“It’s important to recognize every ethnic group. I think that it’s important for everyone to take the time to learn about other cultures so that you can understand the world you live in. If you only have one perspective to look at then you’ll never fully understand how we come together more than how we are separated.” – Chef Kristi Brown, Owner of COMMUNION Restaurant.
Kristi Brown has spooned her way through the culinary industry for the past 28 years. Starting at a small café in downtown Seattle, Kristi has done just about everything from dishwasher/prep cook to running her own catering business for nearly a decade.
But when the pandemic hit Seattle, Kristi’s plans had to change and she sought help from Ready for Business – a relief fund launched by GSBA, Washington State’s LGBTQ & Allied Chamber of Commerce, and Comcast Washington. Small businesses in Washington, especially those owned by LGBTQ people, BIPOC community members and women, are at greater risk in today’s uncertain economy. That is why Ready for Business distributed $2,500 cash grants last year to more than 60 small businesses in the metro Seattle area that are owned by LGBTQ people, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and women. The fund was established in 2020 with $100,000 from Comcast Washington and GSBA as the fund administrator.
“We were originally slated to open COMMUNION last April. With COVID happening the way it did, we had to stop and regroup. Because we couldn’t cater, we made the pivot to be a community kitchen,” said Kristi. “To have support from Comcast and GSBA is important because small businesses need so much help. It means a lot to know that someone’s got your back.”
The Seattle metro area has witnessed the shuttering and closure of local-owned small businesses being devastated by COVID-19 and the economic downturn. Another BIPOC-owned small business that was impacted both by the pandemic and a significant loss of business due to proximity to demonstrations in Seattle, is Dirty Dog. In business since 2010, Dirty Dog serves Seattle-style hot dogs with cream cheese and grilled onions and more from a cart on Capitol Hill and catering corporate and private events throughout Seattle. “I started the business from scratch,” said Binyam Wolde, Owner of Dirty Dog. “As soon as we expended COVID hit. I almost lost the business after I’ve sacrificed so much to be here. Other people like me closed their business.”
The risk to the small business community in Washington state is underscored by feedback from the business owners, like COMMUNION and Dirty Dog who applied for grants from the Ready for Business Fund. They report a devastating impact, including up to 85 percent loss of annual revenue, being forced to lay-off employees, and significant loss of business due to proximity to demonstrations in Seattle. Businesses surveyed about the grants and funding said the funding will be used on necessities such as paying for rent, bills, payroll, and groceries. Of the businesses who applied, 67 percent identify as women-owned businesses, nearly a quarter identify as LGBTQ-owned businesses, and 36 percent as BIPOC-owned businesses.
“Small businesses need us. And if the current challenging times have taught us anything, it’s how interconnected and interdependent we all are to one another,” said Diem Ly, Community Impact Director, Comcast Washington. “When people ask why a big company like Comcast wants to help small businesses, I explain that it’s our social responsibility to offer help when our communities need us most. This is personal for us. We and our customers care about and patronize these same local small businesses, and we know if our local economies can thrive, we all benefit.”
“It’s great to know that Comcast and GSBA got our back,” added Binyam.