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Chair's Blog

Alliance scholarship program helps boost small businesses December 2014
By Debbie Kitchin

Earlier this month, I had the honor of celebrating 11 small business owners’ graduation from our Small Business Management Scholarship Program, one of my favorite programs at the Alliance. I was joined by fellow board members Andrew Frazier of Frazier Hunnicutt Financial and Craig Christenson of Bank of America who helped me recognize the hard work and growth of the small business owners who were part of the fourth annual scholarship program.  As a result of this program, the recipients were able to add 19 full-time jobs, 16 part-time jobs and increased their sales by more than $900,000.

The Alliance has been investing in small businesses through Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Small Business Management Program since 2010, thanks to a generous partnership with Bank of America. It was the first organization to explore a scholarship-based model with the SBDC, and since then other agencies and organizations have been inspired to sponsor in a similar fashion. The Alliance’s investment of $15,000 has helped the SBDC raise $150,000 in sponsorship dollars using the Alliance’s model.

The 10-month Small Business Management Scholarship Program is designed to put established entrepreneurs on the right track toward business success, including the ability to grow private-sector jobs. The small businesses in this year’s cohort represent a variety of industries, but all have one thing in common: they are traded-sector businesses, which means that they sell – or plan to begin selling – products or services outside of the Portland region. Traded-sector businesses are a critical piece to regional job growth; the Alliance’s Value of Jobs report on Portland-metros traded sector found that for every one traded-sector job, 2.5 local-sector jobs are created.
At the graduation, I spoke to one of the graduates, Victoria Lara, who owns Lara Media Services, a Hispanic marketing agency. When I asked what she gained from the program, she explained to me how as a small business owner it’s easy to miss opportunities because we are so busy with the day-to-day management. As a result of the support she received, she was able to learn about structure and get access to resources to help her better manage her business. As a small business owner myself, I can really relate to this.

As another class graduates, we welcome a new class of twelve small business owners who will start their journey in February 2015. For a list of the outgoing and incoming class, click here. The Alliance’s programs wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for its members, so thank you for contributing to our success.

I wish you all a happy holiday season and prosperous New Year!
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