When Debbie Eggers and Janelle Mikula met outside their daughters’ classroom six years ago, they had no idea they would start a business together. But, while shopping at a local candy store during a family vacation together, Debbie mentioned her dream of opening her own business, and Janelle thought it sounded like a great idea.
A few months and a lot of research later, Debbie spotted a flier in a vacant downtown Gresham storefront and realized that this was their chance. At the time, the City of Gresham was waiving building and licensing fees to encourage growth on Main Street. So Debbie and Janelle got to work.
“Our biggest struggle in getting started was creating a full-fledged business plan. Neither of us had any idea what this meant or how to get started,” said Debbie. “This is where the SBA came into play.”
Debbie and Janelle enrolled in a class for startup businesses at the Mt. Hood Community College Small Business Development Center, where they learned how to write a business plan and received free business advising to help them through the process.
Their business plan was so thorough and well organized, that Debbie credits it with helping them receive not one, but two loan offers through two different banks.
After securing the initial capital they needed, everything else started to fall into place. Before they knew it, their dream of owning their own candy shop came true. iCandy opened on Gresham’s Main Street in July 2011. Despite maintaining their other jobs, Debbie and Janelle, along with Debbie’s parents managed to run the store as they built up their clientele.
Within six months though, it was clear iCandy needed to grow. “I wish we could have seen how successful the store would be,” said Janelle. “We had people passing by, because there wasn’t room in the store for them to wait.”
A year after opening, their booming business and community support encouraged Debbie and Janelle to expand. They doubled iCandy’s floor space by leasing the storefront next to them, and removing a wall. “The community has been so supportive,” said Debbie. “They want us to be here, and it shows.”
“It’s been extremely rewarding to see our hard work go towards something I’ve been a part of building and know the possibilities are endless,” said Debbie. After being in business for nearly two years, iCandy now employees 11, has doubled their sales and is able to fill orders across the country through their website, www.icandygresham.com.
Hiroshi Morihara has had a long, distinguished career in business; from being a mechanical engineer, inventing silicon manufacturing processes, starting up manufacturing plants, working as a consultant in semiconductor and biotech industries and developing property. It wasn’t until the beginning of this century though, after his wife suggested he return to inventing, that he developed the idea for HM3 Energy. He had just finished reading a book about energy and hearing a speech on the environmental ramifications of coal plants, when it hit him. His invention would be a cleaner form of energy, and that’s just what HM3 Energy has developed.
HM3 Energy has a proprietary torrefaction process to turn biomass into clean fuel to replace coal in coal-fired power plants. HM3 Energy's TorrB briquettes can be made sustainably from readily available and abundant biomass sources such as urban wood waste, agricultural residue, and forest waste. Existing power plants designed to burn coal can use HM3 Energy’s torrefied biomass instead of coal, drastically reducing carbon and other harmful emissions such as mercury, sulfur and nitrous oxides.
Different from many other pellets made from wood chips or agricultural residuals, HM3 Energy’s TorrB torrefied biomass briquettes can be burned in existing coal plants without any plant modification. Torrefied biomass briquettes provide utility companies a reliable, clean and environmentally-friendly source of energy.
In order to get where they are today, HM3 Energy needed funding. They accessed that through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development that has the potential for commercialization. Through an awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.
The SBIR program is structured in three phases; the objective of the first phase is to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed R/R&D efforts. Morihara received his first SBIR grant in 2010 to develop a waterless dirt removal system in order to clean the biomass without creating additional waste.
Once that was accomplished, the next step, phase II of the SBIR program, was to figure out how to scale up a pellet plant, specifically the torrefaction and densification parts of the process. In November 2012, HM3 Energy demonstrated commercial-scale densification through their phase II funding, becoming possibly the first company in the world with a proven process for mass producing biomass briquettes which are water resistant.
The third phase of the SBIR program is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from phase I/II. Since the SBIR program does not fund phase III, Morihara is working hard to establish funding to build HM3 Energy's commercial plants.
When asked how he and HM3 Energy were able to accomplish what they have, Morihara immediately spoke of his employees, “develop a good team, you need all of your people.” He also added some advice for inventors and entrepreneurs alike, “if you think you know everything, you fail; you will need help along the way.”
Lori Oswald-Kosmas and Toni Hyde were drawn to entrepreneurship from different places. Lori didn’t like the desk-bound nature of her former corporate job and decided she wanted a change; Toni entered the industry after her father’s terminal illness forced her to leave college and return home to work and care for him. Toni’s father was an entrepreneur and instilled that drive in Toni before passing away.
Following their natural inclinations and recognizing they each had a flair for sales, in 2004 Lori and Toni teamed up to start Beyond Uniforms & Apparel in Hillsboro, Oregon. With over 30 years of combined marketing industry experience, this duo had strong ideas about how to start their company. Eight years later, Toni and Lori continue to work together selling uniforms, flame resistant clothing, safety clothing, promotional marketing products and corporate apparel to customers all over the United States. Impressively, their revenue doubled in 2011, and they now proudly employ seven people.
In combination with offering the highest quality products, Toni and Lori believe what sets them apart is the customized services and marketing expertise they provide to their clients. They are motivated by their customers, creatively addressing their needs and nurturing the relationships they’ve built over the years. It is largely through past client referrals that Beyond Uniforms & Apparel has measured consistent growth.
Beyond Uniforms & Apparel represents a fusion of the owners’ unique styles, creative minds, and business vision. Recently, Lori and Toni have learned to reevaluate their business approach with the help of SBA’s Emerging 200 Initiative (e200), a seven-month commitment to intensive business management learning. As graduates of the 2011 e200 cohort, Toni and Lori commented that, ‘from day one starting their business they’ve been working in it, and never on it.’ Now they have adopted a whole new methodology, ‘spending a couple days a month working on their business.’
“After completing the e200 program this last year, we became more aware of all the assistance out there for small businesses. The SBA office alone has numerous resources such as books, online modules, and classes; all available for free to small businesses,” Lori shared.
Beyond Uniforms & Apparel provides a range of services including silk-screening, embroidery, heat-sealing, and imprinting, to schools, medical, public safety, construction, restaurants, corporations, and casinos. With the diversity of products offered and the mix of clientele, Toni and Lori believe that their product offerings are endless.