New Opportunities on the Horizon for Microbusinesses

Pictured: Spaceworks alumnus Marika Thomas working at her home-based business,
Skybox Skincare Bar

New opportunities are on the way for microbusinesses in Tacoma thanks to a collaborative effort between our small business community, Tacoma City Council, and Spaceworks Tacoma, a program of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

Spaceworks is always looking for new ways to grow our creative economy and support local entrepreneurs and small business owners. Several years ago, we heard many of you in our small business community share what you need to thrive in Tacoma. A common thread emerged from those in our community operating microenterprises, start-ups, and home-based businesses: your business needs pathways to grow. Many entrepreneurs who start businesses from their homes have dreams of one day finding a new home for their enterprise in a commercial space. We want to help make that happen.

To make this goal a reality, our Spaceworks Training Coordinator and incoming Program Director Jennifer English got to work. Through meeting and speaking with countless microbusiness owners and entrepreneurs, she learned what changes our community needs the most. Many of these needs can be addressed— and new opportunities provided— through updating Tacoma’s home business occupation standards.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a wide network of community partners in this work. With their help, we were able to get a resolution on this issue before Tacoma City Council. Resolution 41259 was brought before Council by Council Member Olgy Diaz, with Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker and Council Member Kiara Daniels as co-sponsors.

We are thrilled to announce that on August 15th, Tacoma City Council unanimously voted to pass Resolution 41259 to expand opportunities for microbusinesses.

Pictured: Tacoma City Council unanimously passes Resolution 41259 on August 15th, 2023

This resolution sets the stage for updates to Tacoma’s home business occupation standards. It directs the City Manager to make it a high priority to review these standards in the work of the Planning Commission. Additionally, it directs the Planning Commission to focus on making changes to these standards that

  • Help microbusinesses tap into expanded opportunities that emerge from updated home business occupation standards.
  • Incentivize the growth and transition of microbusinesses into brick-and-mortar operations.
  • Reduce the administrative burden for microbusinesses seeking home business occupation permits.
  • Limit impact on surrounding community.

This is an exciting first step in the effort to open new doors for microbusinesses and home-based enterprises to grow into fully-fledged commercial spaces.

Council Member Olgy Diaz shared:

“With this resolution, we are reevaluating our home business occupation standards and aligning them with the needs of microbusinesses with one to five employees. By establishing themselves as home businesses, microbusinesses can safely test ideas, and grow into brick-and-mortar locations. I remain dedicated to supporting home-grown businesses here in Tacoma and providing them with an on-ramp to their future success.”

The City Planning Commission will now move forward to the next steps of reviewing the current standards, doing community outreach, and presenting its recommendations to City Council.

This is a victory not only for entrepreneurs and microbusiness owners, but our entire creative economy. According to the Washington State Microenterprise Association, 85% of businesses in Washington are microbusinesses and employ over 600,000 individuals. The majority of microbusinesses are owned by entrepreneurs from historically marginalized groups such as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrants, women, veterans, rural populations, tribal groups, LGBTQA+ people, and people with disabilities. Creating clear pathways for these businesses to succeed helps advance equity in our community.

In response to the resolution passing, Jennifer English stated:

“Spaceworks knows that strong communities like Tacoma are built on having rich opportunities for everyone. This is why Spaceworks, with the City’s ongoing support, invests in meaningful business training for first-time business owners, ambitious creative professionals, and folks passionate about making Tacoma a great place to live and work. Our proposal for expanded home business occupation standards came from our outreach to this community of entrepreneurs, who want to grow their businesses in Tacoma. We’re excited by the Tacoma City Council’s clear statement that they want to expand allowable home business occupation opportunities to speed up the microbusiness growth process by providing a low-risk environment to test business ideas and workflows.”

Thank you to everyone in our community who has played a role in this work. We are excited to be on this journey with you. More updates coming soon!