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Growing Community, One Lot at a Time

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Originally posted in Neighborhood Notes, excerpted here.

By John Chilson

MercyCorps and Grow Portland are turning an empty field in SE Portland into a thriving garden.

On the southern tip of Portland, where Multnomah and Clackamas counties crisscross boundaries, the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood is host to a new tenant: a garden plot that’s helping an underserved community while providing local produce for hungry Portlanders.

The 2/3-acre garden, once covered in weeds, blackberries and fruit trees, is being transformed into a thriving garden, thanks to a partnership between MercyCorps Northwest and nonprofit Grow Portland. The site was formerly owned by the city, and MercyCorps Northwest acquired it two years ago as part of their New American Agricultural Project that helps refugee and immigrant growers start market gardens.

Grow Portland’s Lauren Morse works with three Nepalese families and says the garden provides a small income for them. “We help with the brand for all the produce and sell in two farmers’ markets in Portland. We also have a CSA program,” she says.

However, it’s more than scattering seeds, watering, harvesting and trucking off kale to farmers’ markets. There are a lot of logistics to figure out, especially for distribution, such as the timing of harvest, so produce can be picked up at certain times of the week and trucked to different places. Morse trucks the produce off to market when harvested as well as ensuring that the wheels are turning in the production of food. It’s a very grassroots operation.

Continue Reading…

Mercy Corps NW selected to participate in Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

We are honored and excited for this new learning opportunity and the potential to scale up our services. Press Release is excerpted in the blog, go here for full article.

Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity announced today the five organizations selected to be part of the Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development. The Scale Academy is a program that offers grant funding, peer learning events, and technical assistance to a set of high-performing microenterprise organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to scaling up to serve more clients through working to help low-income entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

The Academy is operated jointly by FIELD at the Aspen Institute (Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination) and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, the trade association for microenterprise development programs in the US. Microenterprises are very small businesses requiring $50,000 or less in start-up capital and employing five or fewer people. The entrepreneurs targeted by microenterprise organizations tend to be women, minorities, immigrants, low-income and/or individuals with disabilities.

The five organizations, selected from among 33 applicants nationwide, are:

  • Mercy Corps NorthwestMercy Corps Northwest, Portland, Ore. With offices in Portland and Seattle, the organization served 958 clients in 2010 with business training, lending, Individual Development Accounts, and specially targeted services for the formerly incarcerated, refugees, and other high-risk populations. The Academy recognized Mercy Corps as a highly innovative organization and for its strategy to expand its microlending throughout Oregon and Washington using a new online portal for loan applications and a partnership referral program.MicroMentor
  • MicroMentor, Portland, Ore. MicroMentor facilitates mentoring relationships between entrepreneurs and volunteer business mentors using a platform that integrates technology systems and other services to accelerate the growth of microenterprises. In 2010, it matched 900 entrepreneurs with mentors, and the organization aims to grow that, planning to make 2,500 matches in 2012. The Academy recognized MicroMentor for its total focus on scalability and its strategy to develop an affiliate program to help 150 microenterprise development organizations offer higher-quality mentoring services to disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

United Way raises $21.13 million (Beneficiaries include MCNW))

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“…United Way raised $21.13 million through its 2010-2011 Community Giving Campaign, its primary tool to raise funds through workplace giving.

About half of United Way’s funds go to organizations specified by the donors; the balance supports grants to local nonprofits working to improve the education, health and economic vitality of the community…

…Individual donations, typically by employees through workplace campaigns, accounted for 58 percent of all contributions, a figure that is rising.

“People do know that in these tough economic times every contribution makes a difference,” Carlo said…

…The money raised in 2010-2011 will support 31 projects and 150 partners as they serve 100,000 area residents in the coming year. United Way typically awards three-year grants that range from $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

Some of its current projects include a Mercy Corps Northwest effort to serve former inmates in Multnomah County, Self-Enhancement Inc.’s work to mentor disadvantaged youth, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center’s work to provide medical care to low-income Washington County residents, and Clackamas Women’s Services’ work with homeless survivors of domestic violence…”

read full text here

The food carts are coming.

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The 2011 Eat Mobile Food Cart Festival by Willamette Week

Foodies rejoice. Tickets are now on sale for Willamette Week’s 2011 Eat Mobile Food Cart Festival to be held on April 23rd. A mere $15 gives you access to 40 food carts featuring diverse cuisines and styles. Now in it’s fourth year, Eat Mobile promises to be bigger and better than ever, and will showcase Portland’s enormous and diverse community of gourmands operating out of mobile carts.

Proceeds from the event will support Mercy Corps Northwest and our business development programs. Your admission will be an investment in what we do best: supporting local entrepreneurs. Just like the ones that will be serving up delicious treats for you at the festival. So mark your calendars and get ready for a righteous feast.

What Willamette Week has to say about Eat Mobile:

“With more than 400 food carts selling their tasty goods within our city limits, Portland has become a destination for mobile eats. In July, Portland was named the No. 1 street food city in the world by CNN Travel, and according to Gourmet.com, the Pacific Northwest is “doing for street food today what it did for coffee in the 1990s.”

With an annual attendance of over 2,000, Eat Mobile showcases the food, music and people that make Portland’s food scene so special. Part food festival, part cart competition, Eat Mobile allows attendees to sample from 40 of Willamette Week’s favorite food carts as vendors compete for the coveted Carty Award.”

Get your tickets here.

The Lineup

Victory Garden of Tomorrow in Martha Stewart Living

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Local Greens Poster by The Victory Garden of TomorrowThe amazing designs of Joe Wirtheim and also known as The Victory Garden of Tomorrow are now being featured in the March 2011 edition of Martha Stewart Living. Pick up an issue to check him out.

Joe’s work has the ability to evoke the optimism and conscience of both past and present, and captures the foodie zeitgeist with bright, poignant printmaking. We are proud to have this artist in our local community and amongst our small business students.

About The Victory Garden of Tomorrow (in Joe’s own words)

Eat Real Food poster by Victory Garden of Tomorrow

The Victory Garden of Tomorrow is a self-commissioned poster campaign designed to channel the bold energy of historical poster propaganda. It is committed to civic innovation and social progress– better food, better gardens, better cities. It is artful advocacy for the modern homefront.

In terms of conceptual design, The Victory Garden of Tomorrow is an exercise in blending WPA-era eat-your-peas propaganda with the awe-inspiring 1939 World’s Fair (motto: “The World of Tomorrow”) and its big-vision, world reshaping ambition. I believe the spirit and skills of that old generation lay within us today. We simply need to re-deploy ourselves if we are to shape our uncertain destiny.

Holiday Hair Studio, Portland, Oregon’s First and Only Hair Styling Cart, Opens Its Doors Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

by Robin Carlisle,  MCNW Foundations Student

Holiday Hair Studio, Portland's First and Only Street Cart for Hair DesignHoliday Hair Studio is a tiny salon tucked inside a vintage travel trailer and nestled into an old nursery, right in the Heart of Portland, Oregon. It is clear that Portland loves carts, so it is only natural that this love grow and evolve. That is why we are so excited to introduce you to this evolution. Holiday Hair Studio! On Holiday you are surrounded by twinkly lights, you sip wine or drinking chocolate and enjoy tiny sweets, while the experienced and talented Robin Carlisle transforms you into the prettiest version of yourself.

Everyone wants to be the first to tell their friends about an amazing new food cart that they found… Well, how about a brand new species of cart all together? The Service Cart. In this new version, not only do you take something away with you, but you get to climb aboard this cart and experience the mystique of it all for yourself. This is different from some guy with a mustache serving you a huge sloppy sandwich that sticks between your fingers and gums up your handle bars. This is a tiny whimsical hair salon with pink damask wallpaper and vintage vanity surrounded by a halo of bulb lights.  It is a fully functioning beauty parlor with a shampoo bowl and all! It is everything you would find in a high-end salon, except it is especially tiny and adorable… And private! Clients are given a private session with one of Portland’s best hairstylists… How many Portlanders can say, “If you need me I’ll be in my trailer getting my hair done”? Well, now they can.

As well as being the first cart of its kind, Holiday is a fierce competitor for its brick-and-mortar competition. This place is like a treasure trove of enchantment! With fresh Parisian Macarons baking right on board in a miniature oven, its cute factor is through the roof. But it is also clean, open, and spacious considering the venue, with more room in its single station than in the cattle-stall layout of a traditional salon. One thing that makes Holiday special is that everything is special. There is not a detail that has not been thoughtfully executed. In a space this intimate everything must be worthy. And it is, from the custom-built alder cabinets with leather suitcase straps as handles to the refurbished 1929 seltzer bottle used to serve clients pomegranate spritzers. Everything is deliberate and nothing “will do.” From the environment to the services provided, it is all just a grand stage for beauty to happen.

So, yes, we have said much about Holiday herself offering charm and whimsy… But it is master hairstylist Robin Carlisle who clients are paying to see. With over ten years in her field, Robin has styled for a vast array of clients, including television shows, feature films, local newspapers, Portland’s top fashion designers, and more. Aside from an impressive resume, Robin’s personal clients are some of the most satisfied and loyal customers there are.

Now let’s talk location. All this magic is pretty much smack in the middle of our fair city, located in the heart of Portland, at 116 SE 28th Avenue, between Ash and Pine, nestled into the lush overgrowth of an old nursery. Holiday is in good company adjacent to and sharing the old nursery of Artemisia Gallery and Terrarium shop, which is another of Portland’s unique treasures all on its own, but I must say these two businesses compliment each other in so many ways. The setting for Holiday is incredible. Preceding the cart is a small tea patio and mini pathways winding amidst bamboo and fragrant floral greenery (come springtime that is). There could not be a more perfect location and setting for such a unique display of commerce.

 

SBA Expands E200 Emerging Leaders Initiative: Maintains Focus on Underserved Communities

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

The SBA Portland announced today that it will continue and expand the e200 Emerging Leaders’ executive-level training initiative for small business entrepreneurs, to include Native American business owners.

“I am very excited to be hosting the e200 executive training initiative once again in Portland. The initiative is a challenging program that enables top small business executives to participate in an intensive and comprehensive curriculum. The focus will be on developing growth strategies (3-5 year plans, new markets), access to new capital to fuel growth; mentoring and other training to target potential contracts in the local and federal government arena. This initiative is designed to accelerate the growth of companies that are poised for sustained expansion,” said SBA Portland Acting District Director, Robert S. DuCote.

“Over the last few years e200 has been a catalyst for expanding opportunities for many promising small businesses in underserved communities – in particular those who have been most impacted by these tough economic times,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said. “Graduates of the program have increased their revenue, created jobs and helped drive local economic growth in their communities. SBA’s commitment to not only continue, but expand the program, will build on this success and provide even more entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the support, resources and skills to succeed.”

Despite the recent recession/no growth economy, more than half of the businesses that have completed the e200 training have shown an increase in revenue of over $7 million. Nearly 60 percent have reported creating new jobs in their communities.  Surveyed entrepreneurs also reported having secured nearly $10 million in new financing for their businesses, with an increase in confidence when applying for government contracts. As a result, post-trainees have reported securing nearly 500 federal, state and local contracts, worth more than $112 million.

Since its inception, e200 has identified business owners across the country who show a high potential for growth in underserved markets—and provided them with the training, networking, resources and motivation required to expand operations and create jobs.

This initiative for entrepreneurs in underserved markets has been a catalyst for expanding opportunities for both urban small business owners and, more recently in 2010, added emphasis on Native American communities. There were 121 urban area graduates in 2010 and 125 from Native American communities, with the combined 246 graduates representing the largest graduating class since the e200 initiative began in 2008.

The nine-month training includes approximately 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provides the opportunity for small business owners to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders, and financial community. Last year the Portland District of the SBA successfully graduated 16 businesses from the program.

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