When Junea Rocha moved to the Pacific Northwest from Brazil to be with her husband Cameron, it didn’t take them long to realize that something was missing. The delicious pão de queijo (cheese bread) that graced their every social occasion in Brazil, from visits with grandma to sophisticated evening functions, was nowhere to be found. Junea, determined to satiate her taste buds and share this culinary treat from her native country, set out to replicate her family’s recipe for what they now refer to as “Brazi Bites”.
Recreating the right flavors was difficult using only local ingredients. Junea and Cameron sampled at least 70 recipes with 30 different types of cheeses before perfecting their dish. As friends tasted and raved about the final result, the idea to start a company was born.
“We’ve always been really passionate about food, and good quality food. We thought it was worth sharing with more and more people,” said Junea.
With the support of the Get Your Recipe to Market program offered by the CLIMB/Small Business Development Center at Portland Community College, Junea and Cameron started learning about the food industry--food safety, regulations, and marketing requirements. Junea and Cameron also began to develop their hands-on experience working in a commercial kitchen at a culinary incubator called KitchenCru. Their first retail account came just a few months after their product launch at a food and wine festival in 2011.
Since then, Brazi Bites’ production has moved to a dedicated gluten-free facility in Tigard, where Junea and Cameron will scale up their yield to meet market demand. Their sales are doubling month-to-month, with a presence in 40 stores and through a new partnership they have developed with a nationwide distributor.
“Continue to learn every day about your product, and always be able to adjust your strategy,” Junea recommends to other artisanal food entrepreneurs.
Though both Cameron and Junea each had full-time jobs when they started Brazi Bites, they needed a boost of capital to purchase specialty equipment and promotional materials to grow their company. Brazi Bites’ owners found this capital in the form of an SBA Express Loan product, introduced to them by their advisor at the Small Business Development Center. Now, Junea works full-time managing Brazi Bites sales and operations.
The Brazi Bites team can be found offering tastings in grocery stores in Oregon and Washington, and alongside the “BB” promotional van at special events. This year, Brazi Bites also will be a featured vendor at Feast Portland.
“I enjoy meeting people in the food industry in Portland and tasting their amazing foods. I love when people are in the store tasting Brazi Bites, and they close their eyes and say ‘mmm, this is so good,’” Junea shared.
For more information about programs and services offered by SBA and SBA partners, visit www.sba.gov/or, or call 503-326-2682.
Kim Erion, President of LKE CORPORATION since 1993, has been self-employed for 24 years. Kim got an early start at age 6 selling painted pet rocks to neighbors. She grew up in the woods with one grandfather who owned a saw mill and trucking company and with another grandfather who worked for the USDA Forest Service and Oregon State Parks. Her father owned a logging company, and her mother owned the Mother Earth spirituality retail shop in Portland called the Goddess Gallery. As Kim grew up, she gravitated toward her own passions and started to refine her business prowess.
For over 18 years now, Kim and Jim, her husband, have been dedicated to restoration throughout the Pacific Northwest. LKE CORPORATION has completed hundreds of miles of watershed restoration and thousands of acres of wetlands and in-stream habitat throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. Kim and Jim are known for going above and beyond specification with passionate execution. Kim was inspired by her husband’s work in 1980’s on the Mt St Helen’s debris flows. Some of his in- stream restoration designs implemented on the Clearwater and Muddy are still key study areas for in-stream design. Their daughter, Malin, has been home schooled in the field and has done documentary photography that has been an essential part of monitoring successes and failures in new concepts of environmental restoration. Their entire team’s conscientiousness, combined with Kim’s unique “Naturalization Methodology” to engineered restoration, sets a higher standard that is recognized wherever they go. LKE’s team has grown to as many as 42 employees during busy times, and has experienced significant revenue growth during the last 3+ years.
Kim does volunteer work for conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Oregon Trout, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, ExCEL Academic League and is a home school mom. “It’s great to get kids involved and excited. An awesome feeling is when you inspire young adults to make a difference and to live a conservation lifestyle. They are always so intrigued about me, a little gal, playing with BIG rocks and BIG Machines making a BIG difference.”
SBA and her community have recognized Kim and LKE with the 2011 MED Week Award, as an e200 Graduate Class of 2011, and with the 2009 District Director’s Award.
Pete Morones, a bilingual clinical psychologist, didn’t have to think twice about buying a building to house his office. It made sense to purchase a building for his practice rather than continuing to pay rent. Morones now owns his own office building and rents out space to others. Most people aspire to own a building for the same reason they aspire to own a home; they are more in control of the use and the cost. Evergreen Business Capital helped Morones buy his own real estate through the Small Business Administration's 504 loan program. “Morones needed $370,000 to buy the building — at a time when the economy was tanking and banks just didn't want to lend," recalls Evergreen Senior Loan Officer Lori Milton.
Morones is a business banking client with Bank of America. Lori Milton asked the bank to loan Morones the money for his building. The bank funded Morones $250,000, Evergreen funded $83,000 and Morones came up with the rest.
Proceeds from 504 loans must be used for fixed asset projects such as: purchasing land and improvements, including existing buildings, grading, street improvements, utilities, parking lots and landscaping; construction of new facilities, or modernizing, renovating or converting existing facilities; or purchasing long-term machinery and equipment.
Typically, a 504 project includes a loan secured with a senior lien from a private-sector lender covering up to 50 percent of the project cost, a loan secured with a junior lien from the Certified Development Company like Evergreen Business Capital (backed by a 100 percent SBA-guaranteed debenture) covering up to 40 percent of the cost, and a contribution of at least 10 percent equity from the small business being helped. To be eligible, the business must be operated for profit and fall within the size standards set by the SBA. Under the 504 Program, the business qualifies as small if it does not have a tangible net worth in excess of $8.5 million and does not have an average net income in excess of $3 million after taxes for the preceding two years. Loans cannot be made to businesses engaged in speculation or investment in rental real estate.
"Because we allow business owners to get into a loan with only 10 percent down, it helps them hold onto their working capital and helps them to purchase their existing rental building if the building owner suddenly offers it up," Milton said. "Most banks want 25 to 30 percent down on a building, and that’s a lot of money if you’re not actively saving money for the purchase."
“Evergreen made it possible for us to finance our project; something we had been working on for some time. Ms. Milton went above and beyond to assist us with securing financing as we encountered unforeseen obstacles in the current market,” said Morones.