CIE Client Banner.jpg

Take a quick glance at the local headlines and you’ll see that our region has been booming economically, with incredible growth all over the area. However, despite that economic boost, significant segments of the population remain in depressed conditions.

Small family businesses make up over 90% of the U.S. economy, and since the 2008 recession they’ve been responsible for most of the U.S. job growth. They’re often owned by ordinary people offering simple solutions to everyday problems.

And yet mainstream business resources tend to focus on already established, bankable businesses or on highly scalable new ventures with high returns. If you are an entrepreneur, but you are low-income and under-resourced, the mainstream would likely consider you to be too inexperienced and your business to be too small, too risky, and not sufficiently scalable.

We know that business ownership increases median income by 24% and, with the right support, 81% of people in poverty starting a business will move out of poverty. As important, these same business owners develop agency, become vested stakeholders in the community, and become community leaders.

Supporting the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship builds community wealth. Since our launch in 2013, CIE has contributed to the journeys of over 800 low-income emerging entrepreneurs; 350 have completed our signature First Step training program, 150 have received intensive one-on-one business coaching, and 75 have started, strengthened, or expanded a business.

Thanks to the hard work of our participants, every dollar invested in CIE produces $10 social return on investment annually, often year after year.

Please support our work with a donation today!

Save the Date: Washington Coast Works Fastpitch & Awards Ceremony

We've been hard at work in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, but did you know we're also very active on the Olympic Peninsula as well? For the past four years, we have worked to design and implement the Coast Works business competition. Washington Coast Works is now in its third year, 45 participants, 6 new businesses financed) and are now leading the development of the Coast Works Alliance. 

Since the beginning, we have helped develop the theory of change and business plan for The Nature Conservancy’s Emerald Edge initiative, highlighting the role of small-scale, grassroots “eco-preneurship” as a conservation strategy in coastal rural and indigenous communities in Washington, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. In Southeast Alaska, we led the design of the Path to Prosperity business competition (now in its fifth year, 60 participants, 15 new businesses financed) and contributed to the development of the Southeast Sustainable Partnership. This work led to the Washington Coast Works business competition in our own Washington State. 

On November 9th, the top businesses will meet in Sequim to pitch and win prizes to help their sustainable businesses launch and grow. You're invited to join us. If you'd like to read more about Coast Works, visit our special initiative web site at, or check it out on Facebook. Mentors, sponsors, and of course businesses are always welcomed. 

What is a CommunityEnterprise, anyway?


We’ve been asked before what a “Community Enterprise” really is. For CIE, it’s the bones of our programs, the program that does what we mainly do—helping people start businesses. While our name, the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship may seem formal, CommunityEnterprise™ is meant to hold a more grassroots mentality and way of starting a business.

It all starts with an idea. Not funding or a business loan, not a business plan necessarily, but an idea that you think about, do some research about, and put out to the world. We believe in starting with what you have, where you’re at, and not waiting until the “if onlies” come true. It goes beyond that though, because anyone can start a business with the right tools and the tools are available in so many different formats, structures, and styles. Really, there's something out there for every learning style and business building style. 

Can anyone start a CommunityEnterprise though? Well, yes, they can. The real questions is WILL they, and will you?

That leads us back to what is a CommunityEntprise. It’s a business, certainly. It could be a nonprofit’s social enterprise wing, or a small business started in a living room, or a business that starts with staff and a physical location and even a loan.

When our members think of when they think of a “community enterprise” they probably think about a business mentor who helped them along the way, and their own plans to help someone else in the future. It could be an informal mentorship (the store across the street from yours warned you that you really do need quite a bit of Halloween candy to keep up with the neighborhood trick-or-treating event) or it could be more formal (someone who has been in business for years and years sits down with you to discuss how to grow your business without neglecting your family and personal life).

A CommunityEnterprise is built from the ingredients of:

  • People: A CommunityEnterprise helps  others, thinking about social justice, hiring locally, providing living wages, and considering the health and wellbeing of any staff
  • The Planet: A CommunityEnterprise puts more back into the environment as a regenerative business rather than a business that takes and takes, leaving the world worse off for the sake of the bottom line
  • And Profit: Yes, profit is important to a CommunityEnterprise. The entrepreneur (that’s you!) must be able to support themselves or improve their lives through their business.

This includes buying and selling locally, giving back when possible and however possible, creating a business or product that is a does good for the world.

So, how do you do this? Start with why, as Simon Sinek proposes. CIE’s why is to help create CommunityEnterprises. What is your why?

And please don’t stop with “why.” Think about who your own personal “why” creates economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for you and your community.

Need help? You’re invited to join CommunityEnterprise. Or drop us an email if you want to talk more.

Ice House Training Teaches Staff Entrepreneurial Mindset Facilitation

First Row: Gary, Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative. Second Row: Baku, Green Cleaning Alliance; Julie, RN Consulting Services; Annie, Neverending Bookshop. Third Row: Giselle, Alexis, Mike, Kerrie. 

First Row: Gary, Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative. Second Row: Baku, Green Cleaning Alliance; Julie, RN Consulting Services; Annie, Neverending Bookshop. Third Row: Giselle, Alexis, Mike, Kerrie. 

Last week, the CIE team was excited to attend ELI’s Ice House Entrepreneurship Facilitator Training at Edmonds Community College. What is Ice House, you may ask?

“The Ice House Entrepreneurship Program is an experiential, problem-based learning program designed to inspire and engage participants in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset.” -ELI

What does that mean? It relates to everything we’ve been saying, everyone has the ability to become an entrepreneur and everyone should have the opportunity to start a business, if that is their dream. An entrepreneurial mindset is key, and this training helps bring that out in an interactive, fun series of classes. Before you need a business plan, or market research, or start-up cash, you will need an idea and the mindset to accomplish your goals. Some people have had this mindset fostered naturally by family, friends, and community. For many of the individuals we work with, that’s not the case though.

Director Mike Skinner has already taught Ice House numerous times, and was responsible for bringing this training to Edmonds Community College, Union Gospel Mission’s youth gang prevention program, urban Native Americans connected to the Chief Seattle Club, and inmates at the Washington Women’s Correctional Center in Gig Harbor. “Everyone has the potential to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The Ice House curriculum awakens the inner-entrepreneur in all of us, empowered to rise above our circumstances and achieve our goals.” The rest of the team is thrilled to be able to bring this tool to our work in the communities we serve.

To find out more about this program, check out their video at If you’d like us to organize a workshop with your group, let’s talk. We can be reached at

SeaTac-Tukwila Food Innovation Network receives a 5-year, $750,000 grant

The SeaTac-Tukwila Food Innovation Network is a broad-based collective impact initiative that now includes the City of SeaTac, the City of Tukwila, Pinchot University, CIE, Global to Local, Healthy Community Planning, LLC, Swedish Medical Services, HealthPoint, Lifelong’s Chicken Soup Brigade, Forterra, Project Feast, Ventures, Highline College’s StartZone program, Lutheran Community Services, the YMCA and others.

CIE continues to play a pivotal role in the direction and activities of the Network. The Network recently received a substantial grant ($750,000 over five years) from King County’s Community of Opportunity program administered by the Seattle Foundation for capacity building support. With CoO funding, the Network hired a full-time project manager, engaged South King County communities in surveys and focus groups, and used stipends to integrate community members into roles on the Network’s steering committee and various working groups. Among many other accomplishments, the Network completed an asset map, a gap analysis, a community survey and community focus groups, which together has culminated in a feasibility study for a facility that will house a distribution hub for aggregating local produce, a commercial kitchen for training, incubating and supporting a variety of new, small-scale, healthy food enterprises, and classrooms and office space for participating community-based economic and business development programs.

CIE client Maria Gutierrez opens Yolanda's Alterations in Everett

Maria Gutierrez came to CommunityEnterprise™ as a referral from the Small Business Development Center in Everett. After being laid off from a wedding gown alteration job at a national bridal shop, Maria decided to pursue her dream of starting her own sewing and alteration business. With years of experience running her own business in Mexico before migrating to the United States, she knew she could do it, but she lacked the necessary financial resources and equipment. A victim of domestic violence and a single mom, Maria and her daughter are currently receiving housing assistance and food stamps to augment their daily needs. After completing our First Step course, we connected Maria to the Latina Education Training Institute to help improve her English and helped her secure a loan of $1,500 to buy a commercial grade sewing machine and launch Yolanda’s Alterations in a subleased storefront space in a busy part of downtown Everett.

CIE client Robert Freeman launches Yard Art LLC to install rain gardens!

CommunityEnterprise™ worked with member Robert Freeman to assist with solidifying his business idea, pivoting, and launching his new business, Yard Art LLC. Robert has a passion for sustainability and community development, and hopes to one day become a developer of green communities in Seattle and King County. He has a background in construction, facility maintenance and is currently studying Sustainable Building Science Technology at South Seattle College. He has been underemployed for a number of years, and came to us with a plan to go into community development work. After he worked through CIE’s First Step, he realized that RainWise Garden Construction was a more viable short term business to help him support his growing family and prepare him for his longer-term goals. He pivoted his business idea and quickly proved the feasibility of installing rain gardens in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities’ RainWise Rebate Program. His business, YardArt, had several interested clients lined up before launch this summer. We were able help him apply for and receive a $6,000 loan from Mercy Corps Northwest to use for startup expenses such as tools and materials for his first jobs. Robert is currently working to market his business, and get his permits in place so he will be ready to begin work shortly after the birth of the newest addition to his family—a baby boy.  

What is Community Wealth?

The Democracy Collaborative describes community wealth building as a growing economic development movement that strengthens our communities through broader democratic ownership and community control of business and jobs. Strategies focus on building local talents, capacities, and institutions to strengthen and create locally-owned, family, and community-owned businesses.

At CIE we think the term community wealth means that wealth is more than just dollars. We believe that a community needs relationships, health, food, housing, art, and a sense of purpose to thrive - and that while money is a needed resource to sustain a healthy community, it is not the driving force.

Annie Leonard and the Story of Stuff Project use the acronym G-O-A-L to describe community wealth.

G- Gives people more power.

O- Opens peoples eyes to the meaning of happiness. It teaches that once basic needs are met, happiness doesn't come from buying more stuff. Rather, it comes from our communities, our health, and a sense of purpose.

A- Accounts for all the costs it creates, including the toll it has on people and the planet.

L - Lessens the enormous wealth gap between those who cannot meet basic needs and those who consume way more than their fair share.

Money should support health, community, and purpose, but it shouldn't steal the show. We want to see a community where people have the voice and power to shape their community. Our tool is business, but the goal is much more than money.


Member Spotlight: El Gallito Mexican Food Truck

Authentic Mexican Food in Renton? If you haven’t visited CIE member Elizabeth Romero’s food truck yet, you really must. CIE worked with MercyCorps Northwest to support El Gallito Mexican Food Truck with her business plan and financial projections, which resulted in a loan to fund her launch.

Elizabeth is a first generation immigrant who has had a dream of owning her own business for years. For the past three years, she has been using her own saved money to slowly accumulate the equipment and supplies she would need to open her own food truck. She came to MercyCorps Northwest to borrow the last bit of capital necessary to pay for permits, licenses and starting inventory. The business is doing well and is busy! If you’re in a rush, be sure to call or text your order ahead.

Elizabeth hopes to be able to hire additional employees soon, and has plans to add new products. Eventually, the family plans to pass the business along to their two (currently school-aged) children, and then open an additional food truck.

Check it out on Facebook

Or in person at:

10545 SE Carr Rd

Renton, Washington

(425) 647-0660

Open Monday – Saturday