Campus inspired, business driven and community engaged, RAMP-up is a Seattle University (SeattleU) program that combines both heart and mind on behalf of neighborhood businesses in transforming the Central Area. It seeks to augment the existing capacity of these businesses and their current service providers. While Seattle is undergoing dynamic change, care must be taken to preserve the essential social and ethnic fabric that has made the city so very attractive. SeattleU is partnering with a number of Central Area organizations to augment the capacity of these neighborhood businesses, enabling them to choose to remain in place, to grow, and to thrive.
Businesses in underserved neighborhoods, including those owned by immigrants, people of color, and women, often have difficulty accessing traditional sources of capital and other critical business services. They also face major challenges in the midst of Seattle’s booming economy, including rising rents, lost retail space, disruption from construction projects, and changing markets. In order to realize their goals, these businesses require funding, combined with capacity-building resources, targeted technical assistance, coaching, and support networks.
RAMP-up amplifies resources and provides project management services. Learning and growing together in a community/business/campus network, while establishing a high level of trust and rapport, are critical RAMP-up components. It’s a win/win/win: the students receive solid experiential learning for their careers, the university creates deeper connections with the neighborhoods bordering its campus, and the local businesses gain access to university resources.
RAMP will focus the existing resources of Seattle U and the community, including students, faculty, staff, volunteers, alumni, neighborhood partners, and service providers, on Central Area businesses that are minority-, women-, and immigrant-owned, so that they can stay, grow, and thrive as Seattle’s economic boom continues. Many of these businesses are confronting lost retail space, rising rents, shifting markets, and construction impacts that are forcing them to close or move, even though they represent the essential social, ethic, and economic “fabric” of the Central Area community.
SeattleU students, faculty, and alumni have joined forces with community leaders and entrepreneurs in the Central Area. Building relationships over time, the trained student teams are paired with a small group of business owners, working under the supervision of business mentors. For as long as they choose, RAMP-up clients will receive a client relationship management intern and resource team each year. The RAMP-up team also offers these services to qualified nonprofits and other organizations that are currently servicing Central Area businesses, in areas such as marketing, fundraising, volunteer/intern management, and leadership development.