How do existing neighborhood businesses stay, grow, and thrive as Seattle grows? This is one of the questions that inspired Sue Oliver, Executive Director of Seattle University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, to secure grant funding and found the Resource Amplification and Management program, dubbed RAMP.up. It is a collaboration among student volunteers, professors and local small businesses to strengthen neighborhood businesses in the YCC neighborhoods.
Partnerships between university business schools and local businesses are not new. But what sets this one apart is its emphasis on accountability over time. Knowledgeable business students are not just swooping in, doing a quick analysis, making recommendations and leaving. Participating businesses have a dedicated SU team over a longer, more strategic time frame. The team connects businesses with existing resources and providers.
Volunteers are drawn from a pool of both generalists and specialists, and they bring important cultural competency skills to the table. Thus, students gain consulting experience in the real world, and business owners gain important technical and personal support for stabilizing and growing their businesses.
Still in its first year of operation, RAMP.up is focusing now on local businesses and testing service provider support models. In the next several years the program expects to scale its operations to serve more businesses.
Even though the program is just getting started, its early accomplishments are significant:
- 15 neighborhood businesses served
- 12 service providers served
- 15 team members (staff, interns, and volunteers)
- Three consulting firms ready for partnering
- Six Albers/business classes in partnership
- Business training program in process (train-the-trainer)
- Student training program in place
- Volunteer training and service awards program in process
According to Oliver, the ultimate program goals include sustaining a vibrant local community with a wide variety of locally-owned shops that are inviting to customers, and developing a sustainable, effective model for business-community-campus engagement.