This past spring, Spaceworks Tacoma offered stipends to 40 alumni businesses to grow their businesses through digital media tools and strategies. At $3,750 per business, this was the largest stipend offered in Spaceworks’ 13-year history—and its fastest since it was completed in less than three months. The City of Tacoma selected Spaceworks and two other programs for this project and provided funding through the Washington Department of Commerce’s Small Business Innovation Fund. Since every business is different, these upgrades were tailored to individual needs through a proposal process and included everything from new business photos to e-commerce platform development.
Businesses that received funding were randomly chosen through a lottery system, with extra entries for women and minority-owned businesses, as well as businesses in low to very-low equity opportunity areas. After being selected, the recipients attended two virtual workshops hosted by Spaceworks, which included an orientation to the project, advice from local CEO Bryan Reynolds of Anthem Coffee on how to grow one’s business through digital strategies, and breakout sessions with service providers. Through these workshops, the recipients learned about the variety of opportunities available to them and were able to best decide on how to strategically utilize their stipends.
The graph below shows the many ways the 40 recipients chose to use their funding. For some, this meant new professional business photos of their storefront and staff. For others, upgrades came in the form of new hardware or software, website and e-commerce platform updates, and advertising and branding. Spaceworks staff also worked one-on-one with the businesses, providing technical assistance and troubleshooting during the project.
Recipients are already reporting the benefits this program has had for their businesses:
“With several competitors within a 5-mile radius, the digital and video products will help us stand out on Google search.”
“The digital stipend grant has provided us with the means to have an e-commerce website built, which will allow us to grow our business from a local, word of mouth business to become available to anyone in the US. We were also able to cover multiple subscriptions that allow us to work more creatively and effectively.”
“The digital stipend grant alleviated some of the operating costs for my digital media business and clothing brand and has helped me scale both businesses.”
In addition to benefiting the 40 businesses that received funding, this initiative supported many local service providers. Spaceworks coordinated with existing and new providers including web designers, photographers, filmmakers, brand strategists, and social media managers to provide contracted work to recipients. By the end of the project, Spaceworks had directly supported more than 20 local service providers.
We at Spaceworks feel honored to have played a role in this initiative doing much-needed work to advance digital equity in Tacoma. We wish all the recipients the best of luck for their businesses, and we look forward to providing future opportunities to cultivate creative communities in Tacoma.