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Friday, June 8, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW program serves small entrepreneurs

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Woody Jackson doesn't cater many meals these days. But about yesterday's event, the Catfish Corner owner said, "This was a must."

Jackson and his crew dished up fried catfish, collard greens and tartar sauce to feed Seattle's business and community members as part of the University of Washington's Business and Economic Development Program luncheon.

It was his way of thanking the program for sending five business students this past year to help market his Central District restaurant's tartar sauce.

About 200 business and community members gathered at First African Methodist Episcopal Church yesterday to help honor the program, its financial supporters and the small-business owners it serves.

Business School Dean Yash Gupta thanked the participants, which included Microsoft and Catholic Community Services, and reminded them that one person can make a difference in others' lives.

"You are that person," said Gupta, who noted that raising money for the program is crucial.

This past academic year, the UW sent 63 students to 15 small businesses in the area to help with research, efficiency measures, online commerce and marketing, he said.

Students typically work in small teams and help small-business owners in Central District, Chinatown International District and Rainier Valley for three to six months.

For six years, about 300 students have contributed their market know-how and analytical skills to 90 companies, according to Michael Verchot, program director.

He reported the program has helped create 175 jobs and generate $5.5 million in new revenue during its first five years. The program also holds seminars for small-business owners, sponsors scholarships and supports internships.

"Our students were excellent," said Tanya Jimale, managing partner for Jimale Technical Services, which offers consulting services.

Jimale's business students helped her create a mission statement and devise a marketing plan, she said.

Junior Lisa Lee, 21, helped with the Jackson tartar-sauce project by creating posters and table signs to advertise the product.

"I wish I had them here all the time," Jackson said. "We don't have the luxury of having a big business."

"We called them our dream team," said a beaming Rosie Jackson, his wife and co-owner.

Rosie Jackson, who helped serve food yesterday, started making the sauce in 1985. Now, with the students' help, the Jacksons plan to sell their concoction in Seattle stores this summer and via the Internet in about a month.

Brad Wong can be reached at 206-464-2750 or bwong3@seattletimes.com.

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