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