Nine local business owners of color will celebrate their completion of the rigorous, growth-planning Increase Project course on Thursday, February 28, 2019 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Portland State University’s Smith Union Room 296.
Funded by Prosper Portland and conducted in partnership with the Business Outreach Program (BOP), the Increase Project is a culturally responsive, cohort-based small business expansion program now in its third year.
The nine business owners participated in bi-weekly gatherings with guest experts and in peer-to-peer learning sessions. They completed the program by developing individual strategic action plans for their respective companies.
Since its launch in 2016, the Increase Project has involved three cohorts and nearly 30 graduates, 89 percent of whom are people of color. The program is part of Prosper Portland’s Inclusive Business Resource Network, and participating businesses have access to Network services.
Kimberly Branam, Prosper Portland Executive Director, said, “We are very proud of the Increase Project and the growth it facilitates among small business owners of color, who gain opportunities for growth, market access and financing along with a network of mentors.”
Current BOP instructor Liz Feldman said, “Watching the cohort members become friends, allies, and business mentors to each other, all while gaining skills to better strategize for their businesses and lives has been an amazing process. I have high hopes for these business owners, their families, businesses, and dreams.”
According to Feldman, BOP plans to offer the program twice a year going forward.
The representation of both native Spanish and English speakers in this year’s cohort created an opportunity for intercultural learning and growth. Participating companies were a mixture of product and service businesses including hair care, landscaping, cleaning, remodeling, event planning, food and beverage products, food carts and restaurants.
Aldo Medina, advising program manager for the Portland Mercado and a collaborative partner in this year’s cohort, said, “The Increase Project has been an incredible learning opportunity for the entrepreneurs I serve, as well as a powerful professional development tool for myself. The importance of continued education and continued development is what will separate these businesses and take them to the next level. It is challenging but well worth it!”
The graduating businesses are:
Ehsan’s Interior Remodeling LLC
EJP Events LLC
Evergreen Cleaning Services LLC
Mathilde’s Kitchen LLC
PAZ Hair Lounge
Precision Landscape Services
Santo Domingo Taqueria, LLC
Tierra del Sol Cuisine
Quotes from past graduates:
Tyrone Foster, Precision Landscape Services, 2019 graduate:
“The Increase Program is an incredible opportunity for a small business owner. It is truly focused on outreach to the traditionally underserved in the small business community. The program imparts multiple tools to participants which increase the probability of business success. In addition, the program creates an invaluable network of business owners that allows ongoing sharing of best practices. The Increase Program has contributed significantly to the growth of our company and what I’ve learned will enable an even brighter future.”
Victoria Lara, Lara Media Services, 2016 graduate, native Spanish speaker:
“One of the most important tools this program gave me, besides helping me to finish my strategic plan, was in the mentality and the baseline of continuous improvement. It helped me to look at my business in a different way. I learned to analyze the position of my business in the present. It gave me the vision of clear steps for the future. I can see my dreams were not crazy; now I can see the road to them because it gave me the tools to continue planning, growing and thriving.
“It has helped me to provide better opportunities for my employees, improve the quality of my services and to offer more resources and support for my community. This program is not magic; it requires work. It took me outside of my comfort zone, making me accountable. My business was able to grow financially, and it gave me a set of tools that will help me regardless what the future brings.
“This program has innovated and diversified my services, multiplying the opportunities and providing a sustainable process for continuing to create value. it provided me with access to the right instruments I needed for so long.”