DiPrima Dolci has got it covered

After being on vacation for over two weeks, my partner and I returned to a huge tub of snail mail. I was sorting through the stack of magazines and catalogs when I came across a pleasant surprise. There was a great photo of our friend Pat DiPrima-LeConche, owner of the North Portland neighborhood hotspot DiPrima Dolci Italian Bakery (1936 N. Killingsworth St.), on the cover of the well-designed Portland State Magazine - referencing the article We Mean Business: Helping new entrepreneurs get started. Ed, a PSU alum, gets the magazine from the university three times a year.

DiPrima Dolci, which I referred to as one of my home studio conference rooms in my first book, was a pioneer in the ongoing business and culinary renaissance of Killingsworth Street. These days it's a community institution and meeting place. (Pat and her husband Robin have become great friends of ours over the past few years. She even made our wedding cake - and they attended the event - when we got married back in 2004.) However, the early days of starting the successful business were not necessarily easy.

"Opening a bakery isn't a piece of cake, let me tell you," Diprima-LeConche is quoted as saying in the article. "The (PSU) Business Outreach Program was so much more helpful than the Small Business Administration."

She adds that she "literally would not have a business today without their help."

The work of the PSU Business Outreach Program (BOP) is the focus of the magazine piece, and DiPrima Dolci is just one of their hundreds of success stories. BOP director Gary Brown and his students helped the trained baker write her business plan, fill out loan applications, and develop her marketing and advertising plans.

For over a decade the BOP has helped more than 400 businesses get a proper start, with 52 percent of those ventures being minority owned and 50 percent being owned by women. In addition, over 1000 students have received real-world business consulting experience while participating in the educational program. Years ago I spoke about graphic design as a business tool to one of the classes.

In the article, BOP director Gary Brown is quoted as saying, "Most small business owners have a dream. What most of them find is that translating that dream into a successful reality is harder than they think it's going to be. That's where this program comes in."

Anyone in the process of starting a new business, or in the planning stages of such a venture, should research similar programs in their local area. Universities and community colleges across the country have programs designed to assist entrepreneurs with startups. When I was in college, back in the late 1970's at the University of Oregon, advertising and marketing classes adopted new and existing business as class projects. The businesses and the students benefited a great deal in the process.

Although Diprima-LeConche's experience with the SBA was less than ideal, I do know many business owners who have been given great advice, and directed to additional valuable resources, through the agency. Small Business Development Centers, Women's Business Centers and the organization SCORE are also possible sources of advice, information and handholding for the novice business owner.

I do want to acknowledge writer Jeff Kuechle, and photographers Steve Dipaola and Randall Lee, for their work on the excellent Portland State Magazine article. And now I think it's time for me to head over to DiPrima Dolci for an espresso drink and cannoli.

© 2007 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

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