What the Media are Saying about Mercy Corps Northwest
By Molly Young, The Oregonian
Kim Oanh Nguyen-van Zoen didn’t set out to start a company. She just wanted a unique way to display her photography at Portland’s First and Last Thursdays. Blank wooden panels were the answer.
Prompted by early success, she and husband Kjell van Zoen soon expanded the idea. Five years later, the company averages 500-plus panels every week, filling orders from artists, wholesalers and consumers hunting for an alternative to canvases and frames.
Plywerk Inc. mounts printed artwork and photos on bamboo and maple panels, cut to order in its shared woodshop space in inner Southeast Portland. Customers can upload their own images to the company’s website, a showcase of its funky personality. One of its pages, for instance, is simply a photo of kohlrabi, a purple root vegetable.
Plywerk’s art dots the walls throughout the home. Sales of the panels have doubled every year for the last three years, gaining orders from Kleen Kanteen, Keen Footwear, Nike, Salvation Army and the Oakland Zoo. Popular home blog Apartment Therapy has spotlighted the company, and a recent mention in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine boosted its consumer sales vein by 30 percent.
“I knew it was a good idea as soon as Kim came up with it,” said Kjell van Zoen, who serves as chief executive.
To launch Plywerk, the couple secured lines of credit and a loan from MercyCorps Northwest that covered a panel saw and other capital costs. Then the recession hit, drying up other financing options. Lean manufacturing has helped the company weather the tight credit market, Kjell van Zoen said
“It’s really hard to find financing,” he said. “So you have to invest in yourself.”
- “3-D printers offer new opportunities for product design and small-run manufacturing”
by The Oregonian, October 31st, 2012
- “Mercy Corps Northwest expands micro loan program”
by Portland Business Journal, June 29th, 2012
- “Microenterprise loans create hope for unlikely entrepreneurs”
by Susan Coliton and William Vesneski, Portland Business Journal, June 15th, 2012
- “Program Helps Women In Prison Become Entrepreneurs”
by Patricia Murphy, KOUW 94.9FM, May 17th, 2012
- “Stanford students share the entrepreneurial spirit with women just out of prison”
by Brooke Donald, Stanford News, May 2nd, 2012
- “Spare a Quarter Mil? So you need a loan. Here’s how to get one.”
by Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Willamette Week, April 4th, 2012
- “Startup: Portland-based Plywerk builds a business, brand from bamboo panels”
by Molly Young, The Oregonian, March 27th, 2012
- “LIFE after prison: Class teaches skills for post-release success”
by Natalie Brand, KPTV Fox 12, March 15th, 2012
- “Acupuncturist gets start with Mercy Corps’ help”
by Molly Walker, Yamhill Valley News Register, December 18th, 2011
- “Small business lending in a tough environment: Q&A with the Small Business Development Center’s Rick Stone”
By Molly Young, The Oregonian, November 12th, 2011
- “Armchair Mayor: Katrina Scotto di Carlo”
By Bill McDonald, Neighborhood Notes, October 28th, 2011
- “Business Behind Bars”
Your Business: Education Nation, MSNBC, September 24th, 2011
- “SBA Awards Grants to Support Small Business Teaming”
MarketWatch, September 23rd, 2011
- “Agriculture programs help Northwest refugees settle in”
by Deena Prichep, Northwest News Network, September 15th, 2011
- “Interview with John Haines, Doug Cooper, Alverda McCoy & Felton Howard”
by Ann Schatz, Heart of the Matter, September 15th, 2011
- “Small business owners struggle to turn social media ‘likes’ into sales”
by Molly Young, Oregonian, September 3rd, 2011
- Interview with Community Outreach Coordinator Loren Guerriero
by Professor Lauri Smedley, Small Business H.E.L.P., August 16th, 2011
- About the Portland Grower’s Alliance
by Liz Crain, Food Lover’s Guide to Portland Blog, August 8th, 2011
- “Female Prison Inmates Trained To Start Businesses”
by Deena Prichep, National Public Radio, June 7th, 2011
- “Mercy Corps Northwest wins two SBA Awards: 2011 Women in Business Champion and 2011 Regional Award for Excellence & Innovation”
Small Business Administration Awards Dinner, May 12th, 2011
- “Five Microenterprise Organizations Selected for Scale Academy”
CSR Newswire, May 4th, 2011
- “Southeast Portland Garden Provides Income, Produce for Neighbors”
by John Chilson for Neighborhood Notes, May 19th, 2011
- “SBA Portland names small-business award winners”
The Oregonian, March 31st, 2011
- “Escuela Viva prepares students to learn through building positive attitudes”
El Hispanic News, February 4th, 2011
- “Pressed for success: Self-employed by necessity, a divorced mother of two says failure isn’t an option”
The Oregonian, February 6th, 2011
- “Hawthorne Boulevard artist aims to help other young creatives stick in Portland”
The Oregonian, December 7th, 2010
- “Two crowd-sourced books feature well-known local character: Portland; Peter Korchnak’s book debuts with Mercy Corps kickoff Wednesday”
The Oregonian, November 9th, 2010
- “John Haines, The Dream Life”
The Oregonian, November 12th, 2010
- “Mercy Corps Northwest Supports Initiative to Provide Marketing Services for Beginning and Refugee Farmers”
dBusinessNews, August 4, 2010
- “Some Loans Come With a Bonus of Training, Supervision”
The Columbian, by Libby Tucker, July 27, 2010
- “Health Clinic for the Uninsured Expands” The Columbian, June 10, 2010
Mercy Corps Northwest client Clinica de Salud Familiar expands its space to serve more clients.
- Mercy Corps Northwest ran a 4-page spread in the Oregonian on June 17
In it, we highlighted our connection to Mercy Corps and our work with urban farms, small businesses and prisoner reentry
- Mercy Corps Northwest was a community partner at the ReVisioning Value Conference | ReVV 2010: The Intersection of Purpose and Profit
- “Renting helps new farmers grow their businesses” The Oregonian, by Casey Parks, 4/17/2010
How farmers and organizations are renting land to cobble together urban farms, including MCNW’s farming initiative with immigrant and refugee farmers.
- “Mercy Corps Micro Loan Backs Chic-to-Chic Boutique Opening” The Hillsboro Argus, by Susan Gordanier, 4/6/2010
Stephanie McCulla’s clothing boutique in Forest Grove opened this month with the help of a micro loan from Mercy Corps Northwest.
- Portland’s KPTV news covers the opening of a MCNW client
- “Small Loans Can Fuel Big Dreams” The Portland Tribune, by Peter Korn, 1/7/2010
Microloans here and abroad, focusing on The Bike Commuter, a Sellwood area bike shop starting up with help from MCNW.
- “Portland Food Carts Push Through Recession” Oregon Business Magazine, by Lucy Burningham, 1/2010
Lucy Burningham (a MCNW IDA participant) writes about how Portland food carts are thriving in tough times, many of them with help from microlenders like Mercy Corps Northwest.
- “Food Carts Put Global Trend on the Menu” The Portland Tribune, by Peter Korn, 1/19/09
The global array of food carts in Portland, with mention of the MCNW funded Sugar Cube cart on N. Mississippi.
- “Venturing Forth” Portland Monthly Magazine, by Ted Katauskas, 10/2009
- “Prison Re-Entry programs grow as correctional costs soar” The Oregonian, by Susan Goldsmith, 10/4/2009
- “The Art of the Street Cart” Bon Appetit Magazine, by Nancy Rommelmann, 9/2009
- “Blurring the Urban-Rural Divide in Damascus” The Oregonian, by Andre Meunier, 8/8/2009
- “Food cart pod with amenities set to open in North Portland” The Oregonian, by Sherry Rainey, 7/11/2009
- “Gourmet Frontier” Portland Monthly Magazine, by Mike Thelin, 7/2009
- “Frugal Portland” New York Times, by Matt Gross, 5/10/2009
- “Cooking Up Growth” Portland Business Journal, by Robin Moody, 10/24/2008
- “Business Loans dry up for the little guy” The Oregonian, by Don Renfroe, 9/7/2008
- “Group finds farms for refugees” Capital Press Agriculture Website, by Patty Mamula, 7/25/2008
- “Saving for Microenterprise Development” Aspen FIELD Institute Funder Guide, June 2008
MCNW’s Individual Development Account (IDA) matched savings program highlighted as an example of best practices.
- “Local man bites into food delivery niche” The Gresham Outlook, by Shannon Wells, 6/25/2008
After taking a business class at MCNW, Jeff Bena opened Bellywarmers Delivery Service—a food delivery business.
- “Ask an Expert: Charting a Path From Inmate to Entrepreneur” USA Today, by Steve Strauss, 6/08/2008
A reporter shares his experience of observing MCNW’s innovative business development class for female prisoners at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.
- “Micro Squeeze: Funding for the smallest of businesses is harder to get” Oregon Business, by Abraham Hyatt, 06/2008
Bookseller Nena Rawdah explores the challenges of owning a business and learns important skills from MCNW business courses that put her on track for a micro loan.
- “Storefronts: Ease” Oregonian Online, 5/28/2008
- “Russian Immigrant Farms of SE 39th Avenue” The Sellwood Bee, by Merry McKinnon, 5/2008
- “Nonprofit provides escape from financial ruin” The Gresham Outlook, by Merry MacKinnon, 3/21/2008
An MCNW loan helped Betty Jo Austin open a new cosmetology school.
- “Financing Change and Changing Finance” Oregon Small Farms Newsletter, by Brian Fassett, Spring 2008
- “Nonprofit extends helping hand to immigrant farmers” The Gresham Outlook, by Merry McKinnon, 3/14/2008
- “Big help available for small businesses” Management Issues, by Dan Bobinski, 2/11/2008
- “Biz ladies: Portland and Seattle!” Design Sponge, 2/11/2008
- “Get Answers to Business Challenges: Entrpreneurs Receive Free Advice” U.S. Chamber Monthly Magazine: 2/2008
Mercy Corp’s mentoring program (MicroMentor) helps a novice entrepreneur create a business plan, analyze potential revenue streams and define a target market.
- “Financing Change and Changing Finance” Banking Matters Magazine, by Brian Fassett, 2/2008
Brian Fassett, MCNW Loan Officer, writes about unique funding opportunities and partnerships for business.
- “Your Mentor Is Out There- in Cyberspace” The Wall Street Journal, by Kelly K. Spors, 1/20/2008
A small business owner benefits from the Mercy Corps MicroMentor program.
- “Providing refugees and immigrants the skills to thrive” Global Envision, by Cami Martin, 12/14/2007
An interview explores the inspiration and inner workings of MCNW’s New American Agricultural Project.
- “MicroMentor: One Part of the Solution” OMEN, by Rudy Ulin, 12/2007
Mercy Corp’s Samantha Mafchir describes how a mentoring relationship can help in micro-enterprise development.
- “From the other side of the world comes a vegetable king” Portland Tribune, by Liz Crain, 11/30/2007
A refugee farmer finds self-sustaining work that matches his skill set with help from MCNW’s New American Agricultural Project.
- “Microloans for Artists” Portland Business Journal, 11/09/2007
- “Microfinance in the United States” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, by Ben Bernanke, 11/06/2007
- “Business Briefs: Sellwood toy shop benefits by partnership” The Bee, by Tom Lowles, 10/31/2007
MCNW and the Portland Business Alliance resources help Spielwerk.
- “Mercy Corps, PBA join to help small business owners” The Oregonian, by Robbie DiMesio, 9/25/2007
Organizations aim to help 10 small business owners develop their companies.
- “Translators bridge gap for immigrants” Capital Press, by Patty Mamula, 9/14/2007
MCNW’S New American Agricultural Project reaches out to build farmers’ self-sufficiency.