge.
  • Mentorship and Support: Providing tailored guidance and mentorship.
  • Lightning Talks: Interactive workshops covering diverse business topics.

The initiative garnered rapid attention, receiving 47 applications in under ten days. Davis underscores the importance of a fair selection process, ensuring a varied representation across business categories and backgrounds.

Cohort Dynamics, Community Synergy and Success Stories

The inaugural cohort experienced a holistic immersion, receiving training and support and professional visuals—headshots and business introduction videos. The program wasn't just about education; it fostered a sense of community among participants, encouraging mutual support and active engagement in accelerator events.

Davis says, “Almost all participants expressed that they felt better prepared, and more confident about their business and strategy coming out the program. Additionally, we noted several of the cohort participants had noted increased business as a result of lessons learned from the program. The program also resulted in new collaborations between technical assistance providers that had previously operated separately in assisting businesses in Kitsap County. This collaboration opened access to many previously unreached businesses, helping us to serve an important segment of the business community that typically falls through the cracks due to not being eligible for existing programs that typically require low income as a requirement for participation.”

He shared poignant success narratives:

  • A specialty caterer expanded her capacity, catering to over 100 people, empowered by newfound confidence.
  • A retailer accessed low-cost financing, fueling business expansion.
  • A small manufacturer widened its clientele and discovered new avenues for growth.

Insights and Realizations: Navigating Economic Changes

The program unveiled key insights amidst economic fluctuations, emphasizing the pivotal role of community trust and authentic engagement over digital outreach.

Participant Insights: Transformative Tools and Confidence

Sandra Rocha Evanoff, from "Brasil Comes to You," illuminates her journey:

  • The accelerator equipped her with essential business tools, reshaping her approach and instilling confidence.
  • Self-assurance became a driving force, amplifying belief in her product and its value.
  • Insights on product pricing and effective marketing strategies reshaped her business paradigm.

Evanoff's transformation encapsulates the essence of the program—fostering confidence, sharpening business acumen, and fostering proactive community engagement.

Evanoff states, “I believe the Matchstick Lab gave me the main tool, which was self-confidence for me to believe that my product is a great product. Brasil Comes to You is a Brazilian Cuisine Culture, and Entertainment, as a new way to celebrate life, family, and friends in your home. Another tool was learning the value of your product and the quality. When you know the quality of your product you can arrive at the right pricing. Lots of small businesses don’t know how to price their products. And the third tool was how to approach people to get to know your product. I use the social media to get people to know us, I also request my customers to evaluate our services on the Google platform. Being an entrepreneur is a constant learning process. Thank you very much, KEDA!”

Fostering Community Trust and Inclusivity

The accelerator program's success extends beyond individual business growth. It forged new collaborations among technical assistance providers, ensuring a more inclusive outreach. Efforts towards building BIPOC business forums and inclusive lightning talk sessions epitomize their commitment to diversity and community engagement.

Future Endeavors: A Template for Replication and Expansion

The program's success serves as a blueprint, with Davis envisioning its replication and augmentation. Increased events, expanded mentorship, and multiple cohorts are on the horizon, promising amplified support for Kitsap's microbusiness landscape.

The Micro Business Accelerator Program is more than an educational stint—it's a transformative journey, igniting micro-enterprises, fostering community alliances, and shaping a robust entrepreneurial fabric in Kitsap County.

Fostering Key Collaborations: Powering Entrepreneurial Growth 

Central to the program's success lies strategic partnerships. Vibe Coworks, Kitsap Bank, and KCR have played instrumental roles in amplifying its impact. Through Vibe Coworks' space and expertise, entrepreneurs gained an operational hub, blending creativity with productivity. Kitsap Bank's financial support empowered participants to expand and invest in their businesses. Additionally, Kitsap Community Resources’ (KCR) engagement added  crucial foundational support through the Business Education Startup Training program.

The micro business accelerator was made possible thanks to funding provided by the Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA) together with Kitsap Bank, through a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce secured by the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. More about the program here.