EDITOR’S NOTE: South King Media Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer serves on the Board of Directors for the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.
Small Business, Big Impact
By Andrea H. Reay
President/CEO of the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce
Our Chamber was founded on the belief that we are better and stronger together. We were one of the first community groups that organized and focused on regional economic development when, in 1988, we united two smaller chambers and became the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce. Although we now serve five cities and focus on the region as a whole, we do not ignore the immediate needs of the individual cities or our small businesses. During these challenging times, our small businesses need our help and access to our resources more than ever, and our regional approach helps to ensure they receive the maximum benefit of our work as we focus on collective impact towards economic recovery.
Why are we so passionate about supporting our region’s small businesses? Simply put, when you invest and support a small business, you are investing in your community. According to the SBA, here in Washington State, 560,000 small businesses account for 98% of all the state’s businesses. These small businesses, with fewer than 20 employees individually, together employ more than 20% of our state’s workforce. Supporting small businesses is not only good for our communities, but also for our local economies. When you shop locally, 68% of your purchase goes back into our local economy versus only 43% when you do not.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 crisis, 1 in 4 small businesses have closed, at least temporarily, and 40% of those still operating report that it is likely that they will close in the next two weeks. The focus of our work at the Chamber is to support all of our small businesses. Our goal is to help reopen businesses that have temporarily closed and to keep those that are still open running strong.
What are we doing specifically to help small business owners succeed in this challenging environment? The Chamber created S.M.A.R.T. (Southside Mitigation and Recovery Taskforce) which is focused on three main priorities:
- Marketing and Promotion
SMART currently has two active marketing campaigns to help support small businesses. The first is the Keep Calm and Carry Out campaign, which focuses on encouraging community members to support local restaurants still open for carryout. For more information, please visit the Keep Calm and Carry Out webpage. The second, in partnership with the City of Tukwila, is Saving Local—our “shop small campaign on steroids”—which encourages our community members to support local businesses now with the purchase of gift cards, curbside pick-up, and online ordering. For more information, check out the Saving Local webpage.
- Providing Support
Our support takes the form of education and resource sharing for our community. The Chamber provides technical assistance to small businesses seeking grants and loans. 100% of the businesses that sought technical assistance with the Chamber thus far have received funding. We also recognize that small businesses need grant assistance—not just access to debt programs. That is why SMART is sponsoring the Southside Strong Fund, to provide direct financial awards to local businesses. If you are interested in donating to this completely tax-deductible fund, please visit the Southside Strong Fund webpage. In addition, the Chamber produces the SMART Weekly Webinar Series to share information and best practices from our network of experts. To register for future webinars or watch past webinars, please visit the SMART webpage.
Even before this pandemic, our primary focus has been fostering a healthy environment that encourages entrepreneurship and expands opportunities for funding and resources. We do this by advocating for policies and programs that promote a strong and diverse economic ecosystem as well as a vibrant, thriving community. The Chamber recognizes that building the community and supporting economic development are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the best economic development policies are focused on our community, which is why this will continue to be our focus, now and in the future.
Thank you to all our small business owners. Your courage and passion drive our organization to work hard for you, with you, and for the benefit of our community. We also need your support in order to continue providing these services to our community. If you are able to sponsor or contribute to our SMART work, please consider donating today. Every dollar brings us closer to economic recovery. Thank you for partnering with the Chamber’s work and thank you for supporting small businesses. Together, we are Seattle Southside Strong.
This article was written by Andrea H. Reay, the President/CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce, “A voice for business, a leader in the community.” Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila since 1988.
For more information about the Chamber, including a full list of member benefits and resources, please visit their website at www.SeattleSouthsideChamber.com.