||Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Microenterprise leaders center stage
By Paul Boerger
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2007 3:51 PM CDT
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Amid a stellar cast of microenterprise entrepreneurs, the Jefferson Economic Development Institute handed out its top Innovation Awards during Friday night's annual ceremony at Sons of Italy Hall in Weed.
The evening's winners were Jan Johnson and Lacey Williams of Silver Spoon Catering Company and Culinary Arts, Microenterprise of the Year; Randy and Paula Cardoza of Mt. Shasta Tire Company, Employer of the Year; Carol Fontius of Creative Tent International, Social Enterprise of the Year; and Penn Martin of The Shasta Wildflower Project, Stewardship Business of the Year.
All the winners had essentially the same message: they couldn't have started their businesses without JEDI, a non-profit organization who says its mission is “to empower communities and people to create prosperity.”
“They were always there when I needed them,” Martin said. Jan Johnson wiped away a tear of gratitude and surprise as she took her award.
“It's our 10th anniversary,” said JEDI Executive Director Nancy Swift to applause from the packed hall. “That's big deal. We are sowing the seeds of prosperity.”
All of this year's 28 business nominees were honored with a trip to the stage before the winners were announced.
Ceremony keynote speaker Gary Erickson knows a thing or two about prosperity. He said he founded Clif Bar with $1,000 in his mother's kitchen in 1992 using her chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base. The company now does over $150 million of business per year.
Erickson said he was living in a garage in 1990 when the “epiphany” to make a better performance food bar came to him on a Bay Area bike ride.
“I was about to eat my sixth PowerBar of the day,” Erickson said. “I thought to myself, I can make a better power bar than this.”
Working with his mother, they created the first Clif Bar that Erickson said was in over 700 hundred bike shops in the first three months.
Erickson one of the keys to the company's success was “grassroots marketing” where the bar would be offered to climbers, bikers and others in their sport environment.
“I wanted to meet the people who buy the product face to face,” Erickson said. “I wanted to catch people at their point of passion.”
Erickson described how the company grew to the point where Quaker Oats offered $120 million for Clif Bar.
“The people were waiting for us to come over and sign. I took a walk around the block and decided I couldn't do it,” Erickson said. “I walked away from the big bucks. I was told you're never going to make it. You can go against conventional wisdom.”
Erickson noted that it cost tens of millions of dollars to buy out his partner, a debt the company has only recently cleared.
He said Clif Bar has five bottom lines, “sustaining our business, sustaining our brands, sustaining our people, sustaining our community, and sustaining the planet.”
“It's not just about profit,” Erickson said. “Our employees mean everything to us.”
Among the innovative business practices Clif Bar employs are involvement in community projects, employee profit sharing, sustainability and green house gas reduction programs, 75 percent organic ingredients and holding events that promote these values.
Clif Bar products and company policies have received numerous awards including nutrition acknowledgments and the Green Power Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Dreams do come true,” Erickson said in closing.
The event is the only community fundraiser for JEDI and the organization reported they raised over $10,000 that will be use for direct services to clients.
||Friday, February 16, 2007
JEDI looks back on 10 years, announces new programs
By Paul Boerger
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 4:06 PM CST
Jefferson Economic Development Institute staff reviewed JEDI's 10 years of accomplishments and introduced several new programs during the Feb. 8 Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce meeting at Lalo's Restaurant.
JEDI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “empower communities and people to create prosperity.” JEDI offers services for creation, growth and sustainability for small businesses.
The new programs include a relationship with the Cascade Small Business Development Center that allows the public, regardless of income, to access JEDI classes; and a partnership with the eBay Techquity Program that will provide cash awards to low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs to purchase needed technology.
JEDI founder and executive director Nancy Swift said the organization was formed 10 years ago to “help the region get through a transition.”
“We wanted absolutely anyone to be able to fulfill their dream of having a business,” Swift said.
She said one of JEDI's core values is to “respect and be excited about every person's dream.”
Managing director Bonnie Kubowitz said JEDI started with one person and a board of directors and has now grown to six full time employees and four contractors.
“We have national recognition and a state-of-the art training facility,” Kubowitz said. “We have assisted 2,800 people, helped start 400 business that created 334 jobs.”
The new relationship with Cascade SBDC will offer JEDI classes at College of the Siskiyous' Weed and Yreka campuses and will open JEDI's technical center to the general public. Classes include Pot of Gold: JEDI Orientation, It's Your Business, Making Money Work for You and Get You Web Presence Going.
Cascade SBDC representative Stephanie Hoffman said the main center in Redding offers numerous classes and services for small business.
“We help people identify their passion and what they value,” Hoffman said. “We assist with market research to find the real potential.”
The Ebay Techquity Program, technology plus equity, aims to bolster local business with cash awards from $500 to $1,600 to purchase essential technology.
“This is an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to improve their technology and be competitive with their products and services. Today's new enterprise will provide tomorrow's jobs in our rural region.” Swift said. “We hope to present at least 30 awards this year.”
The Techquity Program also provides a $30,000 grant to JEDI to help them improve their existing technology and increase their capacity to offer technology training to entrepreneurs.
The Techquity Program is managed by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.
“JEDI is one of five new partners selected for this unique program that helps bridge the digital divide for entrepreneurs,” said AEO's CEO Amy McKenna Luz. “They will join four partners from the first year that are located all across the United States.”
For more information, call JEDI, 926-6670 or visit the website at www.e-jedi.org.