2019 Community Impact Awards, Social Entrepreneurship: Ventures

Plus: Silver Award winner Skookum Kids
MICROBUSINESSES: Executive Director Beto Yarce, right, with, from left Betsy Earl and Jen Hughes, says the Ventures team is “committed to pushing the barriers of what is possible.”

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue. See more about the winners of the 2019 Community Impact Awards here. Click here for a free subscription.


When Edwin Johnston needed business advice, he turned to Ventures.

Johnston realized he needed practical business training after he relocated his Micronesian Market — which provides food of Micronesia — from Vancouver, Washington, to a larger space in Burien. He attended Ventures’ Business Basics Course last year and has since received support from Ventures business coaches. He also took out a $2,000 microloan to start a pilot program selling breadfruit, which is now the store’s most popular item.

Johnston is just one of many Ventures success stories. The nonprofit helps lower-income individuals launch microbusinesses by offering an array of workshops and microloans.

In 2017, Ventures — which has a budget of about $1.6 million and 18 full-time workers — served 659 individuals. Seventy percent were women. Sixty percent were people of color, and 30% participated in Ventures’ Spanish-language programs. Starting two years ago, the nonprofit began serving only those with incomes at or below 80% of the median income.

Eighty percent of the businesses launched by Ventures clients survive after two years, compared to the national average of 69% for businesses of all income levels. One in five businesses creates jobs and employs other individuals. “We are committed to pushing the barriers of what is possible,” writes Executive Director Beto Yarce in Ventures’ 2018 annual report.

Silver Award

Skookum Kids

Skookum Kids is out to change what it calls the “broken system” of foster care. The self-described foster care nonprofit offers an array of innovative programs to involve more people in the care of vulnerable children, including training potential foster care parents, creating a volunteer-staffed emergency shelter for children who have just entered foster care, and a suite of volunteer-centric programs to encourage and support foster parents and children. Since opening in 2015, Skookum has cared for 556 children, licensed 47 foster homes, placed 50 kids in those homes and was named nonprofit of the year by the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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