Seattle University RAMPs up Central District with small biz project

Central District businesses can look to Seattle University for help thanks to a program funded by a $500,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. Many CD businesses owned by minorities, women and immigrants face worries over lost space, high rents, changing markets and construction, according to a press release. Seattle U’s Resource Amplification & Management Program (RAMP), aims to keep businesses in the neighborhood and help them grow.

“The objective is to work with the business owners to create a customized strategic game plan with multiple elements, from marketing to raising capital and more for their long-term success and sustainability,” said the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center team executive director Sue Oliver.

Oliver and the IEC team are the grant recipients and have been working on a pilot funded by JPMorgan Chase during the past year.

During the three-year program, the RAMP team will use the grant dollars and school and community resources to more than 200 CD businesses by providing resources, training, coaching and connections.

Student interns and a team of business mentors will spend a year each working with neighborhood business owners to determine their needs and help connect them to resources, including existing civic and private services and Seattle U’s interns, researchers and mentors.

“The RAMP business-campus-community engagement model requires successful community partnerships and aligns with the Seattle U mission around community engagement and empowering leaders for the greater good,” said Joseph Phillips, dean of the Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics.

The program will also help prepare businesses for bank or investor funding and supplier contracts and commercial space, Oliver said.

“It’s really about building upon what they’re already doing very well and conveying a more compelling story for lenders, investors, organizational purchasers, and commercial property managers,” she said.

Businesses will also be held accountable to succeed. Owners can choose to participate each year if desired.

Organizations serving neighborhood businesses can also receive advisory services, including governance, marketing and leadership from RAMP.

“We need to protect and strengthen valuable community assets in these neighborhoods,” said Doris Koo, lead consultant with Yesler Community Collaborative, a nonprofit working with Seattle U on the project. “Business owners and entrepreneurs help us create more livable neighborhoods and preserve the cultural diversity that makes Seattle a great city. The RAMP project can make a huge contribution to their continued growth and success.”

Creating a model that engages business, campus and community is an important part of the process, Oliver said. Best practices can then be expanded and replicated elsewhere.

“JPMorgan Chase is committed to helping communities make a long-term investment in increasing the access to career pathways and turning these opportunities into meaningful employment down the road,” said JPMorgan Chase Northwest Philanthropy Manager Cat Martin. “We feel our support of Seattle University’s RAMP Program is an important way we are helping to build the long-term success of the local economy.”

This is the single largest grant the IEC team has ever received.

The grant awarded to Seattle U is part of JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward program, which began a $75 million initiative to support the growth of small businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans.


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