The Micro-Business Assistance Program put on by the city of Walla Walla and Mercy Corps Northwest to provide a pathway to grants, loans and education for entrepreneurs is expanding.

A new cohort of participants has enrolled in the second offering of the program, the city has announced.

Twenty-three new people have been selected for the bilingual entrepreneurial education program that gives graduates access to capital for their businesses.

Walla Walla’s MBA Program provides a route to grants, loans and education for new and existing business owners who may not qualify for traditional bank financing.

Throughout the program, participants have an incentive to save $500 toward their businesses with the promise of a match of a $4,000 upon completion.

The first cohort to complete the program locally graduated in April.

In an announcement Thursday the city said the program has expanded beyond the six-week Business Foundations course to include a five-week accounting class and a seminar aimed at understanding credit, along with a business plan writing workshop.

The program is designed to build skills in finance, marketing, business strategy, credit building and formal business plan creation.

Mercy Corps Northwest has also announced a new program manager to guide the Micro-Business Assistance program.

Cinthya Montero becomes program manager July 1. Montero owns La Ramada Mexican Restaurant. She is also an experienced financial counselor, previously working with Walla Walla Clinic.

“We feel grateful to our partners and supporters in the community who have worked with us to expand our offerings and offer programs to support small business owners at each stage of their journey,” Mercy Corps Northwest’s Washington Program Manager Edwin Rios said in the announcement. “The Walla Walla entrepreneur community is vibrant, hard-working and dedicated to its craft. I’m inspired each day I get to learn more about those who make up the heart and soul of this community.”

The community’s MBA program is supported by a Community Development Block Grant provided by the city to Mercy Corps Northwest and backed by seven partnering financial and educational institutions.

The classes are open to members of the community with an interest on a limited basis, beyond serving applicants of the MBA program.

For more information, contact Stefka Waite at swaite@mercycorps.org or Jennifer Beckmeyer at jbeckmeyer@wallawallawa.gov.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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