Business Opportunity Center and Financial Empowerment


Growing the business community.

Responding to client interest and demand, El Centro de La Raza’s Business Opportunity Center and Financial Empowerment was opened in 2016, providing small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with supportive workshops, counseling in business development, credit counseling and access to resources including business operation space, micro-vending carts, and a commercial kitchen. These programs target low-to moderate-income Latinxs residing in Seattle and King County aiming to educate an underserved population in order to foster long-term financial stability and independence. 

Our Business Opportunity and Financial Empowerment Center has significantly increased its capacity to support individuals to start or grow their own small businesses over the past 2 years enrollment has grown by 190% since July of 2018. We offer a free 7-week introductory small business training course geared toward businesses owned by women, minorities, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. In addition to the introductory training course, El Centro de La Raza provides direct assistance and training to help businesses register as certified women or minority owned businesses (WMBE) through Washington State’s Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE). This process is lengthy, and can be daunting to the Latinx clients we serve; the majority of whom speak limited English and are still familiarizing themselves with the United States banking system and small business practices. Working with our staff, clients can ask questions and receive guidance each step of the way.

In its first two years of operation, El Centro de La Raza’s Business Opportunity Center and Financial Empowerment has graduated 98 individuals from our training program, helped to create 59 new businesses—27 of which are now certified WMBEs—and created 135 new jobs. Our innovative Food-Vendor Incubator Program has also taken off, supporting 11 entrepreneurs to create their first business plans and marketing plans, most of whom had no prior business experience before walking through our doors. Staff made referrals to financial counseling as needed and provided guidance around obtaining all necessary permits with the Seattle Health Department. Our services are changing the story about who can successfully own and operate a small The participants receiving services from the BOC are racially and ethnically diverse (80% Hispanic Latinx, 10% Asian, 5% African Americans, 5% White), and many are from households with low to moderate income (80% of participants). 60% of our clients are female business owners or entrepreneurs, and 70% of all participants speak limited English. 

Business Opportunity Center and Financial Empowerment participants will also receive access to:

BOC Services:

  • Free introductory seven week small business course, “Start and Grow your Small Business”
  • Training Certification of Small Business as a WMBE
  • Food cart program
  • One-on-one small business coaching and guidance
  • Access to capital through our partnerships

Financial Empowerment services:

  • Credit counseling
  • First time home-buyer supports
  •  Lending Circles

In addition to scheduling and hosting monthly workshops, the staff members perform extensive community outreach to ensure that community members are aware of the opportunities and supports available to them through our program. Key staff activities will include:

  • Managing a caseload of workshop participants
  • Working with participants on a one-on-one basis to deliver small business coaching
  • Developing and assisting participants with action plans to launch and grow their business
  • Conducting one-on-one assessments with every participant to gauge their full financial situation and define one or more financial short, intermediate, and long-term goals and to
  • Support the participants establishing Credit.

For more information please contact Liliana Parades at lparades@elcentrodelaraza.org or 206