Supporting Small Business Owners in St. Johns

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Carmen Madrid is a Business Development Specialist with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). For the past 2 years, Carmen has represented MESO serving the St. Johns community at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity every Thursday. She offers free business coaching and support to entrepreneurs of color and underrepresented populations in St Johns. The mission of MESO is “to improve the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education and entrepreneurship for the benefit of the greater community”.

As a Business Development Specialist with MESO, Carmen loves that she gets to work with marginalized communities to help them reach their dreams of business ownership. She sees herself as a bridge to help people who may have never dreamed that it was even possible to be a business owner.

“I love empowering people! I love watching people blossom and build confidence in their business ideas. Seeing a person that was able to overcome a barrier or a perceived barrier to their business is so rewarding for me.”

What has the impact of the MESO partnership been?

Carmen has worked with over 50 small business owners in St. Johns, since the partnership with SJCO began in 2015. They have received support through IDA matching accounts, technical assistance, business and social media support, and risk management support. People sometimes try to take advantage of underrepresented business owners and a lot of what Carmen has been able to do has been to educate and support these owners as they learn their rights and build confidence in advocating for their business needs. She has seen that more communities of color have become present in the business district of St. Johns, especially along the Fessenden corridor. She has worked with Susie’s Carniceria, Dub’s St. Johns, Gabagool, Taste of Casablanca, Happiness Family Farms, Kweki African Fashions and many other small businesses in the neighborhood.

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She has also seen an increase in support and integration into the larger St. Johns community because of the SJCO partnership. One way this has occurred is by providing vendors with access to the St. Johns Farmers Market in 2017. MESO funded two booth spaces for the first 3 weeks of the market, to be able to support MESO businesses that would not have otherwise been able to afford or feel empowered to access the Farmers Market as vendors. This new exposure led multiple vendors to have season long involvement in the market including Rosata from Happiness Family Farms and Patience from Kweki African Fashions. Similarly, MESO funded two booths at the St. Johns Bizarre, to provide new businesses the chance to vend their wares to the public and get exposure in the larger St. Johns community. This level of community integration and exposure through the SJCO/MESO partnership and the welcoming St. Johns community has been crucial for the success of many new local business owners.

What’s next for MESO in St. Johns?

Carmen explains that it is important to keep the partnership with SJCO going strong to see even more community members of color accessing MESO support in the neighborhood. She would love to see more representation at the Farmers Market and the St. Johns Bizarre festival, to keep integrating these business owners into the neighborhood. She would also love to see the existing businesses scale up to the next level, like a food cart becoming a brick and mortar store.

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Are you interested in learning more about MESO business coaching support in St. Johns? Carmen holds office hours every Thursday at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. Set up an appointment by e-mailing her at cmadrid@mesopdx.org.

Help us #amplifywhatspossible in 2018 by donating to support the St. Johns Center for Opportunity here. Double your impact with a matching grant from Porch Light Realty, if you donate by December 22nd! 

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