Success Stories

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
Wallet Guy Finds a Better Tape

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

Debbie Brown, Serial Entrepreneur!

Tim and Debbie Brown started their lives together in 1978 on their farm in Nyssa, Oregon. Tim’s parents raised buffalo on their place as a hobby. In 1983 Tim’s parents retired from farming and Tim & Debbie took over their farm and the buffalo. In 1985 Debbie painted and posted the first Brown’s Buffalo Ranch sign at the bottom of the road in Nyssa. A few years later the low fat, leaner meat health craze took hold. 

  Debbie recognized that there was a growing market for their Buffalo meat. In 1988, she started to heavily market the health aspect of the Buffalo meat and focused on the local restaurants. In 1992 they started Brown’s Chuck Wagon, a mobile facility that allowed them to cater private events, auctions, go to county fairs, and other public gatherings to sell their Buffalo Burgers and Indian Tacos.   Both businesses were quite successful, but early in 1999 Debbie recognized the need to expand their marketing and their services. She contacted the TVCC... Read More

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