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Seattle Program Targets Tech Barriers Facing Small Businesses

The Seattle Office of Economic Development has announced an expansion of the Digital Sales Access Program, which aims to help small businesses grow through access to technology tools and trainings.

Hand holds a point of sale credit card terminal.
Shutterstock/Daria Lixovetckay
Seattle’s Digital Sales Access Program — a program that was first launched in 2021 — has been expanded to combat the digital access barriers facing small businesses in the city.

Essentially, the program provides a free point-of-sale system for small businesses to expand the forms of payment they can accept. Designed particularly to support cash-only operations, this helps to remove digital access obstacles some small businesses face due to resource limitations.

In addition, the program will boost digital literacy and e-commerce capabilities for small-business owners with access to tools like an online QuickBooks subscription for simplified financial management, accounting and reporting tools and personalized training.

The program is made possible through a partnership between the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED), Comcast, Kay Tita, Square and QuickBooks. It is funded through a combination of public and private dollars: $100,000 from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund and $35,000 from Comcast.

The program will prioritize micro and small businesses owned by Black and Indigenous people and other people of color, women and businesses in low-income communities, as defined by the federal Small Business Administration.

As explained in the announcement by citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson, chair of the Economic Development, Technology and City Light Committee, small businesses often lack the digital skills and funds to implement a point-of-sale system that could help them grow — and this is especially true for under-resourced businesses, which are disproportionately owned by Black and Indigenous people, other people of color and women.

Small businesses that meet the qualifications can apply from June 6 to June 24, 2022. To qualify, they must have an active business license in the city, have been operational for at least two years, have 10 or fewer employees, have a physical location at least four days per month, be located in the city of Seattle and not be a nonprofit organization.

“Technology and e-commerce capacity are critical for businesses of all sizes to be successful, both to improve business processes and to reach new customers,” said OED Interim Director Markham McIntyre in the announcement.

When the pilot program first launched in 2021, it served 50 small businesses, connecting them with technology and training, and the expansion will build on insights from the first launch to help offer more support on customer analytics and QuickBooks.