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The Liberty Project: New Small Business Growth Program Accepting Applications 

New initiative aims to increase revenues for businesses owned by underrepresented communities in Seattle – particularly Black-owned businesses.

Seattle – Seattle small businesses can now apply for the Liberty Project — a new innovative business growth program launched by Mayor Harrell, the Consulting and Business Development Center (CBDC) at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, the Albers Business Foundry (ABF) at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics, and Tabor 100. Named after the legacy of the Liberty Bank – the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest that served individuals and businesses who were excluded from financial services and investment opportunities – the Liberty Project is now accepting applications from local small businesses for the inaugural business cohort.  

“The Liberty Project is one of many tangible actions we are investing in to drive economic empowerment and create pathways to grow generational wealth, particularly for Black-, women- and other minority-owned businesses. The Liberty Bank has always symbolized resilience, empowerment, and opportunity, and now, the Liberty Project will build upon that rich legacy,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “We are making a deliberate and proactive effort to address the economic disparities faced by communities that have endured disinvestment. By aligning our values, resources, and actions, we are creating tangible opportunities for business growth and success, and I am excited about the possibilities this collaboration brings.” 

Powered by the M3 business success model, the Liberty Project will provide services to participating businesses aimed at (1) improving their management capacity and (2) growing access to money through loans and investments, which will lead to (3) increased access to markets through corporate and government contracting opportunities and access to new consumers in downtown Seattle and throughout the region.   

The program will offer an array of support including business consulting, finance and accounting services (including loan application assistance), marketing services, technology services (such as website development and equipment assessments/upgrades), contract bid preparation and limited legal support provided through Communities Rise and local minority Bar associations.  

The initiative will serve businesses in six priority industries: retail, personal services, commercial construction, food and beverage manufacturing, restaurant, and power utilities contract industries. These six industries are prioritized due to their high concentration of black-owned businesses and significant market demand for their services.  

Applications for the Liberty Project will be accepted on a rolling basis through an online portal managed by Tabor 100. Interested businesses must meet the following criteria:  

  • Operate in one of the six prioritized industries. 
  • Have a minimum of three paid employees, including the business owner, and demonstrate prior success in increasing the number of employees.  
  • Provide financial statements showing profitability in the preceding two years.  
  • Demonstrate a track record of successful revenue growth in financial statements. 

Currently, Black/African Americans account for approximately 7.9% of Seattle’s population but earn revenues at a rate well below their share of Seattle’s population. Statewide, black-owned businesses earn less than 1% of total business revenues and earn 2.3 times less revenue than white-owned businesses on average.  

While the project’s initial focus will be on Black-owned businesses that meet the stated criteria, applications from businesses owned by other demographic groups, industries, size, or earned revenue will also be considered. Selected businesses will participate in the program for one year and, upon completion, become part of an alumni network offering ongoing technical assistance and support for continued business and revenue growth.   

Businesses interested in applying for the Liberty Project can learn more here 

For nearly 30 years, the CBDC, Tabor 100, and the ABF have collaborated and worked independently to support the growth of Black-owned and other underserved businesses in Seattle and the Puget Sound Region.  Building on these existing partnerships, The Liberty Project will partner with the Office of Economic Development’s Seattle Restored program to assist restaurant, personal service, and retail businesses with downtown Seattle site locations as part of Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan.  

What People are Saying:  

Ollie Garrett, President and CEO of Tabor 100  

“At Tabor100 we are committed to economic power, educational excellence and social equity for African Americans and the community at large. Through the Liberty Project we are living out our mission and deepening our collaboration with two of the most successful small business assistance programs in the nation to help grow Black-owned and other underserved businesses. Together, we are leveraging our resources and expertise to support our local business and our communities. We are ready to get to work. “  

Michael Verchot, Director, Consulting and Business Development Center, University of Washington Foster School of Business 

“Growing from research by our Emeritus Dean William Bradford and others, the Liberty Project’s M3 model of improving Management capacity, growing access to Money, will lead to increased access to Markets thorough corporate and government contracting opportunities and access to new consumers in downtown Seattle. We have already proven this model to be successful in growing Black-owned and other underserved businesses in Seattle and across the US. This past year alone, we helped companies increase sales by more than $38 million using this model. The Liberty Project will enable us to engage at a deeper level with our long-term partners at Tabor 100 and the Albers School of Business and Economics as we collectively will grow even more wealth-building businesses in Seattle while contributing to the downtown Seattle.” 

Joseph M. Phillips, Dean, Albers School of Business and Economics, Seattle University    

“The Albers School and Seattle University are excited to get started with this first phase of the Liberty Project.  Many underserved businesses in our community have a crucial need for the services our three partner organizations will be providing, and we are all anxious to get started with this important work.” 

Markham McIntyre, Director of Seattle Office of Economic Development  

“The Liberty Project is an innovative approach to a systemic need. We’re excited to work with our anchor institution partners to help Black-owned businesses grow and thrive in Seattle. We have a moral and economic imperative to end systemic racism, including closing the racial wealth gap, which is why it’s a major pillar of our Future of Seattle Economy framework and why we’re committed to the Liberty Project.”