Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Nourah Yonous said she learned the importance of empowered women from an early age.

Yonous’s father died young, and she lost her mother when she was in her 40s. After that, Yonous and her siblings were adopted by family. Yonous later left Somalia for Tanzania and came to the U.S. in 2005.

After seeing the shock her father’s death had on her mother, Yonous decided when she came to the U.S. that she wanted to rely on herself. But in the San Francisco area, when applying for a business loan, she said people didn’t take here seriously.

She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies and political science, and she studied pre-law. She’s also worked with East African Community Services, OneAmerica, Care International and the International Rescue Committee.

One of her most recent projects is the African Women Business Alliance, which launched in the spring of 2017.

“No one should be stopped from reaching their goal in entrepreneurship for being new to the country,” Yonous said on a recent afternoon, sitting at a booth at Kezira Cafe in south Seattle. The business alliance started as a project to empower African women immigrants, but Yonous said she decided to expand it to all women who are part of King County’s African diaspora. The goal, she said, is to close gender and racial gaps in business.

Often times, she said businesses owned by black women can survive, but struggle to move beyond local levels. She wants to help women expand and scale up their operations.

“We do businesses because we want to survive, and I want to lift the mentality of survival mode to scalability,” she said.

Since it started, the alliance has served some 700 women, and 12 have graduated from the program. It’s a large number for an organization consisting of Yonous, who works as a contractor, along with another contractor and a board. The alliance has also granted awards to around two dozen women whom Yonous said had never been recognized for their work before.

A large part of this project was creating a curriculum that was in the first language of the people she serves. The financial system is often hard to navigate, so there are portions of the curriculum that deal with how to secure loans.

Beyond that, Yonous said black women need to be able to compete for state and federal contracts, which are some of the best ways to expand their businesses. The contracts help scale up the businesses while providing greater financial security. On top of that, only a tiny fragment of venture capital goes to women of color.

Next year she’s planning on inviting stakeholders from various sectors, including government and finance, to try and create a more inclusive economy and culture. She’s hoping to re-frame the discussion surrounding immigrant communities. Instead of waiting around for solutions to come from outside, she’s trying to create them.

“The top-down approach and the white savior complex assumes refugees and immigrants come here with no history,” Yonous said.

Before the alliance launched, Yonous talked with people in SeaTac, Kent, Tukwila and south Seattle to see what their needs were. Her organizations is mostly active in these areas of South King County. But women from other areas have also approached her, including out-of-state women.

Yonous encouraged people to ask what they could learn from immigrants. She also thinks people should question their knowledge of other cultures, and to “be comfortable to be uncomfortable.”

“Be intersectional because our needs are intersectional,” she said.

Often times immigrants already have many of the skills they need to create and maintain thriving businesses. The business alliance recently launched a campaign called Bold and Resilient to remind women of how they go to where they are today — and understand that their history, language and business know-how are important, Yonous said.

“I want to celebrate this,” she said.

Check it out

The alliance is hosting its second annual Afro-Centric Black Womxn Owned Holiday Bazaar at the Renton Chamber of Commerce from 2 to 7 p.m. Dec. 14. The event is free and will feature businesses in a variety of fields ranging from the arts and health, to real estate and cosmetics.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

Dick’s Drive-In announces search for new Eastside location

The local popular burger chain is looking for public suggestions on possible properties

PSE offering four businesses an energy upgrade

You can nominate your favorite business by Oct. 18

Stock photo
Union files charges against QFC, Fred Meyer over Black Lives Matter button ban

Grocery store workers condemn ban; QFC spokesperson says wristband options available to employees

Facebook purchases unused Bellevue REI headquarters

The companies will also each donate $1 million to the Eastrail

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.

Courtesy Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
Eastside businesses prepare for economic uncertainty with regional summit event

The Regional Business Summit, hosted by the Issaquah Chamber Sept. 10, will be held virtually due to COVID-19

The pandemic’s roots: UW Bothell team models the coronavirus

A team of computational scientists has developed web-based software that maps the virus’ protein spikes.

Free face masks available at King County Safeway locations

Stores to distribute 750,000 purchased by King County starting Aug. 24

File Photo
LA Fitness to reopen all locations Aug. 10

Gyms will follow state guidelines

Bay Area bio-tech firm to open production plant in Bothell

Lyell Immunopharma is investing $50 million in a new manufacturing facility that will employ about 100.

Face masks save lives and jobs across Washington

Wearing a mask saves lives and saves jobs. And all across the… Continue reading

BMW X3 xDrive 30e. Courtesy photo
BMW X3 xDrive 30e | Car review

With forces like BMW pushing, it’s only a matter of time before… Continue reading