Has our advocacy increased access and reduced barriers?
Will von Geldern

May 9, 2019

Since the beginning of the year, our advocacy program has been focused on achieving the goals we set in January.

Now that Washington’s annual legislative “session” has ended, it’s time to take a deep breath and reflect on what we have achieved together. It has been 18 months since we founded our advocacy program, and this was our first full legislative session with an active agenda. So how has our advocacy increased access and reduced barriers for Ventures entrepreneurs? Where have we fallen short? What are other ways that we can make a positive impact?

Here’s what we do know:

We worked together, organized our first-ever Advocacy Day at the state capitol, and made great progress with a small-but-mighty group of leaders. Here’s what we achieved:

One Million for Microenterprise

We asked our representatives to set aside $1 million in grant funding for microenterprise development organizations across the state, and with the help of Senators Christine Rolfes and Emily Randall and Representatives Beth Doglio and Timm Ormsby, we were able to get $500,000 in the final budget!

We are especially appreciative of the strong advocacy of Beth Shea–Ventures entrepreneur and owner of Echo Artworks–for her advocacy. Beth has been doing great work in her community as a leader with Kitsap Community Resources, and stepped up her role as an advocate when it mattered most by calling and meeting her representatives at a local town hall! We are thankful for ALL of your advocacy on this issue, but we know there is more to do–so we will be back next year to keep up the pressure!

Working Families Tax Credit

In advocacy, just like in business, sometimes progress requires failing forward. We were very disappointed that our Earned Income Tax Credit match proposal was not funded despite all of the amazing leadership from our community. Elena Nebreda, founder of Local Kisses From, took a leading role as an advocate for this proposal. She co-authored an op-ed and met with a key Senator to explain why this proposal would be transformative for Ventures entrepreneurs. But despite all of this work, we have to go back to the drawing board and spend some time building our capacity to advocate even more. We are going to keep building a team of advocates for this proposal–and you can sign up for email and text updates about our WFTC campaign.

I-1000 – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Late in the evening on the last day of session, lawmakers made history by approving the last of our priorities. I-1000, allows government agencies to consider status as a woman-, minority-, veteran-, or LGTBQ-owned enterprise when hiring businesses to do government work. This is an exciting step. Now our job is to provide our entrepreneurs with the training and support they need to access government contracts to grow their business.

Home Cooking

We also made great progress on our campaign to increase access for food entrepreneurs. This campaign, which has been called our “tamale bill,” would change state law to allow us to start micro food businesses out of our home kitchens. Our entrepreneurs have already stepped up to lead this campaign. Prashanthi Reddy, owner of Makeda and Mingus, hosted a “Home-Cooked Stories” event at her coffee shop in December, and Logan Niles of Pot Pie Factory led the charge on this campaign at Advocacy Day. We will have more detailed updates very soon, and you can make sure you receive those by signing our petition.

We also made progress outside of our four primary priorities.

We were especially proud to support the achievements of our friends at the Washington State Food Truck Association and the Food Innovation Network.

The Food Truck Association worked hard to pass legislation that would make it easier for food trucks to get public health permits in different cities and counties. They almost passed a bill that would create statewide fire safety standards instead of a patchwork of complicated permits. Working with the Food Innovation Network, we also supported $400,000 in the state’s capital budget (which is for physical expenses like real estate, roads and schools) for the Tukwila Village Food Hall–a visionary project that will serve entrepreneurs in South King County for years to come!

So what’s next? As much as possible, we want that answer to come from you.

Our team is going to spend the next few weeks preparing another phase of our work. We will soon have a draft of our tamale bill, and you can sign up for text and email updates by signing our petition.

As we continue advocating, we remain focused on building a sustainable grassroots program–and we would love to hear what you think. The Ventures community is powerful and resilient. Together we can build a movement for economic opportunity that will withstand the test of time.

We will need your support to achieve these goals. Please reach out to me at wvongeldern@venturesnonprofit.org with your ideas and stay tuned by signing up for our advocacy email list!