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October 27, 2017     West Seattle Herald
Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle
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October 27, 2017
 

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Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle | Westside Seattle Skip to main content October 27, 2017|54 °F Clear Search Search Secondary links Subscribe Advertise Contact Us Westside Seattle if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } NewsBallardHighlineWest SeattlePolice BlotterBallardHighlineWest SeattleCalendarBallardHighlineWest SeattleFeaturesBallardHighlineWest SeattleArts & EntertainmentBallardHighlineWest SeattleObitsBallardHighlineWest SeattleSportsBallardHighlineWest SeattleEatBallardHighlineWest SeattleDwellHealthMoneyShoppingOpinion Recent Articles Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle Inflammatory letter and map sent to Burien residents draws official ire The Psychic View 20 unit apartment building given conditional go ahead in High Point 19th Annual Community Free Thanksgiving Dinner by Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes coming up Nov. 23 Win Dinner for A Year at Ray's if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Trending Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle Inflammatory letter and map sent to Burien residents draws official ire The Psychic View 20 unit apartment building given conditional go ahead in High Point 19th Annual Community Free Thanksgiving Dinner by Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes coming up Nov. 23 Win Dinner for A Year at Ray's Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle   if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Consultant Allison Carney, who was hired by the West Seattle Junction to interview business owners and produce report, introduced her preliminary findings regarding business owners concerns at a meeting held at Pershing Hall on Oct. 27. Patrick Robinson Fri, 10/27/2017 By Gwen Davis Owning a small business isn't easy. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be like climbing Mt. Everest, either.  This past summer, the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce hired communications consultant Allison Carney to interview 25 small businesses members to figure out what are the most common shared experiences and challenges. While the final report won’t be out until the end of November, on Thursday evening, the Chamber held a dinner where Carney told members the gist of what the interviews suggested. "The purpose of the study was to define common challenges and common resources facing the West Seattle small business community,” Carney said at the dinner, which included dozens of members.  Carney first talked about the joys most businesses owners find from doing business in West Seattle. "Pretty much every person I spoke with felt that West Seattle was a special place,” she said. "They felt this was like no place else, and that this was incredibly important. Many people felt a community here, and many cited the importance of small business in that community.” But many challenges exist as well. The seven most common complaints members cited included: parking restraints, space and infrastructure problems, dealing with homelessness, the cost of doing business, non-supportive relationships with the City of Seattle, feeling helpless and a lack of community. Regarding space and infrastructure, owners are worried about displacement as rent gets higher and higher. “One owner said: ‘If my building got sold, I'd probably go out of business,'” Carney related. While people feel safe in West Seattle, Carey said that owners reported that homelessness keeps getting worse. “Homelessness is growing and they feel like there’s no way to stop it,” she said. Additionally, the cost of doing business was  a prominent issue. “It was the largest concern and showed itself in different ways." Some owners were confounded by the city’s minimum wage. One owner said servers were making $60 an hour. Others said they wanted to give benefits to their employees, but it’s not always economically feasible. Another owner confided that cutting holiday leave was the only way they got through the recession. if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Lauren Burgon announced the results of one roundtable discussion. Photo by Patrick Robinson Also, business owners don’t feel like the City of Seattle treats them cordially. "It’s really about the distance people feel to the city and the lack of prioritization they feel,” she said. “They are feeling alienated. One owner said: 'I don’t feel like the city cares about small businesses, they care about Trader Joe’s, but we are just a blank.”  Small business owners can feel helpless, she continued. "'We feel helpless,’” one business owner reported, Carney said. “'We hope it’ll get better but it’s exhausting. I’m about to pick up and move to Burien.’” Other members said they "feel completely alone". A lack of community was the final issue raised in the study.  "This is a vibrant community but it’s changing,” Carney said. "The Junction is the third fasted growing neighborhood in all of Seattle. There are feelings of disconnect to the new people coming in. That connective tissue that made Seattle known and loved is thinning out. There are businesses that have tight relationships with each other, but others are feeling isolated from their neighbors.” Carney reported that one member talked about how the general public doesn't know how many businesses  there are in West Seattle — how people don't know that they actually don’t need to leave the neighborhood in order to get their needs met. Owners stated that small businesses need to be preserved. Carney said that one member stated: “We think West Seattle is such a special neighborhood — if we don’t persevere these small  business, we’re going to lose one of the most special aspects West Seattle has to offer.’” Another member said: "'We’re trading a neighborhood for logos.'” After Carney’s presentation, attendees had an opportunity to brainstorm topics related to operating a small business with other people at their table. The topics — one for each table — included: marketing, human resources, customer retention, safety and city regulation. A table caption from each table then reported back to the group at large what was discussed.  if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Talking points raised in the study · Introduction · Overview of how businesses/community members were selected o Caveat: all interviews were with people connected to Chamber or WSJA o We all know small business owners are incredibly busy, so there was some trouble scheduling with everyone o Total: 33 meetings including three groups: § WSJA board § WS Chamber board § Southwest District Council § The remainder were one-on-one conversations with largely business owners, and some community members throughout the peninsula · Purpose: To determine common challenges facing the business community and possible resources to address them. · Findings: We used qualitative data (conversations) so I’m going to bring you through an overview of the findings by using quotes. This presentation is more to give you an idea of what was in these conversations, whereas the report we create for the OED will be more bullet points, data-driven, with recommendations, etc. o What’s Special about West Seattle § Pretty much every person I spoke with felt that West Seattle was a special place. They felt this was like no place else, and that this was incredibly important. Many people felt a community here, and many cited the importance of small business in that community. § “I had a robbery a few weeks ago. The next four days I came into work, someone was waiting outside with coffee. Not friends, just customers. I got eight bouquets of flowers. Customer’s husbands came in to walk me home after work. I love it here. I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else.” -Retail business owner in Admiral § “We fell in love with this place. After looking all over the city, we decided that unless we could live and work in West Seattle, we weren’t going to move [to Seattle].” -Small business owner on Alki § “The small businesses really make this community special. It has a lot of character.” -Resident near the Junction o Parking § Widespread. Overall, this was absolutely the most frequently listed challenge. § “We need to resist the city’s desire to get rid of cars. Between now and the next 10-15 years, it’s going to change. And on days like this, with this topography, how many people are going to ride bikes? This isn’t Amsterdam.” -Small business owner in the Junction § “We anticipate the parking problem will only get worse.”-Retail business owner in Avalon o Space/Infrastructure § Fears about future development § Internet along Avalon and Alki § “For a business like mine, with specifications for my space, [my building getting sold] would probably make me go out of business. These live/work units are too small and the market is too saturated with them.” -Business owner in Admiral o Clean & Safe § Overall, feeling is WS is very safe with some exceptions. There is a fairly widespread problem with homelessness and vagrnats, but that didn’t 100% translate to crime. However ,it is a growing concern that is affecting many businesses and they are worrying about it getting worse. § “Two years ago, it was 2-3 people camping out in the park. Now it’s 8-10.” -Business owner in Westwood o Cost of Doing Business in Seattle § This was one of the largest concerns that people had. These concerns ranged from city regulations about employee leave or benefits, to minimum wage, to rents. These concerns are widespread. § “The minimum wage requirements for servers are absurd. It’s made it almost impossible to get a good kitchen crew. Some of our servers are making $60 an hour. [The City Council] has created a serious problem in the service industry and I would say 75% of restaurants are in that same boat.” -Restaurant owner on Alki § “Well, do we go back to dumpster diving for packing materials? Would we do that for our employees to have health insurance? I guess we would.” -Retail business owner in Avalon o City of Seattle § Now we’re getting into problems that are more intangible than parking or costs. This problem with City of Seattle goes beyond just the rising prices, it really speaks to the distance the people feel to the city. People in West Seattle, and especially business owners, feel alienated by the city, and many even feel adversarial. § “I don’t feel like the city cares about small business. They care about Trader Joes. We’re just a blink.” -Small business owner in the Alaska Junction § “The business license fee that increased, they reached out to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, but not the smaller chambers. And even though they know who we all are, and have our contact information, they didn’t let us know. Last December, we got a bill for $1000 (up from $110.) It was due in two weeks.” -Business owner in Morgan Junction § “I feel that the Seattle City Council sees business as an adversary and a checkbook.” -Business owner in Alki o Feeling of Helplessness § Building off the previous challenge, the rising costs and the alienation of the city are leading to a general feel of exhaustion and helplessness when it comes their business. While many business are reporting decent profits, there is a tiredness that was pervasive in these conversations. § “We feel helpless at times. We hope it will get better, but it’s exhausting” -Small business owner in the Alaska Junction § “I don’t think I would start a business in West Seattle now.” -Small business owner in the Alaska Junction § “We’re about ready to pick up and move to Burien.” -Small business owner in Alki § “I am completely alone.” -Small business owner in the Junction o Lack of Community § Along with this feeling of helplessness and rising costs, all of West Seattle is seeing tremendous growth. The junction neighborhood is actually the third fastest-growing neighborhood in Seattle. But there’s something that’s missing, and that’s community. The more established businesses, and the more outgoing people who are great networkers, feel more community than those to whom it doesn’t come as naturally. § “That’s my biggest fear, that people will move in and turn West Seattle into a bedroom community for downtown.” -Small business owner in the Junction § “People don’t really know how many businesses are here—they don’t know that they don’t need to leave West Seattle” -Small business owner in Admiral § “West Seattle is such a special neighborhood and there are so many active, successful small businesses. Old jewelry shops, historical places…If [we] do not preserve these small businesses, [we’re] going to lose one of the most special business districts in Seattle.” -Small business operator in the Junction if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } West Seattle Herald Add new comment Your name Comment About text formats Save if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Recent Articles Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle Inflammatory letter and map sent to Burien residents draws official ire The Psychic View 20 unit apartment building given conditional go ahead in High Point 19th Annual Community Free Thanksgiving Dinner by Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes coming up Nov. 23 Win Dinner for A Year at Ray's if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Trending Chamber of Commerce study highlights the common challenges and resources small business owners face in West Seattle Inflammatory letter and map sent to Burien residents draws official ire The Psychic View 20 unit apartment building given conditional go ahead in High Point 19th Annual Community Free Thanksgiving Dinner by Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes coming up Nov. 23 Win Dinner for A Year at Ray's if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } if (typeof googletag !== "undefined") { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag. }); } Tweets by WSSeattleNews Tweets by WSSeattleNews Publication Info Contact Advertise Monthly Archive Print Edition Terms Follow Us  RSS  Facebook  Twitter © 2017 Robinson Communications Inc. 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