'Incubator,' a petri dish to grow small businesses




Posted on July 23, 2010 at 7:04 PM

SEATTLE - Like many, Luisa Hoffman always dreamed of owning her own business.

"My dream is to be independent," said the Mexican immigrant. "I can have my family. I can help people both here and in Mexico."

Like many, though, Hoffman had no idea how to make that dream a reality. She had earned two college degrees in Mexico, but wound up working as a babysitter in Seattle. Hoffman started selling her handmade jewelry to friends, but taking the next step into small business seemed overwhelming.

"I didn't know how to start or where to go," she said.

Hoffman is not alone. Countless people these days are finding themselves out of work with few prospects. In many cases their only option is to start their own business and now there is someone to help them do it.

Washington CASH (Community Alliance for Self-Help) provides credit, education and now for the first time -- retail space -- to grow ideas into successful small businesses.

This weekend the non-profit officially opens a "small business incubator" -- a store called "Ventures" in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Part boutique, part petri dish, the store is a space where dozens of budding entrepreneurs can grow their businesses by having a place to sell their stuff at no cost to them.

Jewelry designer Christina Hammer is among the "microbusiness" owners now profiting from Washington CASH.

"Without them I wouldn't have ever gotten out of sitting in my home, looking at my jewelry and going, 'How do I get from my kitchen out to getting people to wear it?'" she said.

About 7,000 Washington businesses close every month. The Department of Revenue says the main reason most fail is poor planning.

For more information on Ventures check out http://www.washingtoncash.org/venturesopens