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Established Community Backer ***
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Built Oregon has shone the spotlight on many of Oregon’s small consumer-product businesses (think: chocolate, kombucha, beer, coffee, hot sauce, jewelry and more) by offering an accelerator program and an annual festival. Another key promotional event is Little Boxes, a three-day, post-Thanksgiving shopping scavenger hunt where shoppers collect codes by visiting and purchasing from participating (small, of course) retailers. Then they enter the codes in the Little Boxes app for a chance to win prizes.

 

We spoke with Mitch Daugherty about why shopping local really matters and how he and Terry take an entrepreneurial approach to running their nonprofit: They learn what their target market wants and needs and then provide it.

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What’s not to love about a national observance dedicated to making someone else feel good? It doesn’t take much to show your appreciation for another person, whether it’s a friend, a family member, a fellow entrepreneur or even a stranger.

 

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Here’s a question you’ll get asked all the time as an entrepreneur: Why did you decide to start your own business? (Thankfully, the other part of the question – what made you crazy enough to think you could start your own business? – is usually just implied!) We’ll help you home in on your answer by sharing some of the top reasons folks in this awesome community have chosen to do their own business thing. Did we omit what motivates you to work for yourself? In the comments below, tell us what inspires you to take the entrepreneurial leap!

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Meta Mesdag is a mom of three in Juneau, Alaska. Wanting to be available to her kids, Meta has opened two successful small businesses out of her home. Although both ventures have kept super busy, Meta decided earlier this year to start a family “mariculture” business -- an ocean farm where she, her husband and kids will grow (and then sell) oysters, clams, mussels and kelp.

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Sandra Zhao was running a bakery in Kenya when she met her future business partner Ashleigh Miller, a Persian rug dealer in New York City, at a wedding in Nairobi. Sandra was wearing a stunning dress she’d made from colorful handmade fabric. Her sartorial decision was fortuitous, to say the least: The dress became the inspiration behind Sandra and Ashleigh’s joint business venture, Zuri. Inspired by the bold and beautiful textile prints in western Africa, they set out to sell a single style of dress in an array of ever-changing patterns. The dresses are made at a sustainable, carbon-neutral factory in Kenya that supports wildlife conservation and provides jobs to the community. The dresses are exported to and sold in the U.S.

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good_bethanytran.jpg Bethany and Otto in his workshop in GuatemalaAfter returning home from a trip to Guatemala where she witnessed extreme poverty, Bethany Tran couldn’t get the great people she’d met out of her mind. So she dreamed up a business model that created jobs for skilled Guatemalan workers and textile weavers manufacturing super cute shoes for women.

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When helping others is the inspiration for starting a business, the motivation to succeed is huge. Not only are these entrepreneurs in business for themselves, they're also In It for Good. In this series we'll meet social entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders and global thinkers who are working to make the world a better place. 

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As we join the celebration of July’s National Independent Retailers Month, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with Meaghan Brophy, the editor of Independent Retailer (IR) magazine. Meaghan keeps indie retailers in the know about current market and demographic trends. She understands what matters to them because she’s often out and about on Main Street, U.S.A. talking to small store owners about their struggles and their wins.

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beachread.jpg Book, check. Sunglasses, check. Whole uncut pineapple, what?!Here’s a roundup of all the great people we met and things we learned during June’s “outdoorsy” month. Check it out and then tell us: what are you doing outside this summer?

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Kelly Watters is a 4th-generation entrepreneur, and her husband, Will, comes from three generations of business self-starters. So when they decided to start a sustainable technical-apparel business together, Kelly and Will knew they’d be working long hours, juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, solving unexpected problems and trying to stay positive along the way. Turns out, everything they anticipated about launching, running and growing Western Rise has come true. Also true? Kelly and Will love building an outdoor-retailing business together. As Kelly explains, “I’m the CEO, CFO and COO. Will is the creative director, and he manages all the product and works directly with the marketing team. We get more efficient at what we do every year – so we just keep taking on more projects! We love building something we believe is amazing.”

 

 

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Ben Gucciardi was earning his M.A. in global educational leadership, working in youth development for underserved families and playing a lot of soccer when he had an idea. The California native realized soccer could be a tool to help struggling kids learn to better communicate, connect and collaborate with their peers, parents and teachers. Could he build a program around his favorite sport (at one point, Ben played soccer semi-pro) to help disadvantaged youth?

 

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We’re exploring shifts and trends in the culinary-industry that entrepreneurs like you can apply to your own small business.  

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megan_headshot.jpg Photo by Bill DayCaptain Megan Corazza grew up commercial fishing with her parents out of their home port of Homer, Alaska. From a young age she learned firsthand about the high stakes and unpredictability of the fishing business, and she swore she’d never go down that path herself. In fact, she was on track to be a doctor when the fishing business beckoned her, and she decided to follow in her family’s footsteps.

 

Today, Megan has owned her own commercial fishing operation for nearly 20 years. Each summer in the Land of the Midnight Sun Megan, along with her crew and her sons, catch millions of salmon to sell to canneries. The days are long and sleep is short, but this seasonal business allows Megan to pursue her other passions -- motherhood, writing and skiing -- during other eight months of the year.

 

We caught up with Megan just before she headed out for a summer at sea to learn how she balances fish, family and finances from one unpredictable season to the next.

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Seattle-based Kimberly Leeper and Aaron Armstrong were each doing their own natural-landscaping thing when they met and decided to merge their solo endeavors into a partnership. Today, about a year and a half into planting the seed of Oasis Edible Naturescapes, they are busy making gardens beautiful while learning on the go about what it takes to run and grow a company.

We spoke with Kimberly about why eating your garden is good for the environment and how seasonal work like theirs requires a special balancing act.

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Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22. Are you doing anything to celebrate? Here in the QB Community we've been thinking about eco-business quite a bit lately!

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Maggie Simpkins grew up making jewelry as a hobby, but she never imagined doing it to earn a living. A decade ago, however, while Maggi was doing quality control for an online boutique, she vented her creative frustrations by one day whipping up a collection of feather earrings. Her boss loved them. Within a week, Maggi was designing full-time for the private label. Over the next few years, other jewelry-related jobs followed. Maggi was determined to learn everything she could about merchandising, designing, production, materials, diamonds and more.

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greenbiz_andrew.png Going green in business may be trendy, but it’s also smart. Research shows that consumers will pay more for eco-branded products and creative entrepreneurs are taking note. In fact, quite a few of our QB Community members have businesses that are friendly to the environment! Here are seven self-employed folks who prove that sustainability is both good for the planet, as well as their bottom lines.

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Crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter can help launch new products with the help of a few (or a few thousand) investors. Some enterprising entrepreneurs, like the ones featured below, rely on crowdsourced money to bring to market eco-friendly products designed to generate profits and help make the world a better place.

 

All of the following campaigns were successfully funded between 2012 and 2017. We checked in on them to see where they are today. Read on -- and get ready to be amazed!

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Chuck Homan started his career in construction back in the mid-1970’s working as a laborer for a homebuilder who rarely showed up to the jobsite. Chuck ended up running those jobs, so his father, a banker, suggested he might as well go out on his own. The two Homans, dad and son, started their business in 1978 with the financial backing of Chuck Senior and the construction skills of Chuck Junior, then only 19 years old.

Today, 40 years later, Chuck is still remodeling and building homes in the Last Frontier -- a place where materials can be hard to come by and energy bills can go sky-high in the winter. We spoke with Chuck, a Certified Green home builder, about why building with sustainability is good for the planet and makes great financial sense, too.

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Seattle-based entrepreneur Erin Williamson believes in supporting women workers, and she absolutely puts her money where her mouth is. As the owner of Pier Coffee, a cold-brew coffee company, she sources her beans from woman-owned or operated farms. And as the co-founder of a nonprofit called Engender International, Erin works to protect and promote women at every stage of the supply chain.

We spoke with Erin about both her businesses, operating a mission-driven company and why economic stability is so very important for single moms and women in developing countries.

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