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CORE Gives Entrepreneurship a Boost in Rural Oregon

Publication: W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Published: 04/22/2007

Mike Dewbré wanted to buy a Roto-Rooter franchise in Douglas County, Oregon and needed a loan, but also needed help writing a business plan. Lindy Simmons and Judy Lynch wanted to open a gift shop in Christmas Valley, Oregon, but needed business training. Katie McNeil is an accomplished baker, but realized that success for her home baking business would require business training and timely advice.

All three of these entrepreneurs, along with many others in Oregon, are receiving help through the Rural Development Initiative’s project Connecting Oregon for Rural Entrepreneurship (CORE). Working with a seamless network of more than 20 Oregon business organization partners, CORE has been able to bring assistance to rural entrepreneurs. Rural Development Initiative’s CORE project is one of six collaboratives awarded three-year, W.K. Kellogg Foundation 75th Anniversary Entrepreneurship Development Systems (EDS) grants in 2005 to stimulate entrepreneurship across rural America. Each of the six were awarded $2 million.

When Mike Dewbré, needed help writing a business plan to buy the Rotor-Rooter franchise, his bank suggested he visit Umpqua Community Development Corporation (UCDC), one of CORE’s partner business organizations. UCDC’s assistance helped him write a good business plan and secure his loan to buy the Roto-Rooter franchise.

Dewbré started with one van and one machine. In the first year, he increased the business seven-fold. That growth allowed him to begin adding essential tools: another van, four power snakes, a pumper truck, one jetter and a color camera system.

He’s thankful for UCDC’s planning assistance. “We need more public awareness of the assistance programs,” says Dewbré.

Before Lindy Simmons and Judy Lynch opened Forever Christmas Gifts and More in May 2006, they knew they needed help, but also knew they shared more than being part of the Central Oregon Hay Growers Association. Lynch had experience selling her own holiday and home decor products. Simmons had owned a fabric business catering to quilters in the area.

They wanted to have a gift shop that was tasteful and affordable as well as accessible to the whole community.

Lake County Development Corporation was instrumental in helping Lynch and Simmons look at the small community marketplace and see the business opportunities that existed. This training also helped them develop the confidence to establish a new business in a rural climate.

During several training sessions they learned additional business basics, such as how to make a company viable, what structure keeps it sustained, and how to help it grow. “There was and is so much to learn,” says Lynch. For example, one of their challenges was finding gift items that catered to their entire customer base. “Through the training we were able to discern between age, gender and income differences, which enabled us to solve the difficulty,” says Lynch.

Katie McNeil began a baking business about 15 years ago, from her home in Waldport, Oregon, while working as the chef at Le Serre restaurant in Yachats, Oregon. What began as a part-time passion became full time in 1994.

Her business, Pacific Sourdough, began at the Newport Farmers’ Market. Still active as a vendor there, she says half her sales each year come from there and the other half from selling wholesale to grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Success as a baker has to start in the kitchen, but success as a business entrepreneur comes from another place. Over the years, McNeil has sought out the advice and class offerings at the Small Business Development Center at Oregon Coast Community College. Her learning turned one sort of dough into another, called profit. And, her willingness to share her knowledge with other entrepreneurs, at the farmers’ market and as an advisor to CORE, won McNeil the “Home-based Business of the Year” from the Small Business Association for Oregon in 2005.

“It’s obvious that we can’t depend on tourism entirely,” McNeil says. Her recent efforts connected a farmers’ market vendor with the Food Innovation Center, in Portland, Oregon, that helped take the vendor’s salad dressing idea to market. CORE also helps local non-profit organizations have more economic impact. McNeil says Samaritan House is a good example of “social entrepreneurship” at work. The organization, primarily in service for homeless people, has branched into entrepreneurial activities such as recycling, refurbishing, retail sales, and job training.

For more information about the Rural Development Initiative and CORE visit www.rdiinc.org.

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