Tradition and Service are Part of the Many Folds in the Fabric of an Oregon Community
In 2007, Oregon native Casey Bonsi started Origami Catering in Ashland, Oregon and moved the business to a tiny 250 square foot kitchen in southeast Portland in 2009. Trained by world-class Chef Shiro Kashiba, also known as the “Godfather of Sushi” in Seattle, Casey hoped to combine his understanding of traditional Japanese cuisine with the Pacific Northwest palette. With its modest kitchen, Origami Catering soon established a loyal following for its line of unique Asian inspired dishes as well as its sushi catering services. Amid the Great Recession, the business soon experienced devastating losses to its revenue as its sales plummeted.
To keep the company running and his employees on the job, Casey forfeited his own salary and lived out of his van. He knew that to save the business, he would need working capital to help weather the economic crisis and position it to move forward. Despite his qualifications as a chef, Casey was unable to secure the needed financing as few traditional lenders would consider a sushi chef with limited business management experience running a fledgling catering operation out of a tiny space and living in his vehicle to be an acceptable credit risk.
With the help of Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), an SBA designated microlender, Casey was able to obtain a loan to not only save his business but also the technical assistance necessary to put it on a sustainable path for future growth. The SBA Microloan program provides funds to specially designated intermediary lenders, such as MESO, which are nonprofit community-based organizations with experience in lending as well as management and technical assistance. These intermediaries administer the Microloan program for eligible borrowers of up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand.
Today, Origami Catering is the only full-service sushi wholesaler based in Portland and has expanded to serve the Olympia, and Seattle markets rolling its sushi for local grocery stores, hospital cafeterias and university cafes. As the company’s revenue grew, its ability to access more traditional sources of capital increased as well. In 2014, with the help of an SBA-guaranteed loan, the company was able to acquire a vacant building to house its every growing business. In 2017, another SBA-backed loan helped the company to further expand into its current location where it boasts two state of the art commercial kitchens, one for Origami Catering and the other to help empower another small business owner to realize their dream. Each year, the company donates more than $100,000 worth of perishables to food pantries and shelters around Portland.