A love for small businesses and books are in Annie Carl’s blood. As a girl, she played bookshop with her Barbies, alphabetizing and organizing her library.
When she was 14 years old, Mr. B’s Bookery opened in Kingston. She visited on the second day asking for a job and persisted for a year before landing six hours a week shelving and tidying.
“I was so incredibly happy. I was too young to be officially paid, so they paid me in books. I took home a stack every week,” Carl recalls.
The 33-year-old Puget Sound area native opened her Bothell store, The Neverending Bookshop, in October 2015. The passion and dream were all hers. She learned nuts and bolts knowledge at Edmonds Community College and through one of its partner programs, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
Both EdCC and the center are currently expanding their curriculums to reach even more students in terms of teaching successful small business strategies and thinking. Earlier this month, 27 EdCC instructors and staff participated in a two-day training workshop by Ice House Entrepreneurship Program
Ice House is overseen by The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative. The concept focuses on “soft skills” such as mindset, creative and critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. The intent is to integrate the approach across a variety of disciplines in addition to business classes.
At EdCC, this includes fields such as English, math, health, communications and more.
“When we talk about entrepreneurship instruction, it’s often thought of in terms of business management practices,” says Pam Foust, project manager, EdCC Workforce Development and Training.
“This is about changing the mindset around entrepreneurship. Maybe you don’t have a business plan or investors yet. You don’t know budgeting or accounting. However, you do have drive, resourcefulness and persistence. How do you recognize and capitalize on those soft skills?” Foust says.
EdCC’s goal for their newly trained staff and faculty is to reach an additional 500 students this year. Additionally, they are striving for diversity.
“A lot of students don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. Something I love about this particular curriculum is that it highlights that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life,” says Terry Cox, vice-president, EdCC Workforce Development and Training. “Our students are pretty brilliant and have ideas of how to contribute to the world. We want to help them move those ideas from their heads and classroom into businesses.”
Ice House builds on an already productive partnership between EdCC and the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Mike Skinner founded the Northwest-based center in 2013, which became a standalone nonprofit in 2016.
The Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship offers an initial, four-week course to students and community about shaping and turning an idea into a business. They provide a followup course including financial overviews, market information and more. Assistance takes many forms from mentoring to legal advice and navigating small-loan applications.
“We want to reach people in underserved communities with fewer resources and lots of challenges,” Skinner says. “The goal is to help those individuals become financially independent and self-sufficient through small business. It’s about building healthy communities through entrepreneurship.”
The center serves the greater Puget Sound but focuses much of its efforts in Snohomish and King counties. EdCC was an early partner and provides classroom space. Approximately 600 people have participated in the center.
“There are around 500,000 small, family-owned businesses in Washington. The big corporations get a lot of headlines, but it’s ordinary people with everyday ideas — bakeries, childcare, handymen — that collectively strengthen local economies,” Skinner says.
Carl is the perfect example. She graduated from Western Washington University and, in anticipation of launching the bookstore, earned a certificate in small business accounting from EdCC. She furthered her knowledge through the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
“It was a good way to learn the ins-and-outs of owning my own business. It was so helpful talking to people who’d helped other businesses get off the ground,” Carl says.
It’s a success story EdCC and CIE hopes to replicate. For as much as her business contributes to the Bothell community, Carl feels equally rewarded. Customers drop by to chat and ask about her baby and share about their lives.
“Something really opened up in me since I started the store. I’ve made so many friends and it allows me to be independent in a new way. I think everyone should have the ability and information to explore opportunities,” Carl says.