Ninety-five percent of the businesses operating in Multnomah County are considered small, with a staff of 50 or fewer employees. This week, the county Board of Commissioners honored minority and women-owned small businesses as part of a national observance of the contributions of minority entrepreneurs.
“We appreciate every year having the chance to celebrate minority-owned businesses in our county,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said Thursday. “And we want to make sure you feel supported by us as well.”
The Board proclaimed Sept. 12-16 as Minority Enterprise Development Week; a week in which entrepreneurs gather for workshops, networking events and an awards lunch organized by the nonprofit Business Diversity Institute. Each year BDI honors an outstanding minority-owned business during its final lunch. This year, the nonprofit chose Twirl Advertising & Design.
“BDI has been instrumental in keeping our business afloat,” the company’s vice-president, Victor Echevarria, told Commissioners during Thursday’s proclamation. Echevarria and his wife Jennie Rodriguez moved to Oregon in 2009 from Chicago. The global economy had just tanked.
“We were severely affected by the recession, which I like to call a depression because we lost virtually all our business,” he said. “BDI was there to offer that support when we needed it the most.”
Echevarria and Rodriguez joined BDI’s network, participated in trainings, and soon began to volunteer as presenters as well. They teamed up with the Port of Portland to help other small businesses brand and market themselves. And they landed a contract with the Portland Development Commission to re-brand and market an online portal to match small minority-owned businesses with engineering and architecture firms.
These days Twirl is so busy, his wife Rodriguez, the company’s president, couldn’t leave their office.“Which is really quite a blessing,” said Rodriguez, reached later by phone. “It’s nice to have some challenging work and inspiring work, and to be able to meet so many interesting people in other small business. Everyone seems to be flourishing a little more now.”