The Tri-Cities has grown in the past decade and so has the number of minority-owned businesses.
An influx of new immigrants and a steady increase in population has encouraged many to become entrepreneurs, especially in the retail and service industries.
"The Tri-Cities has become more accepting of minorities, now," said Tiffany Kutzke, an African-American woman who grew up in Kennewick. A few months ago, she started her own beauty salon, Gossip at Tiffany's, in Kennewick.
It was natural to think about owning a salon, said Kutzke, 32, who's been a hairdresser for 15 years and managed salons.
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She didn't have to take out a loan, and everything worked out with a little help from her clients and others in the community who wanted her to succeed.
They gave her furniture, a washer and dryer and a TV set for the store, and a dealer gave her special discounts on barber chairs.
"I was blessed," said Kutzke, who invested about $20,000 of her savings in the new venture. The business is doing well and she wants to explore getting a loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration to make it better.
New entrepreneurs, often from minority communities, need help, said Jose Garcia-Pabon with Washington State University Extension in Richland.
He said enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit need to be supplemented with the right business plan and training for success.
He's involved in a new pilot program designed to help minorities, particularly Hispanics, start a business and succeed in the Columbia Basin.
The failure rate of business startups is highest among Hispanics compared with other ethnic groups, he said. They don't always have a good understanding of marketing, getting financing and having a strategic plan for growth, he said.
The WSU training program gives them an overview of important concepts they should consider as entrepreneurs.
The first training session for prospective business owners was earlier this week in Benton City. The next sessions are Friday and Saturday in Moses Lake and Oct. 16-17 in Royal City. For more information, call 372-7389.
It's also important for minority businesses to learn to network, said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Association.
TRIDEC helped Columbia Basin College get money to produce a multicultural business guide last year to help Hanford contractors seek out minority resources.
The guide, which lists African-American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and other non-U.S. native business owners, was distributed free as a community resource, said Donna Campbell, CBC's vice president for instruction, who oversaw the project.
She said CBC would like to update the guide if the college gets more funding for it.
CBC did recently get $600,000 in federal money to help revitalize Pasco's downtown in partnership with other community groups and to offer seminars to business owners, said Cruz Gonzalez, assistant vice president of grants administration.
It'll help make downtown more of a destination, giving many Hispanic-owned businesses an opportunity to expand their market share, he said.
Most first-generation immigrant or minority business owners start small, such as with a restaurant, a retail store or an auto repair shop, he said.
The right business plan and training can help a small business grow, he said. One local success story is Isidro Ortiz, who started a restaurant in downtown Pasco and over time opened several Fiesta Mexican restaurants in the Tri-Cities.
The Tri-Cities is a nice place to do business, said Hemant Mistry, a mechanical engineer and an immigrant entrepreneur who owns India Palace Restaurant near Columbia Center mall.
"The community accepted us nicely and kept us going," said the native of India, who also owns Bali-Hi Motel in Richland. "We don't feel like foreigners here."
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com