Opening a small business is no small feat and often requires access to financing options to get off the ground. For women, veterans, and people of color opening a business, this necessity can act as a major barrier that impedes success.

In an effort to break this barrier down and better serve minorities as they open businesses, a partnership between Washington state-based credit unions, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and Sound Transit has been formed. Collectively, these organizations have created WSDOT’s Capacity Building Mentorship program to offer alternative financing options.

“Washington state continues to lead the nation in support of its underserved entrepreneurs,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “Ensuring these small businesses have contracting opportunities gives Washington government access to a wider array of business solutions and helps drive innovation. State partnerships with programs such as the Capacity Building Mentorship program supports these initiatives and strengthens our economy.”

The mentorship program pairs businesses owned by people of color, women, and veterans with successful contractors and consultants who provide technical assistance and business advice. Though the program has been active since July of last year, a handful of credit unions recently committed to making $750,000 in loans available to diverse businesses participating in the program.

“For many small, start-up businesses, getting financing for things such as equipment and other business needs can be a big hurdle, especially for new diverse firms,” Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said in a statement. “We’re pleased that our local credit unions are stepping up to help these protégé businesses as they work to grow their capacity and experience.”