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
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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
With two dogs and two cats, Dave Faul (left) and his wife, Sandra Yates, are definitely animal lovers. But when Faul suggested they start a business washing dogs and cats in a van parked at clients’ curbs, Yates said, “Thinking he was nuts was an understatement.”Nearly three years later, however, the West Linn couple’s Wash’n Roll Pet Grooming business has expanded to two vans driving to appointments throughout the metropolitan area. Mobile pet groomers are more common on the East Coast and in California than in the Northwest, said Faul, 50 who was an account executive with a women’s apparel company for 25 years before starting his own business. However, the service is beginning to catch on in the region. At least three similar businesses are operating in the metropolitan area, said Angela Jones of Portland, a pet groomer for 10 years who went mobile a few months before. Faul and Yates turned the key in their first van. “In a few months, a friend of mine in... Read More
Shoppers at Portland Saturday Market have known him for years as the Duct-Tape Wallet Guy. But Garett Croft Stenson is moving on – to gaffer's tape. Seven years after he made his first duct-tape wallet at college in Idaho, Stenson has closed the doors on Ductbills. In its place he has launched several new lines of gaffer's tape wallets that he calls pocket art. "One thing I want people to know is I'm still in the game," says Stenson, 26, whose new company is called db clay.
About a year ago, Stenson discovered gaffer's tape, which is used by lighting and sound technicians on stages and movie sets. Stenson compares it to space-age materials. At present, db clay offers five series of wallets, ranging in price from $40 to $85. Camera series: With images captured by Portland photographers, the wallets feature scenes such as a cloud- lined Central Oregon horizon. Sketchbook series: The wallets display sketchbook drawings by Portland artists. Limited series: db clay... Read More