Steven Parisio, like most new business owners, was an expert in his field, but a stranger to the stacks of bureaucratic paperwork and business management that comes with owning a business.
After Parisio registered his tire recycling business last summer, his mother suggested he visit Impact Beaverton, a resource center offering free business education, training and resources to support local small business owners like Parisio.
"In the past six months, my income has grown significantly," said Parisio, "and I couldn't have done it without them."
With Beaverton's growing population and economic opportunities increasing the number of small businesses in the area, the city government and the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce recognized the challenges being faced by these small business owners. In 2015, they decided to create Impact Beaverton in order to address the community's needs.
Offering free one-on-one consultations, referrals and workshops with experts, Impact Beaverton has become a valuable resource to hundreds of small business owners in the area.
When Parisio first came to Impact Beaverton, he worked one-on-one with business advisor Emma Clark to develop his business plan.
"I have questions all the time, and she's the first person I go to," said Parisio about his relationship with Clark.
For Parisio, tire recycling was originally a side gig to his regular job as a tire technician. But when he saw how much of a need there was for tire recycling services in the area — and the appeal of being his own boss — he decided to do tire recycling full-time.
"In the past," Parisio explained, "they would have scrap tire stockpiles, and in order to get rid of them, they would bury them or set them on fire or abandon them."
These old tire disposal practices emitted toxic chemicals into the environment. However, with more stringent regulations, lightly used tires are being resold online for a discounted rate, and completely worn tires are being shredded and turned into gym mats, field turf and playground material.
"With the rivers that we have here and the clean air, it's a priority to keep the state clean," Parisio said.
With only two tire processing plants in the expanding Portland metropolitan area, businesses like Parisio's that ensure tires are properly disposed of or recycled are much needed in order to keep our community clean.
For Parisio, this isn't his first time taking the jump in starting his own business. In the past, Parisio had a towing business, but he never saw it take off. He thinks it was because was working on his own, without support from a program like Impact Beaverton.
"Not having the mentoring and coaching — I didn't succeed at it," Parisio said.
With his second business and with the support of Impact Beaverton, Parisio is already thinking of hiring his first employee because of how prosperous his work has become.
Parisio credits his confidence in his second business with being able to implement the skills he has learned in workshops and one-on-one sessions into the real world.
The success of Parisio's tire recycling business, however, is just one story.
Clark and Impact Beaverton have been keeping busy offering support to Beaverton's ever-growing small business community.
"Last year, we started our business plan series," Clark said. "That was supposed to be a four-week long program ... then we realized that the Q-and-A session just kept going, so we increased it into a nine-week series to meet the demand."
Currently, Impact Beaverton serves more than 150 small business owners. About three in four of those small businesses are owned by a person of color, and just over half are owned by women, highlighting that it is often marginalized communities that have the highest needs when it comes to business resources.
The various educational series Impact Beaverton offers, along with several other events, are offered both in English and Spanish. Clark said the goal is to ensure that all community members can access the valuable educational resources being offered.
Working with vulnerable and marginalized populations, Clark said that one of the biggest obstacles that small business owners have to overcome is simply trust.
"Many folks at some point in their lives have been victims of fraud," Clark noted.
Establishing trust between the services Clark offers with Impact Beaverton and her clients of small business owners from vulnerable communities takes time, but with Impact's current clientele, the trustworthiness of the organization has spread through word of mouth.
"We created this community where it's not just 'me,'" Clark said. "It's lots of us working together with one mission in mind — to genuinely support these businesses."
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