OED and ULMS Support Black Youth and Black-Owned Small Businesses through Pilot Program

OED and ULMS Support Black Youth and Black-Owned Small Businesses through Pilot Program

Press release written by the Seattle Office of Economic Development

SEATTLE (December 18, 2020) — The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) partnered with the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) to launch the Youth Web Design pilot program. The Youth Web Design pilot provides an opportunity for Black-youth to learn website design and create websites for Black-owned small businesses. During the pilot, Garfield High School students met with small business owners to understand their needs and received necessary training from industry experts to create websites. The Youth Web Design pilot’s goal is to build community wealth by developing talent among youth and increasing small business resiliency, so that both youth and small business owners can thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the growing economic disparities for youth and small businesses, especially for Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. The pandemic instantly reduced or eliminated funding for youth career opportunities and internships. For small businesses, Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order forced some businesses to reduce operations or close to stop the spread of the virus, greatly impacting small businesses’ revenue and customer base. In response to the pandemic, many BIPOC-owned businesses that have historically provided a community space recognized that they must pivot to an online space to continue serving and connecting with their community.  

“We’re thrilled by the success of the Youth Web Design pilot. This pilot supported both Black-youth who are looking to make their first step in a career in technology and Black-owned small businesses pivoting in this pandemic,” said Anisa Khoshbakhtian, OED’s Technology & Media Industry Advocate. “It’s important to note that building a pipeline into the technology industry was already difficult pre-COVID. This program posed an opportunity for us to essentially create jobs and career developing work experiences for youth of color instead of being solely dependent on the local industry to provide that. As a department we saw the necessity in youth receiving compensation for their work since they created professional websites for businesses.”  

In this partnership, ULMS recruited 16 Black-youth and designed a 6-week curriculum that included web design training, Wix skill certification, consulting with Black small businesses owners, and a stipend for their work.  OED identified 16 Black-owned small businesses that were interested in website support. In addition, OED funded the program through their Youth Workforce Development and Key Industries investments. At the beginning of 2021, youth participants will present their finished products to the City, business owners, and friends and family.

“By investing in the Youth Web Design pilot, the City of Seattle is providing a skillset and unwritten mentorship,” said Robert Jones, ULMS’s Education Director. “This program provides the insight, the opportunity, the mentoring, and training for our youth. This will enable them to compete for higher paying jobs and allow them the ability to live wherever they desire in this city.”  

One of the small businesses who participated in the Youth Web Design pilot is Mama Sambusa, located in Rainier Beach.

“We are a Black, Muslim woman-owned business located in South Seattle, and we specialize in Somali street food. I think this program is amazing and the timing is truly a blessing as we are in need of website, especially during this pandemic.” said Honey Mohammed, owner of Mama Sambusa.

“I love what this program stands for and how it helps the youth in learning to design websites while paying them for their work. This is also important because it helps them value their own work and gain self-confidence. I actually have a 14-year old brother who attends Garfield High School, and this is exactly the kind of technology-focused programs he loves to participate in. We look forward to working with the youth in creating our website, and I hope that this program continues next year so that my little brother and more of his peers can be part of it.”

The Youth Web Design program will continue into 2021 with two additional cohorts. Applications for interested Black-owned small businesses located in Seattle will open in early 2021. More information to come.

For questions about this program and corporate partnership opportunities, please contact Anisa Khoshbakhtian at anisa.khosh@seattle.gov

To visit the official Youth Web Design pilot program website, please click here

Take a look at the finished websites created by students in the program below!

Here is the full list of black owned businesses who participated in the pilot program: