Group photo with County staff, Ventures, and the SBIA grant awardees taken by Kelsey Nyland on May 22, 2024.

EVERETT, MAY 22: Hope and excitement filled Hotel Indigo this afternoon as 50 local small businesses received roughly $7,000 each from Snohomish County leadership and Ventures Small Business Innovation Assistance (SBIA) Program to address pandemic impacts.

“On behalf of all of us in Snohomish County, we congratulate the awardees, this is a major accomplishment and we are really hopeful this will help you recover from the impacts of Covid and help build capacity in your businesses, District 2 Snohomish County Councilmember Megan Dunn said.

The SBIA program is administered by Ventures and is funded by the County’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation, in partnership with the Snohomish County Council. This is the first program of its kind. Ventures have been working with the County for over a decade, Executive Director of Ventures Monique Valenzuela said.

The ARPA is the latest federal stimulus bill to help aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package was signed into law in 2021 and is used at the discretion of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to assist households, nonprofits, or impacted industries.

Ventures staff greeting incomers at the Snohomish County grant award ceremony May 22, 2024.

Ventures is a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides access to business training, capital, coaching, and hands-on learning opportunities for business owners and underrepresented entrepreneurs. The entire staff is bilingual, and all of their training and resources are translated in English and Spanish.

“I want the people to know that Snohomish County chose to partner with a community-trusted organization, rather than working internally,” Valenzuela said.

The total amount of grants that went out is estimated to be around $350,000 according to Valenzuela.

“As we look around it was the small businesses in this room that made countless rapid pivots in short succession to continue to operate successfully and safely under immense emotional and financial hardship. Many are still unburying themselves from the financial impact,” Business Scaling Specialist for the project Miri Plowman said.

Grant winners signing to receive their grant during the ceremony on May 22, 2024.

Daughter of a small business owner Paula Rhyne, and Everett City Council Member for District 2, attended the ceremony, saying that small businesses mean a lot to her on a personal level.

“I know the turmoil and the hardship and the heart that goes into a small business and something like this is really important to me on a personal level, especially in revitalizing downtown Everett,” Rhyne said.

Mini Einstein’s Learning Center in Lynnwood was one of the 50 businesses granted an award. Program Director Samantha Sciacca said she was shocked to have such a quick turnaround for the grant.

Usually you apply for a grant and you don’t hear back for a long time and you just kind of put it in the back of your mind,” Sciacca said.

Mini Einstein’s Learning Center is owned and operated by Samantha and William Sciacca and began as a small church-based program called Cornerstone Early Learning Center according to their website.

After 20 years of operation, Cornerstone decided to close its doors. Samantha, seeing the need to continue the program, took over as owner/director.

“We are all trying to make a difference and sometimes mom-and-pop shops are forgotten about, and grants usually go to bigger places,” said Sciacca. “Anything that can help early childhood education is huge.”

In choosing through applicants Valenzuela said that Ventures not only took into account diversity, but minority-owned businesses, zip codes, and many other factors.

The 50 awarded small businesses break down as follows according to a press release:

  • 44 percent childcare
  • 33 percent manufacturing and retail
  • 23 percent food production and food services

“On behalf of the small businesses of Snohomish County in this room and the ones who are not here, please remember to shop local, spend like it matters, and continue to advocate for the colorful quilt that all the small businesses in this community create,” Plowman said.