Sign up for email updates from SBAReceive helpful business tips and upcoming events in your area.


Oregon District Office
601 SW Second Avenue Suite 950
Portland, OR 97204
United States
Phone: 503-326-2682
Fax: 503-326-2808
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

John Clark: "I am proof that SBA’s SBDC programs work."

John Clark started his career working in the fast food industry where he quickly rose to management level. During this time, he became experienced in dealing with the same problems that a small business owner encounters such as, dealing with employees, customer satisfaction and many of the bookkeeping and payroll experiences that are necessary in running a successful business.

 
He decided to return to school and study accounting and business management at a trade school in downtown Portland. He received a degree in 2 years and moved from the food service industry into an entry level accounting position at Pope and Talbot in downtown through a temp agency.
 
From there he went to work for Deloitte & Touche through another temp agency. During his accounting assignments, Clark decided that he really did not want to be in the corporate world for the rest of his life. It was at this crossroads that he had an opportunity to go to work for Rose City Stamp in Portland. He set-up their typesetting program on the computer. This was a diversion from his education, but it proved to be a good move for him. After working for Rose City for several years, Pioneer Printing in Vancouver offered him a job running their stamp department. He accepted the challenge and went to work for the second company making rubber stamps.
 
After four years of working for Pioneer Printing and running into road blocks at every turn when he tried to expand the department, Clark decided that he could do it better on my own. He set up a web page from his home, bought a small stamp making machine and started putting the pieces together for his business. He also wrote a business plan and shopped it around at the local banks. Finally he received a loan for $18,000 from a small bank in Vancouver and was on my way to turning Stamp-Connection into the successful business it is today.
 
Clark also took advantage of SBA’s partner, the Small Business Development Center at Mt. Hood Community College. He took the small business management track level one to improve business operations. Clark states that he enjoyed his one-on-one sessions with his counselor and mentor, Mr. Sherk. Since enrolling in Sherk’s course, Clark wrote a marketing plan, secured a loan from a bank, developed a way to track and analyze his financial situation of his company, learned key selling techniques, developed new ways to market his business and grew as an entrepreneur.
 
According to Clark, “I am proof that SBA’s SBDC programs work.”

Cascade Acupuncture Center, LLC Brings Experience and Passion for the Growing Need of Natural Health Care in the Columbia River Gorge

Carola Stepper, Registered Nurse and Licensed Acupuncturist, facilitates and operates a healthy acupuncture business in Hood River and The Dalles, Oregon. As owner and acupuncturist of Cascade Acupuncture Center, LLC, she brings a treasure of experience and passion that supports the growing need of natural health care in the Columbia River Gorge.

In her spare time she enjoys hiking, swimming, running, biking, windsurfing, snowboarding, skiing, and dancing. She has also been volunteering her time assisting with different community events as part of the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors since 2006.

Carola Stepper was born in New Jersey and raised in Germany, finally returning to the United States sixteen years ago. She lived both in Maui, Hawaii, and Portland, Oregon, before settling in Hood River, Oregon. Educated as a registered nurse in Germany in 1989, she has worked with hospitals both in Europe and the United States before changing her specialty to home health and hospice nursing.

Filling her thirst for continuous education and an alternative approach to health care led Carola to attend the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She graduated in 2001 with a Master's in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAcOM) and started to practice enthusiastically as a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). She did not have any business training and her parents were both employed in non- medical fields.

During the next five years, Carola worked as a part-time employee at the Celilo Cancer Center at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, Oregon, giving supportive acupuncture care to cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation treatments. Cancer patients have been a focus for much of her career. Citing the need for her learned skills in rural areas, Carola was able to contribute and build growing acupuncture practices in Portland, The Dalles, and Hood River, Oregon, and in Goldendale, Washington. She also maintained on-call positions as a nurse until her acupuncture practice was stable and manageable, at which point the focus shifted solely to her practices in Hood River and The Dalles, which are 20 miles apart.

Hood River has a population of approximately 6,000 with 10 licensed and practicing acupuncturists, and The Dalles has a population of approximately 20,000 with 2 licensed and practicing acupuncturists. In 2005, Carola expanded her Hood River practice by founding Cascade Acupuncture Center, LLC, renting her own clinic space and hiring her first office manager. This transition from working as an independent contractor to becoming an employer was her response to a sudden and unprofessional dissolution of a prior business relationship that left her without a business office or staff while continuing to run her business. At this time, she contacted the SBDC for business consulting as a first-time employer and business owner. One year after opening the Hood River clinic, Cascade Acupuncture opened their second location in The Dalles with the support of a business loan from the Mid-Columbia Economical Development Division. The decision to open a second clinic was her response to expanding her clinic in The Dalles by purchasing another acupuncturist’s practice and unexpectedly losing the usage of the needed treatment rooms simultaneously. The time frame from deciding to open her second clinic to the first day of operations, which included finding the space, remodeling and furnishing it, hiring and training staff, was four months. During this time, another SBDC consultation included helping her write a business plan and acquiring a business loan. She has had other consultations over the years focusing on topics such as finances, planning, growth, staffing issues, and marketing.

Both clinics are warm and welcoming in part because the space utilizes Feng Shui principles, but also because the treatments are delivered in soft leather recliner chairs with soothing massage and heating pads. The specific set-up of this treatment room is Carola’s invention. By consciously creating this unique environment, both staff and clients enjoy a comfortable and calming clinic setting. Both clinics are wheel chair accessible, sharing the same amount of treatment rooms, colors, décor and furniture.

Today, six years after graduating, she is providing acupuncture care to the people of the Mid-Columbia region together with a caring team of employees: three licensed acupuncturists, two office managers, and one marketing director. Statistically, only 15-20% of all acupuncturists are still in practice five years after graduation.

Both clinics accept insurance and offer an income-based sliding fee scale and 0% interest financing to aid in providing treatments to as may people as possible. Established clients can conveniently schedule themselves through their Web site, www.CascadeAcupuncture.org. The clinics are open six days a week and provide a full line of Chinese herbs and nutritional products to complement healthy living.

Cascade Acupuncture Center is a member of the following organizations: Hood River County Chamber of Commerce, Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Hood River Downtown Business Association. The practice is a general acupuncture practice with a focus in pain management. Cascade Acupuncture employs a unique and effective treatment style that involves insertion of fine, sterile needles only below the elbows and knees. This has proven to be highly effective in many areas of prevention and pain management.

Carola Stepper endeavors to be an exemplary acupuncturist, business woman, and employer. Two years after hiring her first staff person, her six employees receive paid vacation, matching retirement savings, health insurance and bonuses. She credits her success to her passion for acupuncture and resulting strong purpose to help as many people as possible to get well naturally, dedication, great team members, the vision of the team, great customer service, and effective treatments.

What makes this story unique is multifold: It is the story of a woman-owned business with no business background in an unusual professional field in a rural area that grew her business from hiring her first employee and opening her first clinic, to having six employees and two clinics within two years. She had no outside funding except the loan for her second clinic which she paid off ahead of schedule. Both clinics are profitable and continue to grow steadily during her seventh year after graduation, when statistically only 15-20% of all acupuncturists are still in practice five years after graduation, and the majority of acupuncturists choose to practice without hiring staff.

She offers employment not only to office staff but also to acupuncturists which is a very unusual business model. Nationwide there are extremely few positions for acupuncturists offered to be employed, much less with benefits. The following aspects of the clinics are rather uncommon compared to other acupuncture practices:

  • They offer 0% interest financing as well as an income-based sliding fee scale.
  • Clients can be seen in either clinic for increased convenience.
  • Clients are able to schedule themselves through a link on the company Web site www.CascadeAcupuncture.org.

Clients can receive treatments either in an individual treatment room with a massage table or in a room with multiple leather recliner chairs with soothing massage and heat pads.

Ernie’s: New Owners, Same High Level Service

New computer software and just-delivered shipments blend with salvaged pump parts and original cabinetry to create what is truly a combination of old and new. Ernie’s Electric and Ernie’s Motors and Pumps were once two separate corporations started by John Ernest Wimsatt around 1948.

Today, they operate as one business, Two R’s Electric, LLC, doing business as Ernie’s Motors & Pumps. Located on South Oregon Street and taking up about three-quarters of the block is the business owned by Roy Scott and Randy Getman – the two “Rs.” Scott’s wife, Margie, is the business manager and bookkeeper. Both Scott and Getman were longtime employees of the business, working for Gerry Griffin. When Griffin began talking about selling the business, they began thinking about buying it.
 
“When we first started talking about taking over, we had no idea where to start,” Margie Scott recalled. “Roy had known Dale Cruson, and it was his wife Cheryl who sent us to the BizCenter.” “That’s when we met Debi (DeBord). She bent over backwards to help us write our business plan,” Roy Scott said.
 
“Our problem was we didn’t realize she could help us after that. The Scotts said they went through a difficult time after being turned down by several lending institutions. Just when they were at their lowest, the BizCenter’s Deb Carpenter called on them. “She asked us how it was going since they hadn’t seen us in a while,” Roy Scott said.
 
“When we told her what we’d been doing, Debi called us right away with ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I’m with you through the whole thing.’” The couple credits DeBord with holding their hands and encouraging them. “It took two years from the time we had the idea until the time we were finished.” Roy Scott said. “There must have been 10 different times we thought this isn’t worth it.” Margie Scott rolled her eyes. “Like when our computer crashed and dumped our business plan,” she added. “Debi kept pushing us in the right direction.” “So many people give up just when success is around the next bend DeBord,” said. “Randy, Roy and Margie are a true inspiration to future business owners, demonstrating 
that perseverance, persistence, and tenacity do pay off. Only by quitting, does one fail.”
 
“The BizCenter is definitely an asset to the community,” Roy Scott said. “Gerry had this for sale nationally at first, and when you think about that, someone else could have come in here, and just changed everything. “We’re here providing the same high level of service this business has offered for so many years,” he added. Of course, the current owners may be doing too good a job of blending the old with the new. “A lot of people will call and ask for Ernie,” Margie Scott said. “But, then a lot of people think Gerry is Ernie, and a lot of people think Randy is Ernie. But Ernie’s been dead a long time.”
 
“I answer to anything,” Roy Scott said, admitting that includes Ernie. “It’s just funny to have someone call and say, ‘Ernie was out here working on my pump last week, and ...’”
 
Diagnosed with a serious illness just when they bought the business, Getman works when he feels up to it. His long-time knowledge of the business is still a major asset for the Scotts, as is having Griffin work part-time. “Being the owner is a lot more work than I thought it would be,” Roy Scott said. “I’m still learning. If it weren’t for Gerry, I don’t know. I’d been here for 17 years, but I didn’t know the business side of things.”
 
He also credits Getman’s input for helping things to run smoothly. Getman, he added, has been with the Ernie’s business since 1972. “With ownership, there’s a lot more responsibility,” Roy Scott said, referring to licenses, permits, and other regulatory requirements. “I guess I do enjoy it. It’s good to be king.” Margie Scott laughed. “Well, I’m just the boss in name,” Roy Scott quickly added. “My wife is really the one who runs things.” Like her husband, Margie Scott said she is still learning, too. She went to work for Griffin for several months as the bookkeeper while he still owned the business so there would be a smoother transition. But merging two corporations into one Limited Liability Corporation proved to be a little challenging for both her and her customers – many of whom began calling after receiving bills from a company with a strange name. Ultimately, according to Roy Scott, it’s the customers who win with the business in the hands of long-time local residents.

Encore Entrepreneurs

An Introduction to Starting Your Own Business

LAUNCH COURSE

Need Help Writing a Business Plan? Our step-by-step tool makes it easy.  Start Your plan.

Get Local Assistance Right in Your Area

Counseling, mentoring, and training from an SBA District Office, SCORE Chapter, Small Biz Development Center or Women’s Biz Center in your area.

FIND RESOURCES