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Success Stories

Nicole Pham, Owner of Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass Restaurants Bring Asian Cuisine to the Olympia/Lacey Area

“I never thought I would still be alive when we were on the ocean in that tiny boat. But I made it.”

1975. The Fall of Saigon forced an estimated 2.5 million people into “reeducation camps,” with almost 160,000 people dying in those camps. Of those who managed to escape the country, approximately 350,000 people died in small boats at sea.

But in 1980, Nicole Pham, now the owner of Lemon Grass Restaurants, with three locations in Olympia and Lacey, was one of the comparably few people who managed to successfully escape Vietnam to Hong Kong; forced to leave her entire family behind.

Pham has lived a life full of struggle and complications.

Escaping Vietnam at the age of 16 was her biggest feat. Coming to America and moving through three different sponsor families across the West coast before finally graduating college and beginning a career in accounting... Read More

intelliPaper Founder Andrew DePaula

Edwall, WA; In standard US Small Business Administration training on “how to start a small business” we talk about the key success factors for any startup.   Andrew DePaula, the unassuming founder of intelliPaper® is covering all of the business basics along the way patiently building a solid business foundation. 

intelliPaper is the first company in the world to embed digital flash memory inside ordinary plain paper.  The disposable drive is lightweight, low-cost and 100% recyclable.  They work with printers and marketing specialists to create innovative 'cross-over' marketing and advertising products that combine paper media with digital content and analytics.  DePaula’s ‘invention’ is making its way down the small business runway picking up speed as it goes.  Destined for a solid take off and beautiful flight it is now time for the business to soar into a profitable future. 

DePaula spent his formative years traveling with his missionary parents and benefitted from... Read More

Following nearly 40 years of family success serving vegan food in the Puget Sound area, Elizabeth “Miss Quickie” Scott wants to revitalize a corner of the world at 16th and G Streets in Tacoma where the first of several family businesses began.

In 1974, a collective of brothers who owned the store walked away from the business, leaving Elizabeth and her husband James Howell to step in to take responsibility for the SBA loan and store operations.  

“We wrote them [the SBA] and told them our situation, and they allowed us the time period to pull ourselves out of the default and put us back on a regular payment schedule,” Elizabeth said. “We got into the grocery store business not knowing anything! But we owed people and had to pay them back, so we just buckled down. Little by little we started putting supplies back in the store until we dug ourselves out of that one. Then the store did relatively well for years.”

Capitalizing on that success, the couple – who... Read More

Duc Tran

SEATTLE - When you start a grocery store business in a 700 square foot location, most people wouldn’t expect it to become a chain store with three locations and a wholesale distribution center working with three countries halfway around the world… But Duc Tran has worked to achieve just that. 

Tran, owner of Viet-Wah, a grocery store chain specializing in Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese foods, said he always saw owning his own business as his only option.

“I grew up in a business family. It’s always been in the family blood to own your own business,” Tran said. “I always hoped my children would take over the business one day; we’ll see what happens.”

Tran now owns three stores in the greater Seattle area and an import/export wholesale distribution location within the SoDo district, which does importing and exporting from three different countries within Southern Asia.

Leeching, daughter of Tran and manager within the company started formally working for her... Read More