Meet the crew that gets businesses in business

  • Mon Feb 27th, 2012 11:17am

By Kurt Batdorf SCBJ Editor

EVERETT — For all the frustrated or unemployed workers who think their entrepreneurial idea will lead to future riches, they would do themselves a favor by running it past the Northwest Washington Women’s Business Center first.

Don’t let the name fool you though. The center is open to all entrepreneurs regardless of gender.

Program director Giselle Saguid said the center’s goal is to create more businesses and jobs while being sustainable — “to keep businesses in business,” she said.

Saguid, business assistance officer Patty MacDonald and administrative assistant Alicia Haynes offer entrepreneurs of all stripes a “three-pronged approach” that thoroughly assesses their ideas.

The center’s technical assistance includes one-on-one coaching, mentoring and evaluation and development of a business plan.

The center offers free and reduced-cost training programs covering all aspects of running a business, from “birth to death” so entrepreneurs can decide how to leave their business, Saguid said.

The center’s array of funding options connect entrepreneurs to capital that they’ll need throughout the life cycle of their business, she said. The center’s affiliation with Community Capital Development gives it access to multiple loan funds, including venture capital, commercial banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CCD’s partnerships with financial institutions and foundations gives it a more diversified portfolio than a traditional bank and access to nontraditional capital.

“There’s no (loan) underwriting here,” Saguid said. “We’re the bridge connecting nonbankable clients to financing.”

“We walk them through the process and help bridge the gaps,” MacDonald said. “We complement banks as a referral source. Banks often don’t do ‘beginning to end’ financing.”

Currently, the center is getting inquiries from many Kimberly-Clark Co. workers losing their jobs as the Everett paper mill closes on April 15. Saguid said they’re coming in to pitch their ideas.

Many of the clients who come to the center want to start a home-based business.

Between Oct. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011, the center had 541 sessions with 165 clients and offered 637 hours of counseling. Sixty-three percent of their clients during that time were women, MacDonald said.

“We get entrepreneurs to see the big picture, to see their various options,” Saguid said. “We help business owners see how much money they really need (to borrow). Often, less is needed. We talk about how they’re spending (borrowed money) and repaying it. Some business owners don’t project their cash flow.”

MacDonald has a background in commercial banking. Saguid learned about microfinance loans with the World Bank in her native Philippines and worked at a commercial bank in Hawaii for three years before she and her husband moved to Everett and he retired from the U.S. Navy.

The center’s advice doesn’t end when the client receives loan funding, Saguid said. She and MacDonald offer help with marketing, management, hiring and accounting. They flesh out ideas for what businesses need and collaborate with public and private organizations to create new partnerships. The center serves clients from Snohomish, Skagit, Island, Whatcom and San Juan counties.

The City of Everett offers the center discounted rent for their office at 3015 Colby Ave. while the Greater Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce offers office space where Saguid spends most of her working hours.

“We’re like the hub of a wheel, surrounded by resources,” Saguid said.

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102, kbatdorf@scbj.com.

Learn more

The Northwest Washington Women’s Business Center is located at 3015 Colby Ave., Suite 251, Everett. Call 425-423-9090 or go to nwwbc.seattleccd.com.