Our Impact: Success Stories
If you haven’t visited Elizabeth Romero’s food truck yet, you really must. CIE worked with Mercy Corps 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—or even a restaurant!
Check it out on Facebook Or in person at: 10545 SE Carr Rd Renton, Washington (425) 647-0660 • Open Monday – Saturday
Maria Gutierrez came to Community Enterprise 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.
Kristi came to us in 2014 seeking help to develop a business plan and secure expansion capital to scale That Brown Girl Cooks, a locally-sourced specialty food business producing several lines of healthy humus. We connected Kristi to our Health Enterprise Development Initiative sustainable food business plan competition to hone her business model and pitch her business to impact investors, which resulted in securing a $10,000 grant. We have also helped Kristi solidify her business plan, create realistic financial projections, strengthen her business management infrastructure and implement a strategy for scaling. TBGC products are now available in several local stores, including PCC, Red Apple, and Whole Foods.
Metis Construction is a worker cooperative formed out of CIE's Cooperative Academy in 2015. CIE partnered with over 50 organizations and was supported with funding from the Small Business Association to offer this innovative programming. Metis Construction offers residential and commercial building services, and their worksites can be found all over Seattle. Learn more about their conversion to a cooperative in this nice article.
In 2015, Annie took another leap of faith: she enrolled in CIE’s First Step Workshop at Edmonds Community College. Annie knows her industry so well – she grew up in the industry. However, navigating the financing industry is another thing. Armed with experience but with no collateral, she was not able to find a loan from a commercial lender – especially for the small amount she needed. CIE connected Annie with different alternative lenders and she went with Mercy Corps Northwest. Understanding the document requirement is confusing even for a small loan, and CIE helped her understand the “what and the whys” of small business financing. In the end, she decided to try crowdfunding through gofundme.com, hoping that friends and other people will follow her cause – a cancer survivor following her dream of opening a business against all odds!
After less than a year of operation, Neverending Book Shop is a thriving business, despite financial setbacks and many lessons learned – including a recent fire that almost hit her bookstore.
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.
First Step is a “reality check” designed to help assess readiness and the feasibility of a business idea and get to a quick “go or no go” decision. This class is approximately 8 hours, offered in group sessions. It is held monthly at multiple locations. We also offer this series through partnerships with organizations such as MarketShare.
During our First Step series, entrepreneurs work on a process called an "Opportunity Discovery Canvas." Basically, a marketing plan on a sheet of paper, this process helps them identify their problem, solution, competition, target customers, and next steps to prove their business concept—without spending too much time and money on an idea that doesn't make sense.
Workshops happen in King, Snohomish, and Pierce County, either independently or embedded in other programs, such as this series that was part of a culinary arts class at South Seattle College.