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Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Seattle’s small business scenes have been thriving for a long time, everything from coffee to information technology to defense contracting. The Pacific Northwest metropolis is currently experiencing a huge tech boom too, which has attracted a significant talent pool and an opportunity to benefit from the activity of larger companies such as Amazon and Microsoft.
However, this boom can have a negative effect as well. Competition with these giants can be rough, real estate costs are high, and jockeying for capital can be extra-competitive. However, as more independent businesses crop up, resources for those startups are increasing too, and a strong business climate persists in Seattle (unemployment rates are low and taxes are relatively business-friendly). The following list provides an overview of the general support for small businesses, which is sure to grow in the coming years.
This org is the largest and one of the oldest business associations in the Seattle area. 2,200 companies are represented by The Chamber, which acts as an advocate at the local, state, and federal levels. Small business resources include networking opportunities, tools for growth, and community collaborations.
The Small Business Association’s Seattle District Office offers indispensable insight for small business at an any stage of their development. Free counseling is provided on any and all business matters, whether you’re starting a business or expanding one. Special assistance is also provided for minorities, women, and any other socially and economically disadvantaged groups.
The Greater Seattle SCORE office provides free educational resources in the form of workshops, networking events, templates and tools. The workshops, which are done in person and online, covers crowdfunding, taxes, marketing metrics and many other business practices. One-on-one mentoring is also provided, at the main office and at locations throughout the greater Seattle area.
The stated mission of Ventures is to “empower individuals with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership.” The group provides training for the early phases of starting a small business, from core concepts to advanced skills and support. The program is aimed specifically at low-income business owners.
Geared specifically towards female entrepreneurs, the Women’s Business Center in Seattle is part of a national network of offices that provide women with the tools they need to start and grow a business. Training and counseling is provided on a wide variety of topics, and in several languages.
The Seattle VBOC, part of the SBA, provides unique entrepreneurial services to veterans, such as counseling, business training, and referrals. For those veterans thinking about starting a business or who are looking to take it to the next level, VBOC provides a uniquely tailored program of assessments, mentoring, and assistance in areas such as franchising and international trade.
The EDC offers ons-on-one consulting services for businesses free of charge. Established in 1971, the EDC provides excellent info and resources on industry clusters–from clean energy to aerospace to apparel. Their data center provides economic and demographic data for the Seattle and King County area, and they offer consulting services too.
The Meetup page for Seattle Entrepreneurs has over 4,000 members, a solid network that you can browse easily. The group hosts events that support new startups, with discussions about bootstrapping, pitching, mobile apps, and more.
The coworking space Galvanize offers a bridge between industry and education, located in a five story building in Pioneer Square. The space is host to coders and other tech world types, but also has an array of startups from different industries. Programming includes discussions, workshops, and the perk of a rooftop herb garden.
Specifically geared for the African American and African diaspora living and working in this Seattle neighborhood, the Meetup for Africatown’s entrepreneurs connects hundreds of people and serves as a central network for the ecosystem of business leaders, community organizations, and resources.
A simple email list can be a powerful thing. The Seattle Tech Startups list connects 2,500 of Seattle’s tech leaders and enthusiasts, and allows for community interaction on business questions. The group includes startup founders, developers, designers, investors, and more.
Business Impact NW provides coaching and training on a wide variety of business practices, from finance, marketing, management, and much else. Aimed at entrepreneurs at every stage of starting and expanding a business, workshops cover areas such as social media, cash flow projections, and crowdfunding. For those who are early in their entrepreneurial pursuits, an internship is provided for learning the ins and outs of starting and running a small business.
The University of Washington has developed a unique initiative called CoMotion, which connects the research and business community at UW with outside groups looking to develop innovative products and services. The program offers an Entrepreneurship in Residence program as well as a consistent calendar of events aimed at startups.
WorkSource SKC offers educational resources and other business services. An online recruitment tool and information about the labor market and other local business concerns is provided. Worksource SKC also provides assistance for dealing with difficult times, such as company layoffs.
The Seattle Entrepreneurship Club was founded as a way of networking business professionals and entrepreneurs throughout the Seattle area. With a focus on developing ties and collaboration with organizations and businesses from different fields in both Seattle and China, the SEC hosts events for networking, emerging technology, and linking up angel investors with startups.
Startup Week, a conference held in cities around the globe, brings together entrepreneurs and community leaders for a free, five-day exchange. Led by locals and held in multiple spaces across town, Startup Week Seattle will be happening November 14 – 18, 2016.
Hack the Central District is an annual three-day event that invites people of all ages to a conference centered on the technology, design, and entrepreneurship. The conference is held by Hack_Nation, a group that seeks to empower innovators of African descent.
Bringing together the fields of digital technology, the Internet, and creative, Seattle Interactive connects entrepreneurs with developers and online business professionals for networking and presentations. Industries lean toward online commerce, social media, gaming, advertising and entertainment.
The Seattle Small Business Expo, a business-to-business convention that happens at cities around the country, is a great chance to network with local businesses and partake in skill workshops. The convention offers the opportunity to network with industry peers and scope out services and products. It’s also free.
TechAlliance is a not-for-profit organization that brings together business leaders, industry professionals, and research institutions focusing on technology and innovation. Their flagship conference, SciTech Northwest ‘16, a partnership with the University of Washington and will highlight new advances in cyber/data analytics, biotechnology and clean energy.
The Seattle Times Business section covers many of the broader industries and economics of Seattle, providing deep coverage of tech, aerospace, retail, and other verticals. Profiles of startups and advice columns for finance are also helpful info for Seattle’s small businesses.
A great print mag and good online source for commentary and analysis of Seattle’s business climate. Areas of coverage are broad, and include manufacturing, healthcare, tech, retail, and more; everything from local green energy development to profiles of up-and-coming business owners.
Put out by the Small Business Administration, this Seattle-specific Small Business Resource Guide provides a handy directory of checklists and resources for starting and growing a business. The simple layout gives a solid overview of the steps one should take in developing a business, with information about Seattle in particular, containing contact info for relevant offices for things such as trademark registration, insurance, and other local business needs.
Biz Journals Seattle is a good source for local and national developments in the business world: articles on startups, economic indicators, and profiles of entrepreneurs.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.