Small businesses that are currently without a business website or have limited online presence can apply for the 2022 cohorts. Participating businesses will have professional websites and tools designed by local BIPOC youth at no cost.
SEATTLE (May 16, 2022) –Seattle small businesses can now apply for the summer and fall cohorts of the Youth Web Design Program—a partnership between the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS), that supports local workforce and small business development.
Applications from small businesses for the 2022 summer cohort will be accepted through May 31, 2022. All applications received after May 31, 2022, will be considered for the 2022 fall cohort.
Through the Youth Web Design program, Seattle small businesses without a business website or limited online presence, work with local youth to design modern websites that improve and expand their online presence and business operations. The program also covers all website expenses for the first year, and business owners are taught technical skills needed to maintain and update their websites long-term. The program is funded through public and private dollars—with nearly $200,000 in Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CLFR) provided by the city and $35,000 provided by Comcast.
“The Youth Web Design Program matches two of my administration’s major priorities – supporting local small businesses and giving youth hands-on opportunities to learn and grow with technology,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Facilitating these partnerships between youth and small business through public-private collaboration is a great example of our One Seattle mission – bringing people together to make shared progress.”
“I’m very excited to see the expansion of OED and Urban League’s Youth Web Design program. Many young people will benefit from the real-world experience this program provides. They get to build up their skills and Black and brown small business owners get online support – it’s a win-win!” said Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales, District-2.
During the cohorts, participating youth will work directly with business owners to design professional websites that meet the unique needs of the individual business and can be used as part of their professional portfolio for future employment opportunities. During the program, youth are taught industry standard skills including HTML, CSS, and JAVA, and will earn technical certification for the coding skills they learn. Additionally, each young person will receive paid stipends and will soon earn Career and Technical Education (CTE) credits through Seattle Public Schools.
“Strong partnerships, innovative thinking, and creatively investing resources will help us turn the corner from the pandemic and build a stronger, more equitable local economy filled with wealth building opportunities—especially for Black, Brown and other communities of color that have systemically been excluded from our region’s prosperity,” said Markham McIntyre, Interim Director of OED. “This program is a win-win – businesses get better websites and digital presence and young people of color get in-demand skills that will set them up for the jobs of the future in our region. This program is another example of how partnership leads to progress, and it wouldn’t be possible without our amazing partner, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.”
“Our community is still recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses. Many of them have faced the challenge of shifting from in-person to online operations for survival without the resources or proficiency needed to do so, “said Michelle Merriweather, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “This program has given us an opportunity to provide the necessary digital support services to those businesses who are technologically disadvantaged, while simultaneously teaching our young people a set of highly transferable, in-demand skills that can afford gainful employment opportunities without the need for secondary education once they graduate.”
“Boosting revenue from online sales is a major priority for small business owners, especially as they are challenged by rising inflation and increased expenses. They need our support, and this program will help them take advantage of the internet to survive and thrive,” said Rodrigo Lopez, Regional Senior Vice President of the Comcast Washington region. “We also know that internet service is essential and are working hard every day to ensure that our network is helping both Seattle businesses and residents stay connected.”
The Youth Web design program will support 50 small businesses and 50 youth through two cohorts in 2022. The Summer cohort will run from July 6, 2022– August 12, 2022, at Garfield High School, serving 25 small business and 25 youth from any Seattle High School. The fall cohort will serve an additional 25 small businesses and will support an additional 25 youth from September 7, 2022 – January 31, 2023. Young people interested in participating in the Youth Web Design Program should connect with ULMS directly and can learn more at https://urbanleague.org/youth-web-design-program.
“I was inspired to do this program because I want to pursue a career in design, and I thought this program would help me. The type of skills I’ve learned so far are how to make a website, and how to make it appealing to visitors and different age groups as well—things I didn’t think about” said Ma’jori Jones, past high school participant.
To be eligible for the program, small businesses must meet the following criteria:
- Business and Occupancy (B&O) fees must be paid in full
- Have City of Seattle business license
- Business has a physical location (including food trucks and home businesses)
- Cannot be a
- Located in Seattle, WA
- Do not currently have a business website or website is significantly outdated and business is unable to perform necessary updates
Selected business owners and/or business representatives must also participate in mandatory meetings to coordinate with selected youth deigning their business’ website. Small businesses—including creative industry small businesses and freelancers—that are interested in participating in the program can learn more about eligibility requirements and apply at https://form.jotform.com/ULMS/ywd-business-application.
“Having a website nowadays is no longer just ‘nice to have,’ it is vital for a business to thrive. Yet, it is out of reach for many small businesses—especially ones that are owned and operated by immigrants and other marginalized communities. In addition to the time needed to build one and the costs associated with maintaining a website, there are language barriers to overcome and a digital literacy gap to bridge. Our work with the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and students participating in the City of Seattle’s Youth Web Design Program gave us the support we needed to get started. We look forward to growing our online presence beyond what we’ve been doing through our social channels,” says former web design business participant Hong Chhuor, whose family owns King Donuts.
The Youth Web Design program pilot was launched in 2020 to respond to two emerging needs. First, as a result of COVID-19 and immediate public health protocols that required social distancing and stay-at-home orders, businesses pivoted their operations and relied on online tools including websites and social media to remain open and connect with customers. Businesses that were without websites and digital tools prior to the pandemic were further impacted economically and faced higher barriers to getting online. Secondly, paid employment and internship opportunities for youth were instantly reduced or eliminated, creating an economic crisis for young people who relied on these opportunities to generate income. In response to these economic and social challenges, OED and ULMS developed this pilot program to educate, train and employ young people, and support small businesses—particularly Black and immigrant owned businesses—ability to stay open, operate in our virtual environment, and develop sustainable digital tools for immediate and long-term stability.
To date the program has supported getting 28 businesses online and connected with digital tools for long term stability and trained more than 20 youth. With new funding an additional 50 youth and 50 businesses will be supported throughout 2022. Given the initial success of this program, OED and ULMS are planning to launch a future paid training program that will equip young people with social media and marketing skills that will be complimentary to the coding and web design skills taught in the Youth Web Design program.
“It’s no secret that this region has been greatly influenced by the global technology industry. That’s why we are investing in technology programs and efforts that are truly rooted in the local community, like the Youth Web Design Program with ULMS. This program teaches young people technical skills that will significantly support their career growth and allows them to earn money and learn at an early age that their work is greatly valued and makes a difference.” said Anisa Khoshbakhtian, Technology and Creative Workforce Advocate at OED.
The city continues to support economic recovery as it pivots to longer-term interventions that help small businesses stabilize and thrive and connect the workforce to skills that are in-demand in the local economy. In addition to the Youth Web Design program, OED has invested $8 million in the Capital Access Program—a new partnership with local community development financial institutions (CDFI) that connects small businesses to flexible working capital loans; $6 million in neighborhood recovery grants, $4 million in stabilization grants for small businesses, launched Shop to the Beat — a recovery program that matches local musicians with small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak business hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who lost significant income due to the impacts of COVID-19, and launched Seattle Restored — an economic recovery program that matches small businesses and artists with vacant commercial storefronts for pop up shops and art instillations in downtown neighborhoods such a Westlake, Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, and Belltown.