Black-owned restaurants get tech assist from Seattle teens
In a program created by Seattle’s Office of Economic Development and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, 16 high school students learned to make glossy new websites for some of the city’s Black-owned businesses.
The goal was to provide the teens with job skills, while giving the restaurants a stronger presence online.
The students and restaurant owners showed off the websites for restaurants offering everything from cheesesteaks to Ethiopian food at a virtual event Wednesday.
The Youth Web Design Pilot Program matched youth who are Black, Indigenous, and of color, with businesses that had little or no online presence prior to the pandemic.
Pamela Banks is the interim director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, as well as the former head of Seattle’s Urban League. She said the program helps support youth who are underrepresented in the local tech industry, and will help the restaurants stay afloat as well.
“A strong web presence and e-commerce capabilities is a lifeline for many businesses,” Banks said. “As we think about recovery and reopening efforts here in the city, we must build our economy to be equitable and support our Black and brown students’ ability to explore possibilities in these industries.”
The city spent $53,000 on the program last year and will spend $56,000 in 2021, according to OED. This year the program will expand to include 30 youth and 30 new restaurants.
Honey Mohamed runs Mama Sambusa Kitchen in Rainier Beach with her mother.
“If it wasn’t for this program and this beautiful site, we would have had to close down,” she said.
Mohamed said restaurants can’t just rely on word of mouth for business amidst the pandemic closures, and she lacked the time to create a website on her own.
“I really did try to come home after 20 hour shifts and make a website, it was impossible,” Mohamed said. “So to be able to have these young, talented, gifted individuals take time out of their year to make this for us was really, really touching.”
Mohamed said she hopes the program will be available for her younger brother who has an interest in technology.
Garfield High School student Lucy Richardson designed the Mama Sambusa website and said hearing Mohamed’s feedback on the final product “makes me feel accomplished.”
“I’m not set on what I want to do, but that was the reason why I initially wanted to do the program,” Richardson said. It was a six-week commitment. “And it turned out to be way more helpful than I thought, and way more interesting than I thought, which is what I’m thankful for.”
High school senior Brianna Smith created the website for Agelgil Ethiopian Restaurant in the Central District, and said taking part in the web design pilot project firmed up her interest in a tech career.
“I got to work with and be around people my own age which is very hard around this time,” she said. “I was concerned about getting all the requirements done because I’m a perfectionist,” but said program staff reassured her “and it all worked out fine, so I really enjoyed this.”
Garfield student Keymani Washington created the website for a food truck: Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks.
“I did this out of interest in learning more about web design," Washington said.
Washington said the tools will be useful either as a career, or to have the skills to build websites in case she or someone in her family has a small business.
“This opportunity will help with that knowledge,” she said.
Black-owned businesses who participated in the Youth Web Design pilot include:
- Drae’s Lake Route (9261 57th Ave S; Rainier Beach)
- King Philly Cheesesteaks (7820 Rainier Ave S; Rainier Beach)
- Agelgil Ethiopian Restaurant (2800 East Cherry St; Central District)
- Seattle Chicken Express (3621 33rd Ave S; Rainier Valley)
- Enat Ethiopian Restaurant (11546 15th Ave NE; Northgate)
- Yusra & Sabah Restaurant (7729 Rainier Ave S; Rainier Beach)
- Mama Sambusa Kitchen (8300 Wabash Ave S, Rainier Beach)
- Soulful Dishes (1800 E Yesler Way; Central District)
- Safari Njema Restaurant (5041 Rainier Ave S; Columbia City)
- Seattle Best BBQ (Food Truck)
- Chef Café Ethiopian Restaurant (2200 S Jackson St; Central District)
- Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks (Food Truck)
- Queen Sheba Ethiopian (916 E John St; Capitol Hill)
- The New You (1410 18th Ave; Capitol Hill)