For entrepreneurs who come through our many programs – including training, coaching, incubation, and access to capital – a successful business is often the culmination of years of hard work. Miri Plowman’s recent success is a testament to this perseverance. It also shows why we believe it’s so important to offer personalized, comprehensive services to all of our entrepreneurs.
Miri’s Seattle is the result of many years of hard work trying to create an inclusive space around food that she loves. Despite limited resources, Miri followed her unique vision relentlessly and has achieved incredible success in the past four years.
Her business, which sells delicious Dutch pancakes known as poffertjes, began primarily in farmers’ markets and has since expanded into catering for everything from small functions to large weddings. These ventures and Miri’s unique product have been incredibly successful in just a few short years, and Miri recently celebrated the next step with another expansion.
With each, step, Miri has partnered with Ventures. In fact, since starting her business Miri has received more than 150 hours of training, coaching, and technical assistance from different coaches and spent over 350 hours working in our affordable commercial kitchen space.
After initially enrolling in our Business Basics Course in summer 2014, Miri worked with individual coaches throughout the next year to develop her plans and expand her knowledge of essential business operations. She also completed our Financial Management Training program in 2015 and began renting space in Ventures’ affordable commercial kitchen space later that year.
In 2016, as her business grew more complex – selling at farmers’ markets and catering a wide variety of events – Miri joined our Schedule C Tax Workshop and participated in a Legal Clinic that we host in partnership with Wayfind. Our Packaged Food Training also helped her explore options to diversify the Miri’s Seattle product line.
Then, in 2018, Miri was ready to take her business to the next level. As she sought to create a permanent home for her business, Ventures was able to step up to provide access to capital and engage in advocacy on her behalf – all with the support of some incredible supporters and volunteers.
Miri had the idea to create a community-based business in one of Seattle’s most beautiful public spaces: Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. This project would require a significant amount of capital to renovate the south end of the Golden Gardens Bathhouse, and would require the formal approval of the Seattle City Council.
At Ventures, when we consider loan applications, our decision-making process is completely unlike those at a traditional bank. Our priority is not just to approve a loan, but to make sure we can support our entrepreneurs with the right decision for their business. Our Loan Committee consists of board members, lending specialists, and business leaders from the community, and requires them each to think differently and deeply consider the impact of our loans on our entrepreneurs’ lives. This means that – unlike many banks – our entrepreneurs cannot just stop by and stroll away with tens of thousands in dollars in debt. We believe it also is a big part of why we were able to achieve 100% repayment on our loans in 2017.
After much deliberation, we were able to approve our largest loan ever for Miri! Her $50,000 loan, approved in early 2018, was bigger than all of our loans in 2017 combined. Simply put, we found that Miri had built up the necessary experience and expertise and had created an incredible opportunity for her business.
With the loan approved, there was one final step needed to make her Golden Gardens dream a reality: approval from the City Council. Executive Director Beto Yarce and Associate Director Laura Fletcher showed up to a critical hearing of the Civic Development, Public Assets, and Native Communities Committee to show our support. The committee approved her application for a five-year lease, and together we were able to bring an amazing, independent microbusiness to one of Seattle’s incredible parks!
In order to truly thrive, microbusiness owners and low-income entrepreneurs need a comprehensive ecosystem of support. That’s why we provide training, coaching, incubation, and access to capital under one roof. We also partner with the City of Seattle, the Washington State Department of Commerce, and federal agencies to strengthen our local economy and create jobs that help our entrepreneurs and their employees build skills and pave pathways out of poverty – and in 2017, we doubled down by creating an advocacy program to work more intentionally with policymakers on creating opportunities for microenterprise development in communities throughout the Puget Sound region.
With this ecosystem of support and her incredible drive and perseverance, Miri has been able to build a unique, independent business that allows her to thrive. If you are an entrepreneur and interested in learning more about how we can support you with small business development services, check out one of our upcoming orientations and review the Specialized Services available to entrepreneurs that have completed our Business Basics Course.
Want to support other small business owners on their journey? Many more entrepreneurs like Miri are working every day to build their businesses – and you can support them by volunteering your time, financial support, or partnering with Ventures in other ways.
We are so proud of everything that Miri has been able to achieve, and we invite you to stop by Miri’s Snack Shack at Golden Gardens this summer to see it for yourself. See you there!