City of Seattle invests Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to address small business economic impacts exacerbated by the digital divide
Seattle small businesses can now apply for the Digital Sales Access Program — a partnership between the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED), Comcast, Kay Tita, Square and Quickbooks, that aims to remove digital access barriers that negatively impact small businesses. Originally launched in 2021, the Digital Sales Access Program will provide a free point of sale (POS) system that allows small businesses — particularly those operating as “cash-only” — to expand their operations to accept debit, credit and other digital forms of payment. Additionally, participating small businesses will receive other tools such as an online Quickbooks subscription for financial management including simplified accounting and reporting, tools for inventory management, and personalized training to help business owners effectively utilize new technology. The program is funded through public and private dollars — with $100,000 in Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CLFR) provided by the city and $35,000 provided by Comcast.
“The Digital Sales Access Program improves service for both small businesses and their customers,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “It’s our goal to promote a thriving and dynamic small business economy here in Seattle. Helping provide critically needed tools and technology upgrades is a great way to further that mission and support our local businesses.”
“Small, brick-and-mortar businesses in the start-up phase are focused 100% on production, making payroll, and paying rent. As a result, they often lack the digital expertise, capital, and bandwidth to implement a point of sales program capable of serving their customer base efficiently and extending their customer reach as they grow. This is especially true of under-resourced businesses which are disproportionately owned by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and women and/or located in low-income communities. The Digital Sales Access Program meets a crucial small business need and continues the momentum toward an equitable economic recovery.” said citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson, Chair of the Economic Development Committee.
The Digital Sales Access Program will help small business owners grow their businesses through increased e-commerce capacity, improved digital literacy and greater financial awareness.
Applications for the Digital Sales Access Program will be accepted from June 6, 2022, through June 24, 2022. To be eligible for the program, businesses must:
- Possess an active City of Seattle Business License.
- Been operational for at least two years from the date of application.
- Have no more than ten employees.
- Have physical location or operates in a marketplace/farmer’s market at least four days per month.
- Located in Seattle, WA.
- Not be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Additionally, businesses must meet at least three of the following requirements:
- Do not currently have a POS (Point of Sale) system.
- Are not currently utilizing any financial management software.
- Are interested in receiving financial management training.
- Are interested in receiving marketing and branding training.
- Are interested in getting a new website for their business.
To support small businesses that have experienced disproportionate economic impacts, the Digital Sales Access Program will prioritize micro and small business that are owned by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, and/or businesses located in a highly distressed census tract with a minimum of 30% poverty or not exceeding 60% median income (defined as “low-income communities” (LICs) by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which has prioritized low-income communities for COVID relief financing).
To learn more on the program’s services, eligibility requirements and apply, go to kaytita.org/dsap/program.
“We’ve created a program where receiving the Point of Sales system is only one part of the whole experience. We leverage our own lived experiences to meet our fellow community members where they are at,” said David Pierre-Louis, Kay Tita Executive Director. “Our program addresses digital equity, financial literacy, and building direct connections with the business owners in order to make sure we can help bridge critical resources that allow our community members not to be left behind. Kay Tita’s dedication to supporting entrepreneurs is at the root of the work and community we foster in Port-au-Prince and Seattle. And we believe when we empower small business owners we are preserving and promoting the culture, heritage, and the identity of our city.”
“Technology and ecommerce capacity are critical for businesses of all sizes to be successful, both to improve business processes and to reach new customers. This became even more apparent during the pandemic, which is why OED continues to invest in resources and programs that connect our businesses—especially those with the highest barriers to digital access—with tools and skills needed to be successful in the ecommerce economy.” said Markham McIntyre, Interim Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development. “Intentional partnerships with corporate and community-based organizations allow us to leverage strengths and align resources that benefit the community. These partnerships will help us build a more equitable economy, and this program helps us ensure our small businesses have the skills and tools they need to grow and thrive.”
“Strong public-private partnerships are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact and support important causes in our local community. Our ongoing collaboration with the Office of Economic Development is a direct example of that,” said Rodrigo Lopez, Region Senior Vice President, Comcast Washington. “We are proud to work with Kay Tita and OED to support the recovery of Seattle’s vibrant BIPOC small business community and help it grow through more equitable access to technology, funding and other resources.”
The 2021 pilot program served 50 small businesses across Seattle, the majority of whom were owned by individuals that identified as Black, Indigenous, or other persons of color, women, and/or immigrant. In addition to connecting businesses with the technology and training, OED quickly learned business owners had deep interest in having better understanding of point of sales analytics, and how to effectively connect e-commerce tools to improve overall business operations. This new iteration of the Digital Sales Access Program will build on learnings from the pilot and provide deeper training on customer analytics and how to utilize Quickbooks to create financial projections for business growth.
“Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to join this program, it’s very helpful that finally, I can get more info and useful resources to sustain the business during this uncertain economic situation. And to hear some information from real people, instead of searching randomly myself online. All this made me feel not alone and feel supported since during this COVID, I felt overwhelmed and burned out to handle too many things to sustain and survive the business,” said Maya Lu, pilot program participant and owner of Boba Up.
“So many of the things that Kay Tita’s Digital Sales Access Program has put together are what businesses across the nation need, it’s not just a Seattle thing. It’s a worldwide thing. Kudos to you guys for putting it all together.” said Martin Guerrero, Square Representative.
In addition to Digital Sales Access Program, OED has invested nearly $200k in the Youth Web Design program — a partnership with the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle that connects Seattle small businesses without a business website or limited online presence with local youth to design modern websites that improve and expand their online presence and business operations; $8 million in the Capital Access Program — a new partnership with local community development financial institutions (CDFI) that connects small businesses to flexible working capital loans; $6 million in neighborhood recovery grants; $4 million in stabilization grants for small businesses; launched Shop to the Beat — a recovery program that matches local musicians with small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak business hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who lost significant income due to the impacts of COVID-19; and launched Seattle Restored — an economic recovery program that matches small businesses and artists with vacant commercial storefronts for pop up shops and art instillations in downtown neighborhoods such a Westlake, Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District and Belltown.