Three Success Stories from Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon

Royalty Spirits

Chaunci sits at a desk, her hands folded. A laptop and a bottle of Miru Vodka sit on the table in front of her.

Chaunci King founded Royalty Spirits in 2013, distilling and selling Miru Vodka: high-quality pear-flavored vodka made locally in the Pacific Northwest. The name Miru is appropriate, because Miru is a dominating Sea Goddess, and Chaunci plans for her company "to dominate the world of flavored vodkas." She's determined to succeed in a white, male-dominated industry.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon provided Chaunci with business development services, MarketLink research, an Individual Development Account and financing. Thanks to MESO's support, Chaunci has been able to launch two new products: non-flavored vodka and whiskey.

Previously, Chaunci was unable to access capital to grow her business. She lacked strong cash flow, collateral and time spent in business. Chaunci was about to sign up with an online lender whose loans had predatory rates, because she had pending orders and needed to fill them. Fortunately, MESO provided Chaunci with a $30,000 loan just in time. 

"You know I'm a bartender by trade; I noticed most flavored vodkas that are catered towards women are super sweet and missing the vodka bang! So I decided I wanted to create a vodka that was for us by us, less sugar, delicious pear flavor and natural vodka essence! Whiskey was an automatic second product with a trending rise as a drink of choice with millennials and my preferred sipper." - Chaunci King

 

Big Body Towing

Ron Brown leaps into the air in front of his tow truck.

Ron Brown came to Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon in 2007 for help with his first business, Big Body Towing. His excitement was contagious. MESO matched his enthusiasm with their support, setting achievable goals and mapping out strategic plans to help with his vision of growth. Over the years, Ron has gone through numerous challenges, but he has faced them head ­on with a positive attitude. Ron’s customer service is top notch, and his humor gets him through the daily challenges of owning a business.

Last year, Les Schwab offered Ron the opportunity to buy the property he was renting. Ron had difficulty raising the needed capital and returned to MESO for advice. As 2015 drew to a close, MESO asked their longtime supporter, United Fund Advisors, if they could place loan capital they'd allocated to MESO to help Ron purchase the commercial property. With United Fund Advisor's consent, MESO provided the $70,000 necessary to purchase the property, currently valued at $225,000.

Several individuals and companies came together to help create long­-term financial security for Ron and his family. Because Les Schwab was willing to share their excess property, Ron will have a more sustainable livelihood.

 

Modern Human Instruments

Jessica Chan gives a thumbs-up.

Jessica Chan is an industrial designer and the founder of Modern Human Instruments LLC. She has a diverse background, from teaching martial arts and personal training to customer service, construction, freelance art and design. Jessica's parents, immigrants from China, hoped their daughter would become a doctor. However, Jessica's passion lay with entrepreneurship and design. With all her zeal and stubbornness, she began making her mark in the industry.

Jessica's first product, an innovative writing instrument called the WinkPen, is built to write with wine, coffee or tea, and it is already sold out. Jessica's vision with WinkPen was to create a sustainable alternative to the everyday writing utensil. She wanted to provide "a high­-end innovative writing instrument for artists and collectors alike."

"As with any startup company, the journey can be crazy and very unexpected. I quickly learned that the support system and people you choose to surround yourself with was key to making it and becoming successful. There's always an answer if you look hard enough." - Jessica Chan

Jessica secured seed funding through Portland Development Commission's Startup PDX Challenge. She also participated in the Streetwise MBA program through PDC and MESO; and she accessed an IDA, MarketLink market research, credit building and financing.

"MESO has been an absolutely wonderful experience. The community within the program is beyond words, and the individualized support and resources— invaluable. MESO not only is a place of knowledge and resources, but also hope and encouragement." - Jessica Chan

 

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Oregon Renters Lead the Way to Safe, Stable and Healthy Homes

A crowd, led by children holding a Community Alliance of Tenants banner, marches in support of tenant protections. Many people hold signs with messages promoting stable housing.

Change should always be led by the people who will be most impacted by it. Solutions work better for everyone when they are created by the communities that need them the most. It’s the curb-cut effect.

For example, everyone in our region — Oregon and Southwest Washington — has been affected by the affordable housing crisis. Even homeowners feel the impact when neighbors, coworkers and employees, their children’s classmates, teachers, caregivers and countless other community members suffer the stress of housing instability. Housing instability impacts all of us. But who is most impacted? Who should lead the way in confronting this problem?

According to Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), low-income tenants — mainly, people of color, families with children, low-wage workers, people with disabilities and seniors. Which is why CAT is partnering with a number of organizations to advance tenant protections this legislative session.

A woman holds a drooling toddler with curly black hair.

Across our region, increased demand for housing has led to rent hikes and no-cause evictions. Too many families find themselves houseless, priced out of their cities and towns, sleeping on friends’ couches, in cars and shelters, even on the street. Without a safe place to call home, they struggle to keep their jobs, feed their kids and get them to school.

Families who haven’t been evicted are too scared to ask their landlords for necessary repairs and improvements; they’re afraid of retaliation. Meanwhile, their children suffer from “slum housing disease” due to unhealthy living conditions.

Their fear is warranted. Families with small children, especially from immigrant and refugee communities face higher barriers to quality housing, and they’re more vulnerable to discrimination, retaliation and involuntary displacement.

A woman sits with three young children at a Stable Homes for Oregon Families listening session.

CAT members, as well as their majority-tenant board of directors, identified no-cause evictions and lifting the ban on rent-stabilization as their top priorities. So CAT responded by convening the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition, a group of over 75 organizations advocating for the 40% of Oregonians who rent their homes. CAT also initiated the Tenant Leadership Council, composed of parents of color to lead the #JustCauseBecause campaign this legislative session.

The Tenant Leadership Council spent time helping shape House Bill 2004, vetting it against their experiences, and mobilizing their fellow tenants to participate in various actions, including phone banking, visiting their legislators, hosting rallies and supporting civic engagement opportunities for renters. They also coordinated lobby days at the Oregon State Capitol and developed and presented testimony in support of the bill. On February 4, they packed a listening session with 250 people, and 20 legislators and their staff attended to hear residents from all over Oregon share their stories. On April 30, they plan to pack another listening session in Eugene. 

Oregon tenants and legislators fill several round tables at a listening session for Stable Homes for Oregon Families.

Thanks to the leadership of low-income Oregon tenants, we trust #JustCauseBecause and #RentStabilization are the best choices for our state. We may not end the affordable housing crisis with these two bills, but we will reduce stress and fear, mitigate displacement and ensure renters feel supported enough to demand healthy living conditions. And everyone in our region will benefit because of it.

Community Alliance of Tenants is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

A New Narrative for Racial Equity in Oregon

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Racial Equity Agenda.

A child stands in a schoolyard, writing in a notebook.

Words are powerful. If you know how to be persuasive with language, you can get a lot done. However, your words can also work against you. If you don’t do the necessary preparation, your message could communicate something you never intended.

Racial Equity Agenda, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative, is busy doing that necessary preparation, creating an effective racial equity narrative for Oregon that will help community organizations begin important conversations about race with voters and policymakers, and move Oregon closer to racial equity.

Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

On February 7th, 2017, Amanda Manjarrez, Coalition of Communities of Color’s Advocacy Director, stood at the front of a small, windowless conference room in the Salem Convention Center and introduced the idea of a cohesive racial equity narrative to community members and organizers from across the state. She presented examples of how effective narratives and values-based language can be at triggering emotions. For instance, words like “illegal,” “violent criminal” and “radical” have been selected purposefully by politicians to invoke fear about specific races and religions. These words, part of carefully constructed narratives about undocumented immigrants, black men and Muslims, have been used, successfully, to advance policies and candidates. If community organizations in Oregon want to push back against these narratives and have positive conversations about race, we need to construct our own narrative that will spark other emotions that lead to more inclusive communities and shared prosperity.

Unfortunately, people aren’t as logical as they like to think they are. In reality, humans make quick, emotional judgments, then use reasoning to justify those judgments. People also hold contradictory, competing ideas in their heads at the same time. It falls to communicators to choose the right story that will produce the desired emotions and lead an audience to take a specific action, whether that’s voting a certain way, donating to cause or something else.

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
— Frank Luntz

Amanda invited EUVALCREE Executive Director Gustavo Morales and Southern Oregon Education Service District’s Migrant Education Program Parent Involvement Specialist Monserrat Alegria to share their experiences having conversations about race. Both Gustavo and Monse live in rural Oregon communities (Ontario and Medford, respectively). They’ve been part of meetings where participants will get up and leave if “race” or “equity” are mentioned. They’ve seen their community members homes vandalized, families afraid to go home. According to Gustavo and Monse, the best way to start a conversation about racial equity where they live isn’t by talking about racial equity; it’s by opening with shared values like opportunity, children and families, and community building. These are narratives that almost everyone can connect with.

Racial Equity Agenda’s goal is to find a narrative that will work for all Oregonians, a way to talk about racial equity that won’t cause people to shut down or leave the room, and will result in decision-making tables including more people of color. In order to accomplish this goal, Coalition of Communities of Color is partnering with several culturally-specific and mainstream organizations, including Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network, Unite Oregon, Urban League of Portland, KairosPDX, Causa Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Hacienda CDC, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and Self Enhancement, Inc. By coordinating to use a unifying narrative for their work, their impact will be great.