Archive for February, 2011

A little about SoupCycle, IDA Client

February 18, 2011 1 comment
Jed Lazar of SoupCycle, soup delivery service

Jed Lazar of SoupCycle, soup delivery service

SoupCycle is a locally owned and operated business that delivers organic soups to homes and offices by bicycle.  The concept of SoupCycle began as an assignment while the founders, Jed Lazar and Shawna Lambert, were in their final year of a Masters in Sustainable Business Administration program.  Jed and Shauna had heard of a soup bicycle delivery business in Texas that had recently ditched the bikes for the petroleum-fueled option.  Jed saw the fate of the Texas soup business as a challenge and thought if bicycle delivery could work anywhere, it could work in Portland.  Two weeks after the duo graduated in 2008, the business was launched.

“SoupCycle was about influencing the business and other businesses to start delivering by bicycle and to show that bicycle delivery and lower carbon delivery is feasible.  We also wanted to support local and organic farmers. Soup on and bike, it is a simple idea but it does all of that!”

Jed Lazar came to Mercy Corps Northwest and enrolled in the IDA program as they began starting their business.  He received expert business advice and guidance from the Foundations Business course and the matched savings plan was essential to their success. “The matched savings allowed us to build efficiencies into our business.” Upgrading from an electric to a gas stove, purchasing more soup delivery trailers, and investing in marketing material and web payment programming were all made possible through the IDA program.

Since the business was launched, SoupCycle has made 25,000 deliveries by bicycle and is in the process of hiring additional employees as the business and customer base continues to grow.  Jed Lazar still attends ongoing MCNW business classes and SoupCycle has become a strong member of the bicycle based business community in Portland.

“Mercy Corps Northwest and SoupCycle have opened so many doors and allowed me to interact with the people in this city in a way that I didn’t know was possible.  The IDA program helped my small business to flourish despite the recession.”


Passive vs. Active Marketing: Are Your Relying on the Wrong Type of Marketing?

February 16, 2011 1 comment

By Elgé Premeau, eMarketing Strategist, and MCNW Seminar Presenter.

Check out her blog and upcoming seminar on Internet Marketing Basics here.

Do you market actively, or passively?Most business owners think the only way to get customers from the internet is to put up a website and get it to show up on the first page of the search results in Google and other search engines. While this is a way to get customers online, it’s not the only way. For many businesses, especially service based businesses, it’s not even the best way to get customers online.

Building a website and optimizing it for the search engines is hard work so you might be surprised to learn that this is really Passive Marketing. Why is it passive? Because in order for you to get paying customers, you have to rely on people you don’t know to decide they need you, look for you online, land on your website and then contact you. There are a lot of points in this sales process where people can bail out which is why it’s an inefficient way to grow your business.

There is another approach to internet marketing that has the potential to be much more profitable in the long run. Instead of waiting for customers to find you, you find them. I call this Active Marketing. With Active Marketing you figure out what websites your customers visit, what blogs and publications they read, and what experts they pay attention to.

Websites, blogs and publications are moving from static, brochure websites to interactive online communities. So once you figure out where your target markets are spending their time online, you engage them there by providing helpful or entertaining information.

As you interact with the various online communities, you get a sense of what kind of content is appropriate for that setting. Most people don’t realize it but website and blog owners are constantly looking for new content. As long as it’s not too “salesy,” website and blog owners are usually glad to publish your articles or other content.

Writing is hard work and you might be wondering why you would give your content to another website or blog. I’ve seen in my business and my clients’ businesses that writing articles for others sites and then linking back to your own site is the single most useful method for increasing traffic, getting newsletter subscribers and generating leads. A few years ago I wrote an article for a print journal that got me 4 new consulting clients which translated into almost half my revenue for that year. Not bad for one article!

While Active Marketing can be more productive than Passive marketing, it’s more challenging too. Active Marketing requires you to know your customers on a much deeper level than Passive Marketing. You have to get inside their head, understand what is compelling to them and why they buy what you’re selling. Thinking about your customers in this way is an acquired skill and it really helps to talk this though with a friend or colleague.

Active Marketing is one of the topics we will discuss in the Internet Marketing Basics class. So join us Monday, March 14th from 6:00 – 9:00 PM and be sure to bring your questions with you.


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.

IDA Client Jessie Smith and her marvelous macaroons make a splash in The Oregonian MIX

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sourced from The MIX, see original here.

Motoya Nakamura


This time last year, Jessie Smith (left, in photograph) had a dream, a business grant from Mercy Corps and a nascent baking business keeping her up until 4 a.m. (after working her three day jobs). Now, she’s a full-time baker about to bust out of her Southeast Portland kitchen, has hired on high school friend Nicole Trueblood as a partner and will deliver breathtaking Parisian macarons to your door.

Smith is the founder (or, as she prefers, “sugar mama”) of Confectionery. She’s self-taught and has built a following at farmers markets with infused caramels, inventive cupcakes and adorably wee candied apples. But macarons quickly became the favorite. This year Smith added them to Confection Club, a subscription service where she’ll deliver a dozen macarons to your door every month for $15. This is a phenomenally good deal.

Smith, a painter, finds inspiration from concepts and color schemes, as well as seasonal herbs and berries. Her “Sunny” macaron brings warmth to April with rich sunflower seed butter playing off the slightly grassy herbal notes of chamomile flowers, and July’s “Frilly” riffed on the complementary colors of purple and green to discover the natural affinity between pistachio and lavender. Next up for March: “Maritime” pairs luscious coconut cream with a bright hint of lime.

Categories: in the community Tags: ,

Owner of Oui Presse turns to self-employment out of necessity

February 7, 2011 1 comment

Excerpted from “Pressed for success: Self-employed by necessity, a divorced mother of two says failure isn’t an option” By Tom Hallman Jr. for the Oregonian. Read Full Article here

Shawna McKeown, Oui Presse

Shawna McKeown, Oui Presse

When the end came, Shawna McKeown wasn’t surprised.

“I’d been there 10 years and saw the signs,” she said. “I was the one who shut down the classified department, got rid of the web editor and demoted the receptionist.”

In June, it was McKeown’s turn: She was laid off as general manager ofWillamette Week, a Portland alternative newspaper.

As the divorced mother of two boys — Thilo, 7, and Cian, 5 — she needed to find something else.

After months of planning, she opened a business, Oui Presse coffee shop on Portland’s Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Now she maintains a complicated schedule of caring for her sons and running a shop that faces competition from not only national chains such as Starbucks but other independent shops with loyal followings…

…McKeown started a blog to chart her progress and build a following. She tried to borrow money from several banks, including the one that holds her mortgage. But with no paycheck, they all said no.

Next she turned to MercyCorps Northwest, which has a loan program for startups.

“What’s changed in the past couple years is that we’re seeing people who’ve been working for a company for years and then they lost a job,” said Scott Onder, the Portland organization’s fund development and strategy coordinator. “It’s a tough job market, and the only alternative is to become self-employed.”

MercyCorps gets 20 applications a month and approves four, he said. Since the program began nine years ago, the organization has issued just over 200 loans totaling $2.3 million. Now demand is so high, the agency is working with banks to get more money to loan.

“We’ve funded some businesses that you wouldn’t think would make it,” he said. “Craftsmen that sell jewelry. We’ve helped florists and photographers. What we look at is potential cash flow to make sure there’s enough profit to make loan payments on a monthly basis.”

McKeown was approved for a $20,000 loan, with a 12 percent interest rate. She opted instead to sign up for two more credit cards, which offered zero interest for the first year.

“I have to do what it takes to get going,” she said…

Read Full Article here