Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

…And we’re back!

For reasons that don’t bear further exploration at this juncture, I have had a hard time finishing blog posts for the last 6 months.  I would get myself all riled up about something, start a post, lose my momentum, and that was all she wrote.  But, I am now back to herding all different kinds of cats (even invisible ones).

First some background. A long, long time ago, when CubeSpace was just a baby and before the world’s economy imploded, I initiated a series of conversations with business-people and local governments about addressing the perennial funding issues facing Portland’s microbusinesses.  My take is that as a city that explicitly values local businesses, we should also be willing to put our money where are mouths are.

My thought was that by creating our own revolving loan fund, we could help business-owners who needed short-term operating capital to manage cash-flow issues.  My idea was to create of pool of individual investments ranging from $10,000-$25,000.    I also had a (pipe) dream of securing a public match (via the Oregon Investment Fund or Oregon InC.)  The only questions remaining were where to house the funds and who would manage the loans.

I wasn’t able to answer those last two questions before the economy took its precipitous downturn.  But, I can be patient when I need to be, so I tucked the idea aside and waited.  Good things do happen to those that wait. While my idea was laying dormant, credit unions started taking on business customers.

Fast forward to now.  A few months ago I met a woman named Yolanda Karp who has spent much of her career working in local banks and credit unions.  It didn’t take long before we realized that we shared a vision in common.  She started talking to her colleagues at OnPoint, Unitus and Shorebank and got a very positive response.

Yolanda and I have both been hearing from experienced business-owners that the economy has brought them new challenges (and to be fair, a couple of new resources).     There is an ever-growing population of “Involuntary Entrepreneurs” who have given up looking for work and are trying to hit the ground running with their businesses.   We think it is high time for an environmental scan of Portland’s microbusinesses.

That is where we need your help.  In order to run two focus groups of microentrepreneurs, we need to recruit 30 microbusiness-owners. We are defining microbusiness as businesses with either 5 of fewer employees or annual gross receipts of less than $250,000.  We are hoping for a participant distribution that looks roughly like this:

  • 4 Retail Businesses.
  • 4 Restaurants
  • 2 Food carts
  • 4 Sole Proprietors
  • 6 Professional offices with staff (accountants, lawyers, consultants, etc.)
  • 4 Software Developers
  • 2 Information Systems/Network Administration
  • 2 Financial Services
  • 2 Tourism/Hospitality

We would like a good mix of gender and ethnicity, so please keep that in mind.  We are also hoping to recruit some immigrant business-owners because they represent a significant percentage of Portland’s microbusinesses.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in one of the focus groups, please contact me via email at evaschweber [at] gmail [dot] com, leave a comment on this blog, tweet me @evacatherder or call me at 503-310-4645.

Thanks in advance!

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