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Success Stories

Portland Business Owner Names SBA's Oregon Small Business Person of the Year

Paresh Patel, President, Courtesy Vending, LLC, has been named as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Oregon Small Business Person of the Year. Courtesy Vending, LLC a 13-yr old business founded by Patel at age 17 in 1992 with one pop machine, has grown to become the largest independent snack and drink machine vending operator in Portland.

From very humble beginnings in a very competitive industry, the company posted sales of $1.6 million in 2003 and projects sales of $2.5 million in 2004, operating over 1000 vending machines, employing 17 full time route drivers, warehouse personnel, operations and administrative staff. Patel’s passion for knowledge and his drive to succeed have been evident from an early age. Patel gained his business experience at age 12 with the remodeling of his family owned motel; he led the renovation and created systems that continue to provide efficiency for the business today. Through his teenage years, he managed the financial... Read More

Pacific Tech Construction, Inc. Winner of SBA’s 2005 Regional and Portland District Minority Enterprise Development Awards

It’s a pretty good bet that Kelso natives Cal Miller and Joe Lane would have been successful businessmen out on their own. But put them together, and you have a partnership that’s turned Pacific Tech Construction from a regional commercial contracting business into a national building services company.

Theirs is an example of a business partnership that works, says Don Jones, president and CEO of Twin City Bank. Miller and Lane share a similar work ethic that gets the job done, says Jones, who knows Pacific Tech Construction well. They share the same vision and goals, and they are innovative businessmen who take good care of their employees, Jones says.   "I think it’s trust," Jones says of the duo’s secret to the success. "I think it’s a belief in the other’s ability and a desire to have a good company."   Last month, Miller and Lane marked their 10th anniversary as owners of Pacific Tech Construction in Longview. A flourishing business built on... Read More

Debi Sommars knows all about organic growth.

Her business, Portland-based Sommars Ovens, has literally grown one customer at a time. Her product, organic granola, is gaining popularity as the organic-food movement becomes more mainstream.   What began as a hobby in her kitchen has become a multistate business in only five years -- a far cry from the late nineties, when she was living in Southern California and baking 2-pound batches of organic granola for friends and family.   Then she moved to Portland with her husband, Mark Rosenbaum, a financial adviser who recently served as Mayor Tom Potter's campaign chair.   While grocery shopping one day, she noticed entire aisles devoted to organic products. "It was mind-boggling to me," she said. "It wasn't like that in Southern California."   A business idea was born.   She visited the Small Business Administration's SCORE office for business advice. She researched the organic- foods market,... Read More

As a student at Oregon State University during the early nineties, Sherlock B. Mahn, a native of Liberia, found a niche in exporting supplies for development projects in African countries. Building on his experience in his father's import-export businesses in Liberia, Mahn became a self-taught entrepreneur with a focus on bidding for World Bank procurement opportunities. In 1993, he founded Kwaplah Int’l Trading Company, Inc. with the initial intent to export textbooks and educational supplies or equipment.

Despite being employed full-time in the first years of launching his business, Mahn expanded the core product line of textbooks to include office equipment, AV and computer equipment, and occasionally even industrial machinery. With the success of being the bidder on several small Ethiopian projects also came disappointments when Kwaplah International was out-bid on larger contracts for more diverse products.   The secret of business growth, it became apparent,... Read More

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