Entrepreneur support service opening branch in Mount Vernon

Friday, December 11, 2020

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MOUNT VERNON — Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in Skagit and Island counties are slated to receive expanded business advising services starting this January.

Duane Fladland, state director of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), has announced that the SBDC is expanding its partnership with the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) to establish a new CIE branch office in Mount Vernon that will provide early stage advising to entrepreneurs who want to start a small business and need help with the first steps.

“During these difficult times, it will be our entrepreneurs who innovate and build the new businesses that will contribute to the recovery,” Fladland said. “We are excited to be able to provide additional expert advising, tools and resources that small business owners can trust to help them start and grow their business.”

The Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) has been working with entrepreneurs in underserved communities on the Olympic Peninsula since 2013 and last year partnered with the SBDC to establish a branch office in Port Angeles to provide ongoing support. Mike Skinner, CIE’s Executive Director, is particularly excited to be able to replicate the success of the Port Angeles program to offer ongoing training and one-on-one advising in the Skagit Valley.

“Through StartUp Skagit Valley and other initiatives, CIE has already helped over 60 individuals at various stages of launching and growing a small business” says Skinner. “We’re excited to partner with the Washington SBDC to provide ongoing support to early-stage entrepreneurs and share our proven approaches with more folks in the region.”

CIE’s North Cascades Community Enterprise program will kick off in January with the Bootstrap Business Course, a four-session virtual course that helps aspiring entrepreneurs kick the tires of a new business idea and get to a quick “go/no-go” decision. The course will be offered monthly, initially virtually and eventually at locations throughout Skagit and Island counties.

CIE’s office will serve as an “entrepreneur onramp” to the SBDC centers in Mount Vernon and Coupeville. While CIE will focus on aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses, the SBDCs will focus on helping existing businesses expand exponentially to bring new jobs and new investment to the region.

“The entrepreneur onramp is an innovative model that will expand the entrepreneurship support eco-system in our region,” says John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County.  “By helping us reach more potential entrepreneurs, particularly those in underserved groups such as people of color and women, CIE’s program will help us build more businesses ready and able to contribute to a more sustainable, equitable and resilient local economy.”

The collaboration between CIE and the SBDC is creating important synergies and offers aspiring entrepreneurs a seamless continuum from CIE’s first-step support to the SBDC’s next-level support for those who are ready to scale.

“Bringing CIE to the North Peninsula has produced a multiplier effect that is spurring economic growth,” Fladland said. “We hope to see similar synergies develop in Skagit and Island counties.”

The Washington SBDC has been providing no-cost, confidential, one-on-one advising to small business owners across the state of Washington since 1980. SBDC advising is funded through contributions from institutions of higher education and economic development agencies and civic groups, with matching funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Washington State University provides administrative support and oversight for the entire Washington SBDC network.

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