Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Olympia, WA

Olympia, WA

Known as one of the region’s main hubs for art and culture, Olympia runs on an innovative spirit that feeds its entrepreneurial and artistic mindset.

Olympia, WA, located on the southern end of the Puget Sound, is the state’s capital. Known as one of the region’s main hubs for art and culture, Olympia runs on an innovative spirit that feeds into the entrepreneurial environment as much as it does the artistic one. While the city’s reputation is definitely centered around arts rather than business, the latter has been blossoming in the background. Today, Olympia is being recognized more often as a great city for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The city ranked 19th on a 2019 list of the best cities for young entrepreneurs created by MoneyRates.com and ninth on Forbes’ list of the best cities for business and careers. In October 2019, Olympia also appeared on ValuePenguin.com’s list of the best cities for small business, coming in at 93rd overall, with a ranking of 26th in the “Business Community” category. Finally, WalletHub’s 2019 rankings of the best small cities to start a business had Olympia at 578th, but with a ranking of 92nd in the “Access to Resources” category.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that makeup Olympia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Located down the road in Gig Harbor, the Alliance of Women-Owned Businesses aims to support and empower women business owners in the area.

OlyMEGA, which stands for Olympia Makers, Engineers, Geeks and Artists, is a makerspace that offers a networking group that supports area artists, creators and technology developers.

Known as OWN, the Olympia Women’s Network gives women entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet one another and share business referrals.

Technology developers in the Southern Puget Sound region can attend the South Sound Developers User Group meetup to meet one another and learn more about tech development.

Business owners in the Tacoma area – including Olympia – can attend the Tacoma Business Network Meetup to make connections to other business leaders in the area.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

Organized by the Washington Center for Women in Business, the INSPIRE Women’s Business Conference is an annual event supporting women in business takes place in nearby Lacey.

The Thurston County Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of events to support and promote businesses throughout the county.

Small business owners from around the state attend the annual Washington Small Business Fair in Renton to present their businesses and attend 60-minute business training seminars.


Startup Competitions:

Entrepreneurs from around the Puget Sound area with a new business focused on sustainability can participate in a two-day workshop and competition organized by Washington Coast Works.

In Seattle, the University of Washington hosts several entrepreneurship competitions open to students at colleges throughout the Pacific Northwest’s “Cascade Corridor.”

Entrepreneurial-minded students and veterans at the University of Washington’s Tacoma location can compete in the school’s annual VIBE Business Plan Competition.

Though Washington State University is located across the state in Pullman, high school students from throughout the entire state can compete in the competition’s high school track.


Co-working Spaces:

The Lamplighters is a co-working and event space in Olympia that aims to provide space and resources to creative types as well as business owners.

Rather than focusing on creators and artists, Olyworks’ goal is to provide workspace and other amenities to freelancers and small business owners.

The Pioneer Collective, a coworking space in Seattle, opened a second location in downtown Tacoma that offers 12,000 square feet of offices, meeting rooms and event space.

Regus, which offers office space for rent in cities all across the country, has five locations in the Olympia area that offer potential workspace.



Down the road in Tacoma, makers can take advantage of the wide variety of tools made available by the FabLab Tacoma makerspace.

Located on the Saint Martin’s University campus just minutes outside of Olympia, the Lacey Makerspace is a premier workshop that also hosts classes and workshops.

Located in downtown Olympia, the OlyMEGA makerspace offers access to their array of tools, equipment and support services for a membership that starts at $20 per month.



The Thurston County Chamber of Commerce runs an incubator program in downtown Olympia to support local small business owners.

The University of Washington Tacoma’s Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship (VIBE) is an incubation program for veteran entrepreneurs.

Headquartered in Lacey, the Washington Center for Women in Business provides support resources and services to women entrepreneurs throughout the state.

The Washington Small Business Development Center, which runs business support programs throughout the state, has locations in Olympia, Tacoma and the entire Puget Sound region.



With locations on the East Coast, in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, Accelerator Life Science Partners works with cutting-edge life science companies throughout the country.

Based in Seattle, the Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator is a 15-week accelerator program for clean technology-based startups throughout the Cascadia region.

The Maritime Blue Innovation Accelerator, a program designed to launch and support new maritime-based startups throughout the state, announced its first class in January 2020.

Created in part by the University of Washington Tacoma, Surge Tacoma is a co-working space and accelerator program that works to launch and grow startups in the area.



Though Evergreen State College does not offer a program specifically in entrepreneurship, the school offers several classes on the subject.

South Puget Sound Community College offers its students the chance to earn a certificate of achievement in entrepreneurship.

The University of Washington’s Tacoma locations organizes a number of resources designed to support entrepreneurs at the university and in the area.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Based in Seattle, the Alliance of Angels invests over $10 million in over 20 companies located throughout the Pacific Northwest on an annual basis.

The Thurston Investment Network (ThINk) is a membership-based group of investors in Thurston County that provide funding for startups and small businesses in the area.

With locations in Seattle and Portland, Voyager Capital is able to invest in the most promising software-, cloud- and big data-based startups in the Pacific Northwest.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Seattle Business Magazine offers subscriptions to Seattle Business Insight, a newsletter covering business news and events in Seattle and throughout Washington state.

South Sound Business, which covers business and entrepreneurship news in Olympia and the South Puget Sound region, offers an email newsletter.

Startup253, an organization designed to support Tacoma’s entrepreneurship scene, offers a newsletter covering all the important news in the local startup scene.

Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Olympia not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

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Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.