Success Stories

MAS Un Limited (Simply Dump It)

Congratulations to Mel and Suzanne Lulay of MAS Un Limited for the success of their product “Simply Dump It ” (pivoting wheelbarrow handles).
With the help of the SBDC’s Capital Access Team, Mel and Suzanne secured a loan through Business Oregon’s Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund, a loan that allowed them to place an especially large manufacturing order to fulfill the orders they received from Home Hardware, a large hardware chain in Canada.  Mel and Suzanne were just beginning a relationship with this international company and the loan proceeds allowed them to make on-time delivery of their product.
The “Simply Dump It” has been well received at Home Hardware and was introduced to the spokesman for featured products in the Home Hardware line, Mark Cullen, who highlights items in the Mark’s Choice product line.  The “Simply Dump It” was chosen to be part of this exclusive Mark’s Choice line that receives special packaging, radio and television promotions and featured space in print circulars. Being part of this exclusive line has financial benefits as well.
Mel and Suzanne were also able to attend the National Hardware show in Las Vegas in May. This has created a flurry of public relations and purchase orders.  The “Simply Dump It” has had television coverage on the DIY network and upcoming on Ask This Old House and radio coverage with the Cajun Contractor Michael King to highlight a few.
The Entrepreneurial Development Loan proceeds from Business Oregon have allowed Mel and Suzanne to move their company forward in big strides.  As a small business owner the proceeds have allowed them to comfortably step into a large arena of wholesale and retail destinations.
Congratulations to owners of Salem Business Computers for their recent strategic merger to better serve small businesses in the Willamette Valley!
John and Matt McElravy, formerly of Reliant IT, and Kevin and Cecelia Tobey, formerly of Tobey Computer Services, merged their companies to form Salem Business Computers earlier this year. As veteran entrepreneurs, they recognized that the strengths of their businesses would create an even better company if they combined their expertise and resources.
“Reliant IT was a forward-thinking solution provider in the market and was building a strong sales and marketing system,” John McElravy said. “Tobey Computer Services was excellent at customer service and developed outstanding management practices as a result of being involved in the Chemeketa Small Business Management (SBM) program and all the coaching, training, and education they received.”
The two companies met when Reliant IT was installing a phone system for a major client.
“It was a big enough project that we needed to collaborate with a Cisco VOIP partner,” John explained. “Kevin (of Tobey Computer Services) won the bid and we found that we worked really well together. As we got to know each other, we realized there was some real symbiosis there. We were the same in our core, offering IT support for small business, but each company brought something to the table that the other desperately needed.”
The merger process took about a year and a half from the time they first started talking about it to the time it was finalized at the beginning of 2013. They had an open house at their new offices in the Liberty Plaza in downtown Salem in March.
Kevin and Cecelia have participated in the SBM program since 2007. In fact, Kevin describes his experience with SBM as, “I got my MBA from SBM.” John and Matt joined the SBM program in 2011.  Since merging two companies can be an overwhelming venture, the Tobeys and the McElravys relied on the support and resources of the SBM program to help them navigate through each step.
“It was not an easy process,” John said.  “Thankfully, SBM and the SBDC were there to help the entire time. I don’t know how much money we saved in lawyer’s and consulting fees by working through the SBDC, but I would guess it’s in the tens of thousands. We had expert help from our SBM business coaches Scott Sadler and Lori Cegon who facilitated just about every planning meeting and kept the ball rolling. Marcia Bagnall, the Director of the SBDC, was there to make sure we had everything done properly in the books and Gary Richards, SBDC business advisor, helped us with valuation and some of the contract work. By the time we brought paperwork to the lawyers, 90 percent of the work had been done. Looking back on it, I don’t know if this would have happened without SBM and the SBDC.”
According to Lori Cegon, SBM Program Director and Business Coach, what the SBM program did for Salem Business Computers is just what comes with being a part of the SBM program.
“There is an overwhelming amount of information out there for small business owners,” Lori said. “We connect our clients with the resources they need to get where they want to go so they can focus on what they do best. Think of the SBM business coaches as an extension of their team.”
Since the merger, Salem Business Computers has experienced revenue growth each month.
“We are bringing on another paid intern and hiring our current intern full time. That will bring us up to seven employees,” John reported. “We realize the Salem area is a little bit underserved in regards to quality IT support. Because we have developed good business systems through our experience at SBM, we feel confident we can continue to grow by plugging smart and talented IT professionals into our company as we add new customers.”
So would the owners of Salem Business Computers encourage everyone to consider merging with another company?  Not necessarily.
“We would advise other businesses who are considering a merger to weigh that decision with care,” John said. “Move slowly at first because it really is a marriage. These are the people we spend huge amounts of our time with and everyone’s livelihood is stake.”
The Tobeys and the McElravys recommend that other business owners reach out to the advisors that are available in the community.
“There is so much aggregate knowledge and experience floating around the SBM program and the SBDC it only makes sense to tap into that,” John noted. “It’s an incredible value.”
For John, Matt, Kevin and Cecelia, the merger has been great because it is giving individuals within the company the opportunity to focus on areas of the business they are passionate about and in which they excel. This has led to some exciting innovations in product offerings they are bringing to the market.
For more information about Salem Business Computers, visit
For more information about the Chemeketa Small Business Management (SBM) program, visit or call Lori Cegon at 503-316-3237 to discuss how SBM can help you reach your goals!  Applications are now being accepted for the fall program.

The Sexton Corporation

Congratulations to Ken Sexton, President of The Sexton Corporation, for the recent and successful expansion of his business!
The Sexton Corporation builds custom underwater housings for cameras and instruments. Ken started the business on the side in 1972 and went full-time in 1995. Last August, he purchased a 5400 square foot building, moved the business from his basement, and has been busy ever since. He has won competitive bid contracts with the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has five full-time employees and one part-timer, and he expects to create at least one more new job this year.
Last month, he added a CNC vertical machining center, allowing The Sexton Corporation to make in-house many of the parts they had to purchase. This means faster turnaround times, better quality control, better ability to make quick prototypes, and keeping the profits from machining within the business.
Ken’s original business model was to cost-effectively make one-of-a-kind housings, as opposed to products manufactured to market. This model has served him well.
“This proved to be a good niche,” Ken says. “There is very little competition. We have been able to be flexible and creative, and that has gotten us many jobs.”
As a veteran business owner, Ken has learned a few things along the way.
“Trust your gut, hire good people, trust them to do the right thing, and remove roadblocks that are in their way,” he encouraged.  “Those roadblocks can be in the form of vision, ideas, business practices, and capital.”
To those looking to start a business or make a major expansion, Ken recommends having a sound business idea, getting advice from many people, making sure you have a cost-effective solution or product, and having the courage to go all-in when the opportunity arises.
“Be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that appears, as long as it makes sense, fits your business model, and is within your resources.”
Congratulations to JD Health and Wellness Center, for opening its doors and creating 14 new jobs. With the help of a loan from the state’s Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund (EDLF), JD Health and Wellness Center is already thriving.
Having been a business owner before, Eric Davis, operations manager of JD Health and Wellness (and married to Felicity Davis, the owner), thought he knew everything there was to know about starting up another one. However, applying for the EDLF loan, which required a comprehensive business plan, helped Eric learn even more.
“Writing a business plan made me think about extraneous variables that we might have to be prepared for,” Davis said.  In fact, Davis would now tell anyone looking to start a business that, “You have to have a business plan to have any long term success.”
Davis and his wife worked hard on their business plan, immediately incorporating their SBDC business advisor’s feedback and/or responding to requests from Business Oregon, the state agency that administers the EDLF. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Persistance will always out do resistance,” Davis explained.
In addition to the benefits of going through the process of writing a business plan, the Davis’ have also learned how to bounce his ideas off of others and how to surround themselves with a supportive team. “What’s made us successful is having the right team,” Eric said. “One’s social environment is a greater determinant of success than individual skill. Having the SBDC, Business Oregon, our bookkeeper and the JD Health and Wellness Center staff have made a big difference.”

Heppner Chiropractic

You don’t have to do it all alone. That’s the message of Chemeketa Small Business Development Center’s Small Business Management (SBM) program.
Business owners are independent, industrious, self-reliant people.  However, their strengths can become their weaknesses when business and life feel out of balance and out of control.  That’s where the SBM program can help.
Chiropractor Abby Heppner, of Heppner Chiropractic, is an ambitious entrepreneur who has benefited from SBM.  Heppner has participated in SBM for three out of the four years she’s been in business and believes SBM has helped her move her business forward.
“I had very little business training and the SBM program provided the foundational skills I needed to be successful,” Heppner said, “Especially in the areas of Human Resources, Marketing, and understanding financial statements.”
Getting the foundations of her business in place early helped Heppner’s business prepare for the future.
“In my first year in practice I was able to identify 10 key roles in my business’s organizational structure, create job descriptions for each position, and create an operations manual for the most important roles, all while I had only 1.5 employees (including myself!).  Now that I have 9 employees, I have grown into the vision I had three years ago and the transition has been remarkably smooth.”
SBM is a nine-month program that includes a three-hour class each month as well as monthly one-to-one business coaching.
“My business coach has served as a sounding board for all those questions you have as a business owner that you just can’t ask or would feel embarrassed about asking anyone else, like ‘How much snow can employees be expected to drive through to get to work?’ or ‘Why don’t my tenant improvements show up on my profit and loss statement with my other expenses?’” Heppner explained.
Because SBM participants meet and network in class monthly, peer-to-peer learning is a fundamental component of the program.
“The peer to peer environment in the SBM classes allowed me to see that whether I’m a chiropractor, an electrician, or a retail shop owner, we all deal with the same challenges and opportunities in our work.” Heppner said.  “It is easy to feel that you are all alone as a small business owner, but it is so good to learn that others have been there too, and often, they have great ideas, successes, or even failures to learn from.”
Chemeketa appreciates our SBM business owners striving every day to improve their businesses, communities, and lives by working “on” their businesses!

Inspired Home Office

Congratulations to Jennifer Hofmann, owner of Inspired Home Office, for starting her 6th year of business.
Jennifer started Inspired Home Office as a way to help other entrepreneurs create their own path to order in their home offices, and ultimately in their lives.
As a successful business owner, Jennifer has gained immense knowledge from being “on the job,” from her work as a business advisor and instructor at the SBDC, and participating in the Chemeketa Small Business Management Program. But working with Mark Silver of Heart of Business was the thing that gave her the success orientation she needed.
“I gained a new appreciation for the spiritual aspects of business,” Jennifer said.  “I started to understand that money wasn’t evil and that by bringing my gifts to the world I could make a difference. Jennifer’s new perspective on money and making money has helped her grow and expand her business over the years while also being of service to other business owners.
What else has led to Inspired Home Office’s success?
“I’ve learned that having effective systems supports my creativity,” Jennifer explained.
She’s also learned that she’s better at delegating than she realized and in doing so, she can do more of the work she is best at. And she’s learned it’s OK to take time off.
“Sometimes my work is better after I take time off,” Jennifer said.
For those looking to start a business, Jennifer recommends getting clear about what kind of work gets you out of bed in the morning. In other words, what kind of work is deeply satisfying?
“Get clear about who benefits most from the thing you get the most satisfaction from,” Jennifer suggested.  “Get clear about who they are, what they think about, what they need, and what they want.”
As a home-based business owner, Jennifer also encourages other business owners to create meaningful connections with other business owners who have similar values.  Inspired Home Office benefits from not only Jennifer’s wisdom and experience from the support network Jennifer has with other like-minded businesses.

Starr Studios Salem School of Dance

Congratulations to Serenity Guzman, Owner of Starr Studios Salem School of Dance, for starting her 4th year of business off this summer with an expansion to the Starr Studios studio space.
Started in June 2009, Starr Studios added 1,000 square feet of studio space this past spring.  The new space is above the first studio and allows Serenity to run two classes at once.  “Scheduling was always such a difficult juggling act,” Serenity said.
Serenity participated in MERIT at the Chemeketa SBDC in the fall of 2008 and by the next summer Starr Studios was up and running.  Serenity gives credit to “All of the wonderful people and resources at SBDC,” for helping her get started.
Since starting Starr Studios, Serenity has learned to tackle on obstacle at a time.
“There are always so many things to do and most of them are things I could have never expected,” Serenity explained. “I definitely had to learn to take it one bite at a time otherwise I’d find myself completely overwhelmed and I wouldn’t be half as productive.”
Serenity’s advice to others looking to start a business?
“Be flexible and adaptive. I think a lot of us start set in our ways. It’s important to find the balance between our way, and the way that is going to keep our customers coming back.”
Serenity is now participating in the Chemeketa Small Business Management program, a nine-month program for established business owners.

Willamette Valley Music Company

Congratulations to Randy Kem and his business partners at Willamette Valley Music Company (WVMC) as they begin their second year of business.  With the help of a loan from the state’s Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund, WVMC is ready for another year of growth and success.
Started in November 2011, WVMC is a full service music store that sells and repairs all brass, woodwind, percussion, and string instruments and accessories. The store also has plans to provide lessons and preschool children’s classes to the music community in the Willamette Valley.
As any small business owner can tell you, getting started can be a daunting task. Randy knows that countless things helped him and his business partners open the doors to WVMC on State Street in Salem.
“It’s impossible to pick a single thing that helped the most,” Randy said. “So many people helped us make this store a reality: certainly, hard work from all of the partners and customers from the first day who have put their money where their support is. And, the SBDC who helped us secure funding that will help us create a stable business as we approach year two.”
WVMC already has three full-time working partners, three part-time employees, and eight studio teachers so they are not only contributing to the music community in Salem but to the local economy as well.
Before opening WVMC, Randy was the owner of Kemstone Music Repair Company for over 20 years, so he’s a veteran entrepreneur even if his current business is still relatively new.  Needless to say, Randy has learned a few things about business start-up and ownership along the way.
“Write a business plan first,” Randy said.  “Then get help and edit it. Then write it again. Make realistic projections. Be prepared to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. And count yourself as one of the lucky few who has an opportunity to start something from an idea, and shape it and watch it grow. Turning on the lights and opening the doors to ‘your’ business; there is no other feeling quite like that. I go to bed so tired but one year later I still can’t wait to get the doors open each day.”
As far as customer service goes, Randy believes that getting feedback from customers and then following up on that feedback is key to any successful business.
“Willamette Valley Music wants musicians, the new ones in particular, to be successful,” Randy explained, “So we ask everyone we talk to ‘how can we help?’ And then we do our darndest to follow through on our desire to help.”
To Randy, every person he meets is a potential friend and customer.
“I would like to thank Salem for all the support that I have received over the years,” Randy said.  “I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones every day at the store.”

Nature’s Pet Market

Terri Ellen opened her business, Nature’s Pet Market in South Salem, a little over two years ago, but she started taking what she called “baby steps” toward opening at least two years before that.
Nature’s Pet Market provides affordable, healthy, natural pet foods, treats, accessories. It also offers professional grooming through Sunny Paws Professional Grooming.
“We believe that pets are an integral part of families so we like to educate our customers,” Terri said.
“Everything we do is to help increase or maintain a pet’s well-being. We help customers solve problems and make good choices for their furry friend pet families.”
Terri participated in MERIT in 2010 and has participated in the Chemeketa Small Business Management program for the past two years. She said that having an experienced and professional coach on her business team is what helped the most in getting her business started.
“Having a coach to act as my guide and second pair of ears and eyes to help me make the right choices and gain confidence to move forward one step at a time was invaluable,” Terri explained.” I would not be where I am today without the guidance of someone who has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt!”
Since starting Nature’s Pet Market, Terri has inevitably learned a few things.
“Have a vision and a plan and stay focused on that plan one step at a time,” Ellen encouraged. “All of a sudden it comes alive just as pictured.”
Terri has also learned to remember she can do it and to trust herself.
“It is very hard work,” Terri noted.  Adding, “And employees can make it worse or they can really make it better.”
Terri has two full-time employees and two part-time and is considering another part-time groomer.
Terri’s advice to potential entrepreneurs?
“Do your homework. Don’t skimp on a feasibility study, create a plan and get help. Get other eyes and ears involved and allow for and hear honest feedback,” Terri said. “No matter how you feel, take planning seriously. Then listen to your customers.”
One thing is clear:  Terri loves her customers and loves Salem. In fact, Nature’s Pet Market has dedicated a portion of the store for an offsite Willamette Humane Society Cat Adoption center and also supports other rescue organizations such as Second Chance Salem, Friends of Felines, and Hopes Haven.
“I am very grateful for the support of the Salem community (both human and furry kinds),” Terri commented. “Salem Rocks!”


Fabian Lopez, owner of the EarthTech, started his business in March of this year and already has two employees with plans to hire another one by the end of the summer.
EarthTech specializes in commercial landscape maintenance, and performs a variety of landscape design & installation/construction services such as water features, pavers, stone walls, outdoor lighting, irrigation, etc. for both commercial and residential properties.
“I am fortunate to have family members who are entrepreneurs themselves and have been a great deal of help in getting my business off the ground,” Lopez said.
In fact, these family members sent Fabian to the Chemeketa SBDC and MERIT for information which helped him acquire the tools to prepare for and plan his business and opened his eyes to some of the  unforeseen issues and challenges that can come with being a business owner.
For Fabian, the key thing he’s learned since starting EarthTech is that owning a business is more than just transactions with customers; it’s about relationships.
“The most rewarding part for me has been meeting people in the community who are involved and be able to join them and partake in events and organizations that care for and help our community.
Fabian has participated in the MERIT “Launch” program and will be participating in the Small Business Management Program starting in October. He is also one of the recipients of Job Growers’ 2012 Sparkle of Excellence Entrepreneurial Scholarships.
“Before you start your business, speak with someone at MERIT and take a class or two,” Fabian said, emphasizing the “before.”  “If you have any doubts, they will help you through that and if you have no doubts you are not being realistic.”
For Fabian, being a business owner has been a fulfilling experience, one that he is proud to have started, but he says it hasn’t has been easy.
“It is challenging and time consuming to say the very least,” Fabian reflected. “It has been my dedication and the help of those around me (friends and family) and groups like MERIT and Job Growers that have gotten me this far. I have long-term goals that will only be met if I reach my short-term goals, that’s something I learned from MERIT and something I live by now. As I move forward into the unknown, it is comforting to know that I have help and access to the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center to help me every step of the way.”
For more information or to contact Fabian, visit:

The Dog Bark

Shannon Kay, owner of The Dog Bark in Salem, wasted no time turning her business idea into a reality. In April 2010, she started thinking about opening a doggie day care and three months later she started putting together a plan.
Shannon’s first step was to learn more about dogs.  A dog owner herself, she knew she loved dogs.  She also knew that working with dogs day in and day out, not to mention taking care of other people’s dogs, would be different.  She volunteered at the Willamette Humane society, learned about dog safety, the personalities of different breeds, and what it takes to care for dogs full time.
Shannon also researched the Salem market for a new doggie day care, determined what area of town would be the best location, and wrote a comprehensive business plan. She learned about any competitors, what services to offer, and evaluated her own strengths and weakness.
After going through this process, Shannon sought out the help of the SBDC to review her business plan and help her evaluate her financial projections. After incorporating advisor feedback, she was ready.
With a loan from her family, Shannon was able to open The Dog Bark in January 2011 and had her grand opening in late February of that year.  The Dog Bark now has two full-time and three part-time employees.
Even with all Shannon’s planning, there were still things that surprised her.
“There were things that came up that weren’t on my radar screen,” Shannon said. “Things I hadn’t thought about.”
While Shannon attributes much of her current success to having been through the process of writing a business plan, the things she’s learned since she started The Dog Bark, have continued to build on the strong foundation of her careful planning.
“I’ve learned what works with advertising and what doesn’t,” Shannon explained.  “And I’ve learned to experiment.”
A self-confessed perfectionist, something that has also contributed to her success, Shannon works hard to make sure The Dog Bark delivers exceptional service to her customers, dogs and owners alike. Beginning September 1, The Dog Bark will be offering such service to even more customers at a new second location of The Dog Bark, located at 1610 Commercial St NE.  Congratulations Shannon!

This Day Forward Coaching

Carol Leek brings This Day Forward Coaching not only to the Salem-Keizer area, but
also to women nationwide! As a Personal Development Coach, she helps women
entrepreneurs and small business owners discover their values and purpose, and
then align them with their business and personal lives, therefore creating a better-balanced life!
Carol  began coaching in 2010 after receiving personal and business coaching herself.
While transitioning from the sale of a self-built business, into discovering
her own life purpose, Carol was encouraged to use her natural abilities,
business expertise, and life experiences, and look into the phenomenon of Life
After falling in love with the profession of coaching, its process and the positive
outcomes coaching provides, Carol took the necessary steps to receive the
proper and necessary trainings to become a Board Certified Coach in several
areas. In addition, she continues to participate in business advising, and
teaches entrepreneur classes for the MERIT Program at the SBDC.
Working with women on a business level as well as a personal level has always been one
of Carol’s strong and natural gifts. Being gifted as an excellent communicator
with a positive attitude, a natural encourager, motivational, dependable, kind,
enthusiastic, and well organized are just a few words that have been used to
describe her. Her unique style (with a tad bit of humor), and direct approach
have guided and inspired many women in accomplishing personal and professional
Life Coaching is perfect for those craving:
  • Forward movement and positive change in designing an ideal life and business
  • Balance and harmony in business and family life, in order to create inner peace
  • Guidance, action, and accountability, to achieve the results desired!
Carol provides a variety of coaching options in order to fulfill her client’s needs.
Individual coaching, group coaching, and topic related workshops are just a
few. As a way to give back to the community, she also provides a series of Pro
Bono sessions for those who desire and need coaching but are otherwise unable
to afford them at this time.
Carol has participated in Opportunity Knocks, the Small Business Management
, and has served as an instructor for MERIT.
Visit Carol’s website to receive your FREE 30-minute consultation to see how you may benefit from Life Coaching. In addition to being a Board Certified Coach, Carol is also a Certified Life Purpose and Career Coach and Christian Life Coach. She is a
member of the ICF NW Coaches Association, and International Association of Coaches. She is also a member of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

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