A new private-public venture is helping makers of physical products in Seattle expand by making it easier for them to raise low-cost financing. Seattle Made, an alliance of 250 local manufacturers and artisans, has established a matching loan program with the city of Seattle, BECU, Seattle Bank and Community Sourced Capital that offers interest-free loans of $25,000 to $30,000 to Seattle Made members.
The program, which also includes crowd-sourced funding, may be “unique in the country,” says Christine Hanna, codirector of the Seattle Good Business Network, which promotes locally owned businesses.
As of September, five businesses had been funded, says Casey Dilloway, president of Community Sourced Capital, a social enterprise. The zero-percent-interest loans are helping South Park jeweler Chikahisa Studio open a pop-up store in New York’s Grand Central Station, South Park beer maker Burdick Brewery buy more fermenters to increase production, West Seattle’s Chocolate Krak build its own production facility, Seattle’s Mighty-O Donuts buy equipment for its new store in Ballard, and Green JuJu Kitchen, a Ballard-based maker of nutritional supplements for dogs, buy a walk-in freezer to increase production.
Seattle Made was established last year as an offshoot of the Seattle Good Business Network. Its members range from bakers to a manufacturer of hand-forged blue steel pans.
To qualify for the loans, member businesses must have at least one full-time employee, sell their goods in at least one store and manufacture their products within the city of Seattle. Benefits include the right to use the Seattle Made logo in their marketing materials and promote their products through local events such as the recent Seattle Made Week.
The Seattle Made matching loan program launched in June and is backed by $150,000 in city funds and $50,000 each from BECU and Seattle Bank. Borrowers raise the required matching capital through an online crowdfunding platform operated by Seattle’s Community Sourced Capital. The money is expected to support about 20 businesses.
Meanwhile, Equinox Studios Makes Room for Makers of All Kinds.
Nearly 100 artists and artisans looking for affordable workspace have found a home at Equinox Studios in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Founder and sculptor Sam Farrazaino opened Equinox Studios in 2006 to ensure Seattle’s maker community had an affordable place to work.
When Farrazaino finishes rehabbing the last of the five buildings in his “creative industrial complex,” Equinox will have space for an additional three dozen tenants. The project is 100 percent tenant owned with rents applied to the purchase of equity stakes in the property.
Equinox is about building a stronger community of makers in Seattle. “Whether in collaboration or through inspiration,” says Farrazaino, “we will all be better for it.”