Microbiz Case Study: Ellensburg

Ellensburg Downtown Association: “NxLeveL” Entrepreneur Classes  

Ellensburg Downtown Association (EDA) cultivates Ellensburg’s historic downtown through a range of business supports, an emphasis on “shop local,” and strong relationships with microentrepreneurs and small businessowners. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, each of EDA’s board members met with a different businessowner in advance of every board meeting to develop and sustain community relationships.

For six years, EDA has offered a 10-week entrepreneurship class called “NxLevel”. Each of the ten weekly classes focuses on a different component of a successful business plan, ranging from mission and vision to financials, and features a different guest speaker whose expertise aligns with the week’s topic. A typical year’s cohort includes approximately a dozen students, including existing businessowners seeking to transform their business, prospective businessowners seeking a mid-career transition into entrepreneurship, and young adult entrepreneurs. Dozens of businessowners have participated, many of whom have soon after launched successful businesses.

In addition to the NxLevel course, the EDA offers a variety of business support, including:

  • New business welcomes: EDA greets new businesses with a welcome packet including contact information for permits and guidance through city processes.
  • “The Burg Herd”: Each month, EDA selects a retail business and restaurant and encourages residents to spend $25 at both on the month’s first Wednesday.
  • Restaurant coalition: EDA facilitates a regular convening of restaurant owners to empower owners to collaborate and create independent events.
  • Online promotion: EDA board members and staff engage with businesses’ social media posts to increase traffic.

The EDA has observed that small business owners often have limited capacity to participate in organizations and strives to communicate its supportive role as a free resource.

Read the full case study in the Main Street & Microenterprise report.