Ep. 028 – Ventures – Beto Yarce

Ep. 028 – Ventures – Beto Yarce




This week’s guest is Beto Yarce, the Executive Director of the Seattle non-profit, Ventures. Ventures helps low income entrepreneurs start their own businesses, through micro-loans, training, mentorship, incubators and on-going support. They empower aspiring entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership.


Highlights From This Episode:
  • Ventures helps low income entrepreneurs start their own businesses.
  • Ventures was founded in 1995 by Peter Rose after visiting Bangladesh and started it as a micro-loan program for underserved communities: People of color, immigrants, refugees and others who did not have access to capital to start their own businesses.
  • The big idea is to help eliminate poverty through self-employment & micro enterprise… providing a hand-up instead of giving a hand-out.
  • Over the years, they have transformed the organization from just providing micro-loans as a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) to focusing on providing training and education on how to start a business to more advanced business developing programs, technical assistance, coaching, incubators and on-going support.
  • How did Beto come to be at Ventures?
    • Beto has been the Executive Director for 2.5 years but has been working with Ventures for 9 years.
    • Beto was a Mexican immigrant 13 years ago and an entrepreneur who had a lot of ideas and dreams and was looking for opportunities to start his own business.
    • He started his own business selling jewelry and folk art from Mexico at Farmer’s Markets.
    • He started volunteering with the Seattle non-profit group, Casa-Latina, because as an immigrant, he really understood the challenges of starting his own business in another country.
    • After running his own business for 5 years and volunteering with Casa-Latina, Ventures contacted him to be the lead on helping them establish their Latino program (all the programs that they offer in Spanish at Ventures) and worked in 4 different positions at Ventures before becoming the ED.
    • They currently offer their programs and training in both English and Spanish but no matter the language, the training is culturally appropriate for people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. They want to make sure to respect and understand the people they are serving.
  • The Ventures Process – Ventures gets most of their new clients via word of mouth from prior clients who have been through their training and started businesses.
    • It starts with their free  “Get Ready For Business Workshop” (GRB) – A 4 hour workshop explaining who Ventures is, why they exist, where they get their funding, etc. and they go over some basics on what it takes to start your own business and what the requirements are to qualify for their programs.
    • Qualifications for clients (need to meet all three qualifications):
      1. They have to be clear on ONE business idea to focus on (as entrepreneurs, you usually have a multitude of ideas for new businesses).
      2. They have to have some experience in the industry they want to start a business in.
      3. They need to be low income, according to the King County HUD Subsidized Housing Eligibility (currently it’s defined as a family of three living on $24,400 a year or less – 30% of Area Median Income [AMI]).
    • If they qualify, they can then apply for a spot in their 8 week Business Development Training (BDT) program.
      • When they graduate from this training, they have a business plan with their financial, marketing plan and operations plan.
      • While the training itself is great, it’s also great to see the development of the confidence in the individuals in the training, as they also begin believing in themselves to start and run their own business.
    • After graduating from the 8 week BDT program, they then have access to Advanced Services:
      • On-going support, coaching, legal clinics, advanced marketing, advanced operations, a 14 week financial management training program were they learn about both personal and business finance and the incubation program to help them test out their products, food or services business ideas.
      • They have 3 incubators for new business owners who graduate from their program (For 3 different types of businesses: Retail, Food and Services)
        • The Retail incubator is a storefront located in Pike Place market, so the new business owners have access to markets where they can sell and test out their products. (This includes coaching about packaging, marketing, wholesale selling, etc)
        • The Food incubator provides access to a commercial kitchen at a discounted price and fully outfitted, licensed and permitted food truck that their clients can rent for $100 per day to see if it’s a good fit for their new business.
        • The Services incubator is hosting their own “Angie’s List” style platform on their site, helping connect their new service businesses with new clients.
      • They still provide micro-loans to their clients for their new businesses, if they need them, from $1,000 to $35,000.
        • Additional programs include providing a credit card to help them improve their credit score, and many more…
  • Their biggest challenges – Helping Ventures’ funders and individual donors understand that this is a long term process for the clients and that their investment dollars take longer to garner results then other models of non-profit, as they are working with a population that has been underserved and in poverty for generations.
    • It’s not like a non-profit that provides shelter for those needing it, where you are immediately solving the problem and see results.
    • Ventures provides a long-term solution through their training, services and teaching life-skills that result in a “hand-up”, not just a temporally useful “hand-out”.
    • Ventures sees that on average, clients that have been working with them for 18 months see their income increase 40% and are off public assistance… with the client having broken the cycle of poverty for them and their family.
  • Ventures is funding through federal, state and local grants, private foundations, as well as generate their own income through their store in Pike Place and charge a little bit for their classes and loans. And as any non-profit organization, they do their own fund-raising efforts (in 2016, they doubled their goal for fund-raising).
  • Some Stats:
    • Ventures serves roughly 800 clients per year.
    • 71% of their clients are people of color.
    • 30% of their clients are Latina.
    • 68% of their clients are woman.
    • 98% of their clients are low-income.
  • The clients business success varies but the real metric for Ventures is how many of their clients do they help get out of poverty and how many of their clients are growing their business through the help of Ventures.
  • In 2017, Ventures is going to start tracking how many of their clients end up deciding that being an entrepreneur is not for them but end up increasing their income and getting out of poverty regardless, by becoming better employees with better jobs due to the life-skills and training they received at Ventures.
  • What doe you love best about what you do at Ventures?
    • Their clients and hearing their stories, hopes and dreams – Seeing the eagerness of the clients, seeing the transformation, hearing the stories about wanting to be able to provide better for their families, they have the dream of sending their kids to college, want to buy their families first house or go on vacation because their kids have never seen the ocean.
    • There are also very challenging stories like when they hear about someone who is going to be deported or someone who doesn’t have the money to pay their rent.
    • Beto also loves the team he gets to work with each day at Ventures – they all share the same passion for what they do.
  • What is the biggest challenges that new immigrants to N. America face? Immigrants don’t know how to navigate the system and it takes many of them too long to learn the language and culture and be able to effectively function and navigate. There is no school on how to be an immigrant and make it in your new place. You want to do something good with your life, which is why someone decides to leave everything behind; your language, your food, your family, your home… everything that is familiar and comfortable to you… in pursuit of “The American Dream”. When someone gets to the new country, how do you navigate the system and “learn the ropes” of a place your not familiar with, a culture your not familiar with and a language that you don’t speak or at best, is your second language. Even if they speak the language, It can be overwhelming.
  • The best advice they have received – Never stop learning. Professional development and continual education is so important.

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