Burien Stories of Small Business Resilience: Seeds & Sprouts

December 22, 2020

“I have the responsibility to do something different.”

As an orphan, Iris Ruiz never felt like she was truly a part of a family.  Growing up, Iris moved around a lot living with various family members in Oregon and California, and eventually moved back to El Salvador when she was 15 years old.  It was through her experience as a teacher in El Salvador that her passion for early education blossomed.  “I always wanted to create a place where kids could feel safe and loved.  I wanted to give them something different than what I grew up with.”

Through passion and hard work, Iris opened Seeds & Sprouts, a bilingual preschool that offers a child-centered and multicultural approach.  To assist in establishing her business, Iris connected with Ventures.  Ventures offered legal and operational advice, lending a hand wherever Iris sought additional support.  “I’ve always felt as if I had to solider on by myself, but with Ventures, I don’t feel alone.  I feel so supported,” said Iris.

“My hope is that this will help families stay connected in a time when we are so disconnected.”

COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge for small businesses.  To combat these challenges, Iris has established virtual learning for her students.  Using the Reggio Emilia philosophy for early education, Iris has compiled take home curriculums for each of her families to assist in their virtual learning.  “A lot of families don’t know where to start, so I send them curriculums with pictures of the activities and the materials they will need to use.”  Another way that Iris has adapted her business is through the use of a video app that allows family members outside of the child’s primary caregivers to take part in the child’s learning experience.  “We have a grandmother in Italy, for example, who gets to witness her granddaughter learning. “

“My business never would have survived without the support from Ventures and the City of Burien.”

When the pandemic first hit in March, Iris’ husband tested positive for COVID and was sent to intensive care.  As a result, her business immediately closed but the bills kept coming.  Through a $5000 grant received from the City of Burien, Iris was able to stay afloat.  Iris used the grant money to pay her rent and utility bills.  “I don’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying,” said Iris.  Her husband has since recovered and is in good health.  “The grant took a huge weight off my shoulders and allowed me to be with my family during that time.”  Iris adds, “Burien is the city that opened its doors to me.  I’ve built a community here and receiving the grant allowed me to stay.”