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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Residents of South King County “food deserts” may soon have a new option for buying healthy, sustainable produce: a green cart.
Green Cart Cooperative, a mobile produce cart cooperative in the Seattle/King County area, will give low-income, underserved people living in food deserts (defined as an area without easy local access to food) access to EBT/SNAP-eligible local produce. Pinchot University’s Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) has received a USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) planning grant to study the feasibility of the business.
“The SeaTac-Tukwila area experiences great economic and health disparities,” said Mike Skinner, executive director of CIE. “While King County is one of the wealthiest regions in the country, almost 40% of households in the SeaTac-Tukwila area live below 200% of the federal poverty line, and 80% of students are on free or reduced lunch.”
The social enterprise cooperative of independent mobile produce cart operators will operate in LFPP-priority census tracts in SeaTac, Tukwila and South Seattle, giving low-income, underserved communities in South King County increased access to locally produced fruits and vegetables and develop new market opportunities for local farmers. As part of CIE’s Food Enterprise Development Program, Green Cart Cooperative would also connect low-income residents to economic opportunities in the food sector.
One recent immigrant from East Africa was excited about the idea of a food cart in her neighborhood. “Back home, there were lots. They sold organic. That was important.” Fresh, affordable produce is difficult to find in her SeaTac neighborhood. “Especially for me, because I do not drive it would be nice to have a food cart.”
CIE is partnering with Global to Local, members of the Food Innovation Network, Pinchot University, and local governments to conduct a series of listening sessions and surveys that will guide and inform the structure of the cooperative business model. The feasibility plan will include a market assessment and business plan for the cooperative.
Want to help? A short survey is available at http://tinyurl.com/CIE-survey and listening sessions are currently being scheduled. Community groups interested in hosting a listening session at their location should contact Mieka Briejer.