Success Stories

One day, Tommy Ogawa was walking on a street in downtown Portland when a woman asked him, "Are you Tom Ogawa?" He told her that was his father. "Well, I went to school with him, and you walk just like him," she said. "I thought YOU were him!"

The younger Ogawa shares more in common with his family members than just physical attributes. He remembers making french fries with his paternal grandparents, Hank and Yo Ogawa, at their restaurant, The Polar Hut, while he was growing up. He also remembers spending summers working in a  church camp kitchen in McCall, alongside his maternal grandfather, Marvin Trigueiro, a teacher with a culinary background.   When Tom Ogawa retired from teaching, he opened Ogawa's Teriyaki Hut. Tommy Ogawa later bought this, expanded its offerings, moved the location, and changed its name to Ogawa's. His sister, Chris Hicks, owns Zenbento's, a restaurant in Boise.   "I guess it runs in the family," Tommy Ogawa said of his culinary roots... Read More

Surf Cowboy CEO and founder Jeff Shafer moved his family to Camas, Wash., from Santa Monica, California two years ago. He decided to bring his company’s headquarters with him, citing the region’s deep talent pool for design, its proximity to a major port, and its moderate business costs. Surf Cowboy Inc. is best known for its high-end Agave brand jeans for men.

The move required a new building. The $9.7 million business broke ground last month on a 24,000-square-foot headquarters and distribution facility off exit 14 on Interstate-5 in Ridgefield, Wash. The land and construction cost $3 million, funded in part by a U.S. Small Business Administration loan.   Jake Agave Jean Co. was founded in 2002 as an all-men’s denim brand and hit it big by gaining distribution at more than 500 stores, including boutiques, select Nordstrom stores and Barneys New York.   The jeans retail for between $185 and $225 a pair with celebs like Samuel L. Jackson, Adrien Brody and... Read More

Rebecca Pearcy spent years building her specialty handbag business, Queen Bee Creations. She started her business from the corner of her bedroom while she was in high school. Later she studied at a textile and fabric institute in Philadelphia. Pearcy loves color so much that she uses all the colors of nature in her purses. She started her Queen Bee Creations in Olympia, Washington in 1996 and moved it to Portland in 2002.

For 10 years she did just about everything – from designing bags to producing the items to shipping to bookkeeping. Pearcy worked so many hours to turn her business into a national success that she had no personal life. She was close to giving it up. Luckily, a friend suggested that she talk to a counselor at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Portland Community College and she did.

Some of the most important advice Pearcy heard from counselors was to stop "being the business and instead run the business." Many small business... Read More

John Clark started his career working in the fast food industry where he quickly rose to management level. During this time, he became experienced in dealing with the same problems that a small business owner encounters such as, dealing with employees, customer satisfaction and many of the bookkeeping and payroll experiences that are necessary in running a successful business.

  He decided to return to school and study accounting and business management at a trade school in downtown Portland. He received a degree in 2 years and moved from the food service industry into an entry level accounting position at Pope and Talbot in downtown through a temp agency.   From there he went to work for Deloitte & Touche through another temp agency. During his accounting assignments, Clark decided that he really did not want to be in the corporate world for the rest of his life. It was at this crossroads that he had an opportunity to go to work for Rose City Stamp in... Read More

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