Nicole Miller and Allison Ford McKenzie compare the new project they’re involved with to an old-time barn raising.
“Each one brought the tools and skills he had” and contributed to the building effort whether it was design expertise, carpentry work or making lunch for the crew. “Essentially that’s what we’re doing, only we’re raising a business,” said McKenzie.
She’s the new enterprise facilitator for GROW North Santiam (Growing Rural Opportunities Within) and Miller is on its management team, as well as on the Resource Board, a network of local business people who brainstorm ideas for new entrepreneurs.
After a period of training, McKenzie launched into the economic development project Sept. 29. Groundwork has been going on for several months – gathering the management team, raising more than $250,000 seed money and doing community outreach to get the partners together.
Now that the foundation is laid, the metaphorical barn raising has begun – the individuals involved are working together to help prospective entrepreneurs – and others in established businesses – who need guidance in planning and maintaining their businesses.
Miller explained that the Trinity of Management philosophy maintains that a business needs three things: A product or service, customers – therefore marketing to attract them – and financial management – “not only bookkeeping, but projections for the future,” she said.
“We found – and this process has been tested 22 years – that people may be good in one or two areas and are weaker or don’t want to do the other part.”
McKenzie gave as an example an entrepreneur who has a good product to sell and is a capable financial manager, but doesn’t enjoy marketing.
“That’s what the Resource Board is for,” McKenzie said. “We offer free, confidential and caring management-coaching service.”
Through GROW, she will meet with the businessperson and talk about what is needed, then connect him or her with someone who has those skills and who has joined the team with an offer to help.
“The key is having the management system in place so you can do what you love to do and we help you find people to do the thing you don’t like to do or don’t know how to do,” said McKenzie.
“I am not, nor is the Resource Board, going to take over the person’s business,” she said. “We’re kind of like the Verizon TV commercial – we’re there if you need and want help.”
The GROW program has funding for its first three years in the Santiam Canyon. It is to serve the dozen communities from Aumsville to Detroit and beyond. GROW is established in 200 communities throughout the world, with this one becoming the fifth in Oregon.
The local project began with an initial four-year exploration by North Santiam Canyon Economic Development Corporation. Establishing the project has been “quite a commitment of time, money and energy,” said Miller. Finally, this summer McKenzie was hired and networking can begin.
McKenzie has an extensive background in business building and “is passionate about it,” said Miller.
Training sessions were conducted last month for members of the Resource Board network. This advisory board meets each month to talk about challenges facing an entrepreneur and brainstorming solutions.
McKenzie will meet with clients and connect them to the people with the skills they need.
“It’s local people helping local people,” she said. In addition, the program has people from other towns along the canyon corridor networking. “They’re meeting people from other communities – I’m excited about that.”
Quoting Small Business Association data, she said that 80 percent of new businesses fail in their first year due to weaknesses in one of the elements of the Trinity of Management, but GROW projects’ success rate is that 80 percent succeed.
“The reason is the entrepreneurs aren’t doing it by themselves, they have a whole bunch of people behind them, supporting them – if they want the help,” McKenzie said.
“My job is more about listening and helping people get connected. I love helping people get what they want!”
To participate or gain more information, contact Mia Mohr at 503- 897- 2295.