SBA, AHANA, city of Spokane partner to address needs of multicultural businesses

By Amy Edelen amye@spokesman.com(509) 459-5581

The U.S. Small Business Administration, city of Spokane and AHANA Multi-Ethnic Business Association are teaming up to provide support for multicultural businesses in Spokane.

The three parties pledged to address issues related to equity, inclusion and access to funding for multicultural entrepreneurs at an announcement Thursday at the Central Library in downtown Spokane.

“Here at the SBA, we often say our reach is only maximized through our resource partners,” said Mike Fong, SBA’s northwest regional administrator. “And we want to create a ‘no wrong door’ policy for our programs and services – whether that be access to capital, business development and planning and other revenue generating programming, such as government contracting or exporting and other services.”

The partnership is a first step in supporting more small businesses in the Spokane area.

The parties will meet later to determine top priorities for multicultural businesses, Fong said.

“I’m hoping that today through the collaboration we’re formalizing is that we will be able to open some new doors to access important programming that the federal government provides,” Fong said, “but also leverage local programming to be able to make sure that the small businesses in this community get what they need to be successful and be more resilient.”

Mayor Nadine Woodward said the partnership among the city, AHANA and the SBA comes at a time when Spokane is experiencing significant job and industry growth as it recovers from the pandemic.

“One of the lessons that the pandemic has taught us is that it reinforced the importance of creating better access programs and resources and also engaging with stakeholders in very different ways that we hadn’t done before,” Woodward said.

Spokane is home to 315 minority-owned businesses, accounting for 6% of businesses in the city, according to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data.

“We want more minority-owned businesses to open, to expand and to succeed,” Woodward said. “… We have an opportunity to grow that base. This is the beginning of a foundation to build on for years to come that ensures businesses – new and existing – feel essential, feel connected and valued in the future growth of our great city.”

AHANA – an acronym for Asian, Hispanic, African and Native American – is a nonprofit founded in 1998.

AHANA belongs to a coalition of local nonprofit organizations that includes the Hispanic Business and Professional Association, Carl Maxey Center, Spokane Independent Metro Business Association, Inland Northwest Business Alliance and Latinos en Spokane.

AHANA’s goal is to create safe spaces for multiethnic businesses to connect with mentors as well as gain resources, business management, marketing and financial experience, said Marvo Reguindin, AHANA’s executive director.

Multicultural businesses, however, continue to face systemic barriers. It’s vital to build trust between entrepreneurs and organizations like the SBA to ensure businesses thrive, Reguindin said.

“It’s my hope that we will be able to provide these resources that the SBA has for us and get those small businesses trained and get them from a stable business to a successful business,” Reguindin said.