Industry mentors help small Oregon businesses thrive

Port of Portland's Mentor-Protégé program helps small businesses

Nancy Bebek, the owner of Prestige Tile and Stone in Beaverton, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)
Nancy Bebek, the owner of Prestige Tile and Stone in Beaverton, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — Ask Nancy Bebek what it’s like being a small business owner and she’ll tell you.

“It’s hard,” she said, laughing. “I think people have a perception that I’m living a fast and easy life.”

She’s the owner of Prestige Tile and Stone in Beaverton, a tile contractor for commercial construction. She started the business in 2010, and has gone from 2 employees — she and her son — to 16 employees.

And she credits a lot of it to the Port of Portland’s Mentor-Protégé Program.

“I was not prepared for construction, especially commercial construction,” Bebek told KOIN 6 News. “I used to do back splashes in the neighborhood and my son was a journeyman setter, and on a whim I just said we should see if we can start something.”

It quickly became apparent to her that she needed help. She heard about the Mentor-Protégé program and signed up.

Kimberly Mitchell-Phillips, the Port of Portland small business development program manager, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)
Kimberly Mitchell-Phillips, the Port of Portland small business development program manager, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)

“The overall goal is to strengthen the small businesses that do businesses with the Port, increase contract opportunities and to provide technical services and resources that otherwise would not be available to small businesses,” said Kimberly Mitchell-Phillips, the Port of Portland small business development program manager.

The 3-year program pairs each firm with 2 mentors, one from the same industry and one with a financial background. The first can provide tips and experience from the industry, the second will help with balancing the books and reading spreadsheets.

The Port of Portland is looking for about 15 companies, certified as a small business by the State of Oregon, to participate in the Mentor-Protégé Program.  Applications are due by January 2, 2017.

Bebek said she didn’t know anything about financial statements before she began the program.

“I didn’t know a balance sheet, a profit-and-loss sheet, I didn’t know bookkeeping.”

The mentors work with the protégé each month on the specific needs for that business. Mentors then help develop business plans, marketing strategies and learning financial statements. Other action items are then identified to help the protégé’s goal.

“Just to kind of see the growth of that small business over the years go from struggling to success, it’s so rewarding. There’s just no words for it,” Mitchell-Phillips said.

For Nancy Bebek, the Port of Portland’s Mentor-Protégé program has been a real help.

“I’m really not where I am on my own. It all came from the support of my 2 mentors and the Port that allows this program,” she said.

“I would not be at the level where we’re at without this program and,” she said, “I still have the support of my mentors.”

The offices of the Port of Portland, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)
The offices of the Port of Portland, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)