For the past 25 years, Business Impact NW has been dedicated to remove barriers and expand opportunities for underserved communities, to start and grow their businesses.
To celebrate this milestone, the leadership team took a moment to reflect on the last 25 years.
- Susan Perrault, Vice President of Programs (SP)
- Christine Buckley, Director of the Loan Readiness Program (CB)
- Domonique Juleon, Chief Program Officer (DJ)
- Henry Wong, Director of the Food Business Resource Center & Special Projects (HW)
- Steve Watts-Oelrich, Director of Veterans Business Outreach Center Program (SWO)
Q: When did you start working at Business Impact NW?
SP: I joined in June of 2017 as a Washington Women Business Center business coach and trainer.
CB: I started with Business Impact NW when it was known as Community Capital Development, 10 years ago. I came back two years ago to the loan COVID response team. Then I moved into the Women Business Center as a trainer, and from there moved again into developing the Loan Readiness Center.
SWO: I am an Air Force veteran. I served eight years in the United States Air Force. When I got out of the military I went to law school. I practiced law for a while and ultimately ended up at Business Impact NW in May of 2016. I started as a Boots to Business instructor/business coach and in 2019 I was promoted to Manager over the VBOC program.
DJ: I started as a business coach in 2014. I have worked as a coach, trainer, program leader, and today as the Chief Program Officer.
HW: I started as a contractor in 2017, then I moved to part time, and then transitioned to full time. I have been the Director of the Food Business Resource Center and Special Products for over two years now.
Q: How has Business Impact NW evolved during your time here?
CB: I've seen tremendous growth, solidifying the mission and the vision and working hard towards building programs that support our small businesses and the community. I've seen an amazing growth that has expanded our services to Oregon and Alaska. And even internally, building different programs that support the employees to do that work.
HW: Since I started, we've always been very adaptable and receptive to change and that's always been driven by our staff and clients. We have quickly pivoted and grown, which is I think it's one of our greatest strengths, being willing to try new things.
Q: What is the lasting impact of the work we do?
SWO: When we work with Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, veterans, military spouses, those traditionally under banked, underserved, under assisted entrepreneurs, to start, launch and grow businesses and that in turn provides local jobs and revenue to help support right there within the community.
HW: Is to continue to see the small business community thrive considering all the consolidation and monopolization you see with larger companies and corporations and the whole tech space as well. Being able to walk around your neighborhood and see that all the businesses, the business owners and even the employees are part of that same community. And I think that's really the lasting impact and something we don’t want to lose.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from an event?
CB: I think one of my favorite memories that happened at one of the events was at Impact Pitch and a client that I was working with. It was just so thrilling to see her give her pitch and win the award. Seeing all the hard work that was put into that and how that came out and how beneficial that was for her.
SWO: I have a lot of great memories from Celebrating Dreams, Operation Entrepreneur, Food Biz Week, and Impact Pitch competition. What I like most about these events is that they provide an opportunity to highlight BIPOC, women owned, veteran owned, military spouse owned and LGBTQ+ owned businesses, who are making a positive impact in their community.
Q: What does a ‘small business with a big impact’ mean to you?
SP: If you think of small businesses as the fundamental economic engine for the United States, there's the impact right there. It is important for the community to have a strong ecosystem of small businesses. That was demonstrated during the pandemic when so many small businesses were struggling, and the community struggled at the same time.
SWO: Well, small businesses, as we all know, are the backbone of our economy. Every small business participates in supporting the economy locally in one way or another. They employ other people, solve a problem, and they're being innovative. These small businesses have a big impact in their communities. That's what it means to me.
Q: Why does empowering entrepreneurs’ matter?
SWO: Empowering them is providing the tools and training so they can successfully run their businesses and growth, better manage cash flow, hire and retain employees, and manage growth. Then tying back to serving that local community through jobs, solving problems locally and generating revenue for that local economy.
DJ: When you you provide the support for an entrepreneur, what you're doing is helping them unlock their own potential. They have the solutions for their communities. They have the power to change their communities. If you want to change the world, help an entrepreneur start a business. That doesn't just mean a big business that's going to make millions. Yes, we could admit that those businesses change the world too. But community businesses change people's lives as well. Creating a safe place to work, giving a paycheck for five employees, being the boss that you want to be, changes people's lives. When you empower entrepreneurs, you are unlocking the potential of communities. You're helping those entrepreneurs unlock the potential of their own communities.
Q: Where do you see Business Impact NW in the next 5 years?
SP: We have a great strategic planning and a strong foundation and we hope we can continue to offer more opportunities to more clients that help us to meet our mission.
DJ: I see Business Impact NW continuing to innovate, to listen to the people that we serve and find ways to support them. I know that we're going to be there for the community, providing education, celebration moments, all those things that really put our clients at the front of what we do. In the end, it's our clients that are going to lead us.