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State Resources for Small Businesses in Washington


Despite the global pandemic, new business applications in the U.S. hit a new record last year. In fact, 77% of small business owners feel optimistic about their company’s future, according to the latest Small Business Index report

In Washington state, small business owners—and those who would like to become one—have a multitude of state resources to help them build a successful business.  

For those at the beginning of their business journey, the Washington State Department of Commerce has a free online Creatives Academy to help creatives turn their passion into a livelihood. Developed by Robb Zerr, a creative who turned his talent into a business that’s been around for over 20 years, the online Academy includes 12 courses participants take at their own pace; no registration needed. Lessons include choosing the right business structure, protecting your intellectual property, reading a balance sheet, marketing, pricing, and going global. For more information, visit StartUp Washington - Creative Academy.  

Entrepreneurs who already have a business might benefit from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined Program. This FREE six-month intensive business training runs from July 5 to December 16 and helps small business entrepreneurs and executives take their business to the next level. Participants learn practical skills in topics like financing and cash flow, market research, growing brand awareness, driving sales, and hiring a strong team. This program is for candidates who: 1) have an annual revenues of at least $250,000; 2) have been in business for at least three years; 3) have at least one employee other than themselves; 4) are committed to completing the entire program, including training, submitting assignments, participating during sessions, and reaching out for help; 5) are coachable, ready to be challenged and supported, and willing to put in the necessary work to accelerate growth. Applications to participate are due May 31, 2022, and final participants will be selected from April 25 to June 17. The application can be accessed through this link. Contact local program managers with questions; the Seattle manager is Desiree Albrecht , and the Spokane manager is Joel Nania .

Sometimes a business finds itself growing so quickly it starts to feel a little out of control. The Washington Department of Commerce also has a program called “Thrive!” for second-stage companies needing help confronting that out-of-control feeling. This program is for small businesses who: 1) are private, for-profit companies that have been operating in a Washington State community for at least two years; 2) employ between 6 and 99 employees (pre-COVID); 3) generate $1 million to $25 million in annual revenue (pre-COVID); 4) have both an appetite and aptitude to grow; and 5) provide products and services beyond the local area. The program costs $3,000 and gives business owners access to experts, analytics and best practices that are usually only available to the largest companies. Participants can expect a commitment of 8-12 hours over four months; participation is via phone or a secure online portal. Find more information at StartUp Washington - Thrive!.


Lastly, the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) is the sole agency that certifies small businesses owned and controlled by minority, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged persons to increase their contracting opportunities with state and local governments. The Federal Certification projects typically include heavy construction such as building and designing roads, bridges, railroads, ports, and airports. The State Certification includes a variety of different types of businesses such as construction, consulting, training, translation services, supplies, and equipment. To qualify for certification, the primary owner(s) must own at least 51% of the company and control the business. The owner must be both socially and economically disadvantaged, which they define as being “a woman or a minority and have a personal net worth under $1.32 million.” Finally, the business must not have gross receipts of more than $28.48 million. For more information, visit OMWBE.


We especially encourage women interested in starting a business to explore these resources. Poet Audre Lorde stated,

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”