By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
HERMISTON When Scott and Becky Wadekamper decided to open up their own business, they knew they had to read and study to be the best.
That's where the Small Business Development Center at Blue Mountain Community College came in. Fifteen years later, O So Kleen is still going strong.
"We knew we wanted to be the best," Scott Wadekamper said. "We had this huge vision we were going to take over the Northwest."
O So Kleen hasn't quite taken over the whole Northwest, but they do have a large number of repeat customers who, when asked to comment on a carpet cleaner's performance, always mention how polite and well-mannered the person was and what a great job he or she did.
According to Carol Frink of the Small Business Development Center at Blue Mountain Community College in Hermiston, people have ideas about a business but aren't sure where to go from there.
Frink's job as a business counselor is to help budding entrepreneurs take those first steps to owning their own business. When a new client comes into her office, the first plan of attack is to figure out if being self-employed.
"Are they ready, do they have the money set aside for personal expenses," Frink said. "A new business is like a baby it can't support you or I."
Knowing what you are getting into is important, says Frink, and the three women who own Keep It Simple Suppers (KISS) in Umatilla couldn't agree more.
Maureen Roxbury, Diane Cheek and Cindy Roxbury had an idea for a business that would help busy women like themselves figure out the age-old question "Mom, what's for dinner?" by providing a place to make easy meals to freeze or prepare for the next week.
"The SBA helped with soul-searching," Roxbury said. "The business plan really helped."
Frink helped the trio flesh out their ideas for their business plan and make the language formal enough to pass muster when it came time to present their plan to a banker.
Sacrifice comes into play, as well, when starting a new business.
The Wadekampers lived in a travel trailer for a while while they put everything they had into their business. It was four years before they were able to take money they had earned and not have to put it in the business.
The KISS team thought a lot about how the business might impact their families. Since all three had jobs outside the home, during the first two years or so of business, they decided to continue working to help support the families.
"We made the choice to continue working our full-time jobs," said Roxbury. "We knew starting a business would be a busy two-year investment. We thought we would give it two years and see what happens."
So far, KISS has prepared quite a few meals for about 400 customers from all over Umatilla and Morrow counties and all the way into Washington.
Frink goes through each step of a business plan from the title page with the name of the company to an executive summary of the business plan, from the purpose of the business to operations, financial plan, management, marketing, and personnel. Even what the risks are and how the business might benefit the community are included in a business plan.
"Information is power," said Frink. "Without information, you're pretty powerless."
Information is important.When she started making jewelry six years ago, people kept asking Rebecca Burnett to buy beads for them. When she decided she wanted to open her own business in 2004, beads seemed the best fit.
"I went to an SBA meeting," said Burnett, who owns Rebecca's Beads in Hermiston. "I got all the paperwork, found out what was required and asked lots of questions."
Once she had all the information, Burnett admits she "skipped steps two, three and four and went directly to five" when she approached the bank for a loan. She did look online for business plans and picked the brains of a bead shop owner in Salem for ideas.
"I visited bead stores to see what I liked and what I didn't like," Burnett said. "I visited the bead store in Salem, took ideas from her and the SBA, wrote a business plan and submitted it."
The SBDC has a website Frink says is "phenomenal."
"It has a lot of information," Frink said.
The SBDC not only has new business information, it also has small business management programs available for business owners.
The small business management program gives business owners the opportunity to visit with other business owners in the area, to talk about how each one deals with employee issues, recordkeeping, and marketing and business plans.
For more information, call Frink at 564-9021, ext. 3340, e-mail her at