Archive for December, 2010

Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Build a business.

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment
A match and business advice through MicroMentor helped Rose Sabel Dodge get her fiber arts and crafts business off to a good start. Photo: Ian Wagreich for MicroMentor

A match and business advice through MicroMentor helped Rose Sabel Dodge get her fiber arts and crafts business off to a good start. Photo: Ian Wagreich for MicroMentor

by Jinell Smithmeyer

Business mentoring isn’t a new concept for many professionals — but the way these connections are happening is changing faster than ever. Breaking out of the mentoring program mold is the Mercy Corps program MicroMentor, best described as a for business mentoring. With online profiles and connection tools for participants, MicroMentor is catching on amongst entrepreneurs and business professionals around the world as a simple, convenient way to get connected.

Essentially MicroMentor is a platform for providing business mentoring and expertise to small and growing businesses: growth-oriented startup and micro-businesses, as well as cooperative and small and growing enterprises that help fight poverty and create lasting jobs in nations around the world. But in addition to being an online service that connects small business owners with business mentors, MicroMentor provides training, tools and continuous support to help enterprise development organizations deliver high-quality business mentoring and advising cost-effectively and at scale.

Small business ownership presents its own special set of challenges – by providing access to business expertise, knowledge, and connections through mentoring, MicroMentor is assisting entrepreneurs as they build robust enterprises that will thrive in 2011 and beyond.

In the U.S. alone, MicroMentor has engaged more than 7,000 people and facilitated over 2,400 mentoring relationships, with participating businesses reporting significant revenue and employment gains. Building on its success in the U.S., MicroMentor expanded to Nicaragua in late 2010, with plans to launch in Haiti in early 2011.

To find a mentor, go to the website and create a profile and mentoring request. Volunteer mentors will be able to view your request and offer to help (you can also request help from specific mentors). Business professionals can go to the website and sign up as volunteer mentors through a similar process.

Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Build a business. Visit MicroMentor today to get started.

New Resources for Beginner Exporters

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment
Image Courtesy of

Jumpstart your Exports

The United States Government has developed a new section on the website to help people get started with Exports.

Begin Exporting” outlines an easy-to-follow six-step process for entering the world of exporting. The first step is a self-assessment. Depending on the assessment score, small businesses are referred to specific training and counseling programs (Step 2). Steps 3-6 include: Create an Export Business Plan; Conduct Market Research; Find Buyers; and Investigate Financing Your Small Business Exports, Foreign Investments or Projects.

If you are considering starting to export, take the self-assessment, and you will be directed to the appropriate next step.

For more information about getting started with exporting, please see this fact sheet (PDF)

Get your Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Affordable Health Care for America Act

Did you know how to get the new small business health care tax credit? This benefit from the recently passed Affordable Care Act can make a big difference in keeping the cost of business down. The following is excerpted from an open letter written by Karen Mills from the Small Business Administration.

“The most immediate benefit of the Affordable Care Act is a tax credit that will help America’s smallest employers…who have been hit hardest by premium increases in recent years.  Today, the Administration is releasing a one-page form and instructions (available here) on how to claim this credit for the 2010 tax year. …In each case, the Administration has worked to ensure that a broad range of small businesses can qualify.

These credits are available for tax years 2010 through 2013 and for any two years after that.  Through 2013, the maximum tax credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by small employers and 25 percent for eligible tax-exempt organizations.  Beginning in 2014, those levels increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively.  Importantly, these credits are just one of many benefits in the Affordable Care Act.  Most notably, in 2014, firms with up to 100 workers will be able to pool their buying power and reduce their administrative costs by purchasing coverage through a health insurance exchange.

Finally, the new law strengthens America’s entrepreneurial spirit, overall.  For example, it outlaws discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, giving more Americans the ability to break out of “job lock” and start their own companies.  The new law also prohibits insurance companies from dramatically increasing premiums for a small business just because one worker gets sick.

Overall, the Affordable Care Act is a critical tool that will help millions of small business owners provide health insurance to people who you often consider to be members of your extended family – your employees.  As a nation, we owe you nothing less as you work to grow, create jobs, and lead us toward full economic recovery…”

New Video: Seeding Food Carts

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Directed by Matthew Winthrop
Produced and Edited by New Sky Productions

More and more, individuals in Portland are looking to food carts as an inexpensive alternative to starting up a restaurant. Even with the lower start-up costs, however, food cart owners often need help getting the capital to start up. Mercy Corps Northwest is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs like these. We believe in supporting our local food industry, our local business owners, and in finding creative approaches to business and employment in a recession.

Cassie Ridgway, MCNW Client, Featured in Oregonian

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

<excerpted from The Oregonion>

“Hawthorne Boulevard artist aims to help other young creatives stick in Portland” by Anna Griffin


Cassie Ridgway, owner of Mag-Big

A major quandary facing planners and economic developers is how to help talented young creative types who’ve moved to Portland for its laid-back, artsy feel make money at the same time they’re making stuff.

Cassie Ridgway is only 23, a couple of months removed from earning a degree in poetry — not the most practical specialty when it comes to monetizing your work — at Portland State. Yet she’s come up with a model that could be as good as anything the professional big thinkers have found so far.

Her new store, Mag-Big, sells art, like a lot of boutiques. But unlike many others, Mag-Big sells nothing but Portland art. Dresses. Vases. Paintings. Soap. Wood carvings. Purses. Mosaics. Earrings. Potholders. Plush dolls. Ski caps. Aprons. Whatever local craftspeople make, she sells out of a historic Hawthorne Boulevard house split between Mag-Big and three other businesses. Artists can rent shelf space or sell by consignment.

Will the venture, open since October, work? We should all hope so. Part of what makes Portland special is the influx of creative talent the city has seen in the past decade. But making a living producing art is a constant scramble for all but the most successful and renowned. Portland’s push to become a hub for artists won’t matter — and will eventually peter out — if those creative people cannot afford to buy a house or raise children here. Scoff at the do-it-yourself crowd if you want, but we need their talents and their tax dollars…

…Inspired by memories of a family friend’s beach side shop in California, she wrote a business plan while finishing up coursework at PSU and waiting tables full time. She found the spot at the corner of Hawthorne and Southeast 33rd Avenue during the first rehab walk she took after getting hit by a car on her bike last summer. She went to banks, the Small Business Administration, credit unions and a seed-capital group. She has a great credit rating, but nobody was exactly leaping over the desk to loan cash to a young poet/artist until she got to MercyCorps Northwest, a local arm of the Portland-based nonprofit that provides microloans for entrepreneurs who can’t borrow from traditional banks…

<read full article here>