A paint store has a new website, a salon received new hair drier chairs, and LaPrele Hernandez and Matt Sweezea -- two small business owners -- went shopping for conference room furniture.
These business improvements were paid for with grant money donated by Washington River Protection Solutions.
They were four of the 42 small businesses -- all members of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce -- to receive grant money last October through the Small Business Incentive Program. The program is a partnership between the chamber and Washington River Protection Solutions.
Jerry Holloway, external affairs manager for Washington River Protection Solutions, approached the chamber in 2010 and offered to donate $30,000 to help small companies.
"He said they wanted to help small businesses in the community but couldn't do it directly, that they don't have the mechanism in their organization to do so. We sat down and brainstormed various ideas and came up with the Small Business Incentive Program," said Lori Mattson, president and CEO of the regional chamber.
"The idea was to assist small businesses by giving them money for a new computer, or a second one, or to upgrade their software. All very, very basic needs that made doing business a bit easier," she said.
"When all's said and done, the ripple effect of the $30,000 went much further than those 42 businesses because they purchased their equipment, their training, from other members of the community, so those businesses benefited as well," Mattson said.
WRPS once again has funded the program and the chamber is accepting applications for grants up to $1,000 for software, training, a new/improved website or hardware to enhance their businesses.
Companies need to be established small businesses in Benton or Franklin counties and a member of the chamber to apply. Applications and full details are available on the chamber's website, tricityregionalchamber.com, or at the office, 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick.
Hernandez said the chairs and tables she and Sweezea bought have been invaluable.
Hernandez, runs a medical insurance business, Benefit Partners Unlimited, and Sweezea is an independent financial adviser. They have separate offices in the same Richland building and share a conference room.
Before buying the office chairs and classroom style tables, all they had was "a bunch of mismatched furniture. Because of that, the room was really under utilized," Sweezea said.
"Matt said he'd apply for one of the grants to pay for classroom-style tables. He said if I applied for chairs, together we could make a really nice conference room where we could hold meetings and presentations," she said.
They received their grants in October. Hernandez was awarded $750, and Sweezea $1,000. As part of the conditions for the grant the two had to show receipts to prove they used the money for furniture.
"I haven't used the classroom tables yet, but the chairs get used a lot. Matt uses them almost every week for business meetings with his agents," Hernandez said.
She's planning to apply for a second grant -- this time for a tablet.
"It would be really helpful when I meet with people out of the office. I could have all my forms, everything I need to sign people up right then and there. Medical insurance is changing so quickly that sometimes I find I don't have the right form with me. Many companies do online enrollment so a tablet would enable me to get people signed up right then," Hernandez said.
For more information about the program, call 736-0510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.