Washington CASH Programs
Washington CASH began in 1995 after founder Peter Rose traveled to Bangladesh, where he was inspired by the work of the Grameen Bank to alleviate poverty. Since then, our program has continued to evolve from its original microfinance inspiration to adapt to local clients’ needs. Today, Washington CASH's programs are offered year-round in three interwoven strategies, in multiple locations and in three languages.
Strategy #1 - Business Development Training (BDT)
Clients start their journey toward small business ownership with business development training. New entrepreneurs learn the fundamental practices of successful business operation in an eight-session, 20-to-36-hour BDT course, designed specifically for the start-up entrepreneur with little or no business experience.
Strategy #2 - Business Acceleration Services
After graduating the BDT, clients have access to a wide range of training and support services. We offer several advanced training programs, which incorporate skill-building, goal-setting, one-on-one coaching, mentorship and networking. Clients can also access a free computer lab; Ventures, our retail store in downtown Seattle; and more!
Strategy #3 - Access to Capital
Washington CASH’s goal is to make clients bankable. In Peer Loan Groups, which meet twice per month, clients engage in a system of peer lending, accessing small, collateral-free loans. This allows people with no credit or low credit scores to capitalize their businesses and build good credit. Other microfinance products include collateralized Business Builder loans, credit-building AssetPlus loans and matched savings accounts for the purpose of business capitalization.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Every day new, inspiring success stories emerge from Washington CASH's Program. For example, Fernando Alarcon and Rosie Rodriguez, a married couple, were struggling with unemployment when they arrived at Washington CASH in early 2008, each with a business idea. With Washington CASH's help, Rosie started her business first: a bi-lingual preschool called El Cuento, which has now capped enrollment (www.elcuentospanishclass.com).
When Rosie was up and running, Fernando started his business, Innovart, a remodeling and construction business.
After taking Washington CASH's business development training course and receiving help from the business incubator, Fernando landed a contract to remodel a bathroom. The owner of the bathroom was so impressed with his work that she referred 10 remodeling contracts to Fernando. Today, Innovart has a full docket of work, including a contract with Wells Fargo to remodel several bank branches. Other businesses started through Washington CASH's programs include Alicia's Cleaning, a home-cleaning business, CompuClass, a bi-lingual computer instruction business, Acosta Welding, a maritime welding business, and many others.
One of our biggest current needs is for dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers. We recognize that volunteers play an integral part in almost every aspect of our organization; they help staff the retail store, mentor and coach aspiring business owners, and tutor students in training courses. We value the input and experience of our volunteer business-experts, and make an effort to engage them in the process of developing new programs. We are working on tapping into networks of qualified volunteers who want to commit to helping low-income entrepreneurs on a regular basis.