By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
Members of the business community and representatives from the Ethnic Chambers of Commerce, Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Seattle met with the Ethnic Business Coalition (EBC) at Hing Hay Co-Works Oct. 9 The meeting was arranged in response to an open letter from the Ethnic Chambers of Commerce requesting more information about EBC and a discussion about how the Chambers could contribute.
EBC is 501(3) nonprofit organization funded by the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED). The OED sent out a request for proposals (RFP) for organizations who felt they could assist and contribute to the minority business community. EBC, which was formed in Dec. 2014, sent in the RFP Jan. 2015, and was awarded a $210,000 grant. There were nine submissions.
EBC, formed by a group of ethnic business owners, spearheaded by Taylor Hoang, owner of Pho Cyclo Café, describes itself as a coalition that “represents immigrant and minority-owned businesses in the Seattle area and provides support services and resources to enhance and sustain business.” The coalition currently offers a website “Ethnic Seattle,” tenant improvements, advocacy work, and offering marketing services. The marketing services including helping businesses create individual websites through “Ethnic Seattle” and also helping with signage and print materials.
The Seattle Ethnic Chambers of Commerce in attendance included representatives from the Korean American Chamber, Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber, King County Hispanic Chamber, and Greater Seattle Vietnamese Chamber. Markham McIntyre, a board member of EBC, who works with the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce.
The questions and concerns brought up by the Chamber of Commerce were primarily:
What is EBC’s selection criteria when it comes to choosing the businesses they help?
How can the local businesses be notified of the services offered or be aware of the services?
“We weren’t even aware of your existence,” stated David Leong, vice president of the Greater Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We were caught by surprise,” stated Trong Pham, president of the Greater Seattle Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.
There was a large concern that the Chambers were not notified of EBC’s services or even of the coalition’s existence. Michael Sotelo, president of the King County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce commented that there were many small businesses in Hispanic neighborhoods that would benefit if they knew about the services.
EBC responded they have volunteers and interns working on outreach, and that outreach is still an on-going and difficult process.
The Chambers also emphasized they were working together as one unit and were disappointed they were not a part, or aware, of EBC’s formation.
EBC responded that the formation of a nonprofit organization does not require notification, the RFP was a public call for proposal, and that the coalition’s goal is to help all ethnic businesses.
Brian Surratt, Director of the OED, said he was pleased with the progress of EBC and stands by the City’s decision to allocate the grant to the coalition, and encouraged everyone to collaborate and continue working on EBC’s progression.
Martha Lee, president of the Ethnic Chambers, said afterwards that her presence at the meeting, “is not the intended to steal her (Taylor’s) show. The chambers likes to give input, promote cooperation, extend a hand to help. We shouldn’t repeat or duplicate what others are doing. We want to support her. She does a good job.” (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at email@example.com.