Just as a small amount of dry kindling can be used to start a huge fire, a small amount of capital — let’s say $4,000 — can be used to grow a business. But it first has to be ignited.

And that’s the basic premise behind the new Micro-Business Assistance Program in the Walla Walla Valley.

This program, which had its first group of participants graduate last month, has the potential to help many businesses grow in this Valley.

The Micro-Business Assistance Program was created by Mercy Corps Northwest, a Portland-based nonprofit that recently opened an office in Walla Walla in the same building as the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Participants in the program attend one day of business training each week for six week. There they learn more about finance, marketing, business strategy and credit building on the way to the final step before graduation: building a business plan.

They will also use Individual Development Accounts as a way to save. Every $1 saved in an account is then matched by $8 in grant money. If participant save up to $500, it will be matched by $4,000 from the program to be used as investment in their business.

The dozen graduates of the program are essentially investing in themselves.

“This is the first step toward your future where you control your own destiny,” said Baker Boyer President and CEO Mark Kajita, the keynote speaker at the recent graduation ceremony.

The program is designed for entrepreneurs who might not be eligible for traditional business loans. Mercy Corps works with local businesses and government agencies to raise capital for the effort.

The initial program budget is just under $120,000 and is provided by a city of Walla Walla Community Development Block Grant, Port of Walla Walla, College Place, Banner Bank, Baker Boyer Bank, Community Bank, HAPO Community Credit Union, Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“One thing we see in Walla Walla that we don’t see anywhere else is this buzz to work together,” said Mercy Corps Northwest Executive Director Lynn Renken.

When enthusiasm and cash come together it can be the perfect recipe to get a small business growing. When business knowledge is added, things can really take off.

This new program to Walla Walla has the potential to help some local businesses become roaring successes.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart

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