Economic Gardening program helps small businesses flourish
Your small business is up and running. Now it’s time to dig in and grow. Thanks to the Washington State Economic Gardening program, offered through the Washington State Department of Commerce, companies that have moved beyond the startup phase can get a boost to help them through the critical next stage, and move them closer to increased growth and profitability.
The program helps existing companies access tools and information typically available only to larger corporations. Zeroing in on specific business issues, business experts work with a company’s management team to provide analysis on core strategy, market dynamics, sales leads, innovation and more. To date, 24 Washington State companies have completed the program, including Lakewood success story, Bite Me, Inc. Owner Deborah Tuggle operates two natural, organic cookie companies.
Tuggle wanted to expand and diversify her customer base when she learned about the program in 2016 while attending a minority-owned business conference. She applied, was accepted and got to work with a group of specialists from the National Center for Economic Gardening’s National Strategic Research Team (NSRT).
“I had a team from across the country hand-picked just for me,” Tuggle said. Among other things, they helped Tuggle identify retail outlets best suited for her products and how to leverage social media. “They gave me a gold mine,” she said. “The knowledge and information I received are priceless.”
Within nine months of completing the program, Tuggle significantly expanded her client base, including the addition of more than 300 Safeway stores. Her products are now available in Seattle, Alaska and Arizona, and more opportunities for expansion are in the pipeline. She also added 12 new jobs, bringing her staff to 37. Revenue this year is expected to nearly double from $1.6 million in 2016.
The ideal candidate for the four- to six-week program is a private, for-profit company that has been operating in a Washington State community for at least two years; employs 6 to 99 employees; generates $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue; demonstrates the intent and capacity to grow; and provides products and services beyond the local area.
While the cost of the program is $5,000, companies are responsible for only $750 of tuition. The Department of Commerce will pick up the balance.