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MEDP Spark- Unlocking the Secrets to Successful Startups

Feb 18, 2021

MEDP Spark, Volume 6, Issue 2- February,2021. 

Group of Entrepreneurs from the Launch Mid-Valley Bootcamp in February, 2020 (Our last in-person event before the onset of the pandemic)

Innovation can be defined as the creation, development, and implementation of a new product, process, or service with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness, or competitive advantage.  At MEDP Innovation Development has been one of our top strategic goals for the past several years, and we have enjoyed being able to cultivate a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem right here in McMinnville. With a multitude of resources and connections for startups, networking opportunities, a supportive business community, and exciting new ventures (like the launch of McMinnville’s first co-working space later this Spring), we are eager to support the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation within our community.

"A lot of the entrepreneurs that come out of the McMinnville area are very innovative and diversified by industry. There is a mixture of resources that support innovation, access to capital, education, and more for entrepreneurs.  As the population grows in this area, McMinnville will see more business formation as its support for entrepreneurship & innovation grows as well." - Launch Mid-Valley Venture Catalyst, Mike White

On February 28th, 2020  LAUNCH Mid-Valley in collaboration with McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, hosted a Startup Bootcamp; a 3-day intensive workshop intended to help new businesses and entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. This was our last, large in-person gathering before the circumstances that defined 2020 began to unravel. Though the past year has certainly not been easy, one unexpected byproduct of the pandemic is a resilient entrepreneurial community.  We recently connected with the 3 finalists from the bootcamp pitchfest to catch up about the past year, where their startups are now, and the impacts of 2020 on their entrepreneurial journey. Their stories may surprise you.

 Helen Anderson
Helen Anderson of Hellocare pitches her idea at the LMV Bootcamp in 2020.

HelloCare is a company that brings experienced caregivers into the homes of independent-minded seniors and provides one-to-one care and daily activities. A nurse since 2005, Helen Anderson started HelloCare in response to families sharing how overwhelmed and desperate they felt like the parent(s) they love needed more care than they could provide. “In the hospital setting, I met so many elderly spouses trying to care for each other and understood how they want to stay in their homes, but need a custom plan for their care. My mission is to provide the best choices I can for the seniors in our community. Senior Care and the planning it requires is complex and full of industry jargon, and it can be scary for families to navigate this new reality as their parents’ age. A client once told me "getting old ain't for sissies!" and it is true. Many families and seniors can manage it on their own for a while but when medical care begins to get more complex, that's when and where I come in to help.”

Starting a customizable in-home care business right before the onset of a global pandemic that places seniors in a high risk category was not in the original business plan, however, Helen noted “Keeping clients and caregivers safe has been stressful, but, I cannot think of a time in my nursing career that hasn't been stressful. Healthcare and the business of caring for people is unpredictable by nature. I think of the nurse mentors I have had along the way that showed how they cared for their teams and kept the chaos away. The changing requirements for caregivers has been challenging but we are all becoming accustomed to the shifting requirements of Oregon Health Authority… My goal is for the HelloCare team to outlast the pandemic.” HelloCare offers free, in-home nursing consultations where Helen lets families know about the various choices for care including meals and cooking, housekeeping, health and hygiene, medication management, and more.  “If families have questions or would like to know about the options for senior care in our area I am happy to connect!” 

Entrepreneurial Inquiries from MEDP

Can you talk a little bit about your experience at the Launch Mid-Valley Startup Bootcamp last year? It was an incredible opportunity for me. The benefits have lasted long after the weekend was over. One of the coaches, Brian Romaine, has provided advice and direction from his expertise in finance and funding. Mike White, Jeff VandenHoek, Miles Oliveira, Malee Ojua, Dean Craig and many others are connections I made at the Bootcamp that have helped me in the HelloCare journey. For a solopreneur like me, building a team of knowledgeable advisors is critical. The Bootcamp plugged me into a vibrant, supportive community to help me succeed.

What are you most excited about for your business in the next year? The next 5 years? We are adding a product line in 2021, planning to launch in May. The product line addresses the needs of seniors’ nutrition and strength. I am so excited about the prospect of helping so many seniors stay strong and reduce the risk of falls.

The word is spreading and more clients and caregivers want to be on the HelloCare team. It's an exciting time to be in healthcare, the model of caring for seniors has been shattered a bit and HelloCare is part of a new way to think about senior care. The HelloCare model honors the professionalism of caregivers and the individual needs of each person and their family. Our growth has been through word of mouth and referrals from other care providers. It's a great way to build a solid foundation.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs? My advice is to stay committed. Let your energy ebb and flow but come back to your passion. When you have the chance, learn about the entrepreneur community here in McMinnville. It's full of passionate cheerleaders that want you to succeed.

To learn more, visit or call 971.237.9244.  See the Op-Ed that Helen wrote in the News Register earlier this winter about how isolation and inactivity pose a risk to seniors. 

 Haley at Work
Haley Queen working from her retail space inside of Mac Market

Haley Queen of Sustainable Rituals always had an inkling she wanted to start her own business. “I knew I wanted it to be something that would have a big impact on the community around me” Haley started working on her business idea in January of 2020, and when the pandemic hit and she lost her normal work schedule, she decided to put all her energy into her entrepreneurial efforts.  She opened Sustainable Rituals as a bulk refill shop with eco home goods and lots of green botanicals in June of 2020. “My mission is to educate people about living more sustainably and doing that with kindness, we have a lot to still learn and even more to unlearn with our connection to plastic and waste. I think that working together we can make a big change and help take care of our precious planet. I also love teaching people about how to care for plants and it’s something I grew up doing with my mom which is why I also added botanicals to my business. I think they bring so much life and joy into our homes and it's a great way to connect with nature.”

I’m excited to grow the business and be able to help educate more people about living more sustainably, making it more affordable for everyone to shop eco friendly. I have a lot of different visions and plans, we will see what falls into place but I look forward to growing Sustainable Rituals over the coming months and years!”   

Entrepreneurial Inquiries from MEDP

What was your experience like at the Launch Mid-Valley Startup Bootcamp last year? It was a fantastic opportunity, especially for someone like me who didn’t have a lot of business knowledge. I learned so much, made some amazing connections and I don’t think this shop would be here without the Bootcamp. It really gave me the knowledge and confidence to move forward.

What specific obstacles / roadblocks did you face when going through the startup process? I didn’t have much business knowledge, so I had a lot to learn. I’m lucky that I grew up watching my mom run her own Botanical Nursery so I had a little step up but still lots of growing to do. I also had a harder time sourcing natural products in bulk and glass containers, I thought that part would be easy but it was a big challenge. Covid also changed my plans on what a sustainable refill shop would look like, so I did a lot of shifting and trying new things to make it work. I feel very lucky overall, I opened a business during Covid when so many others had to close their doors. I don’t think I could have opened this business any other place, being in McMinnville and inside Mac Mkt is a dream.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs? Follow your passion, do it from the heart and dream big. It takes a lot of hard work and passion to start a business but it really is worth it to have something that you built from the ground up. I think the world is changing and entrepreneurship will only keep growing. I hope more businesses like mine start to appear, we need more businesses that are invested in helping the planet and the community. If you want to chat about starting an Eco or Sustainable business like mine please reach out.

Sustainable Rituals can be found online at and the brick and mortar shop is open Tuesday-Saturday 11AM-6PM inside of Mac Mkt. Haley was  recently awarded the MEDP Startup of the Year Award for 2020.


Francis Kungu from Jamii Coffee, and Exilior Coffee on the shelves

Jamii Coffee and Exilior Coffee were inspired by a vision to offer high quality Kenyan coffee and create direct economic and social opportunities for coffee growing communities in Kenya. Their mission is to create an indigenous success story, connect two cultures and create friendships from across the globe.

Francis Kungu is the Founder and CEO of Jamii Coffee. “A coffee business was the last thing on my mind. I was pursuing an aviation career and training as a pilot when my wife Maya introduced me to the U.S. coffee culture. I immersed myself into the culture and was attending various coffee tasting events all over Portland. I noticed that in all these events Kenyan coffee was not being offered for tasting. I started asking roasters about their thoughts on Kenyan coffee and without a doubt all of them loved Kenyan coffee but there was a lot of misrepresentation about Kenya as a coffee producing country. This didn’t sit well with me as by extension it was a misrepresentation of my home. “

“I wanted to tell a Kenyan coffee story from a Kenyan perspective to banish perceptions. We decided that “if we can’t touch the farmer, we don’t touch the coffee” this was our vision to offer high quality coffee and improve lives through coffee. This meant directly working with farmers from Soil to Cup with boots on the ground in Kenya. We wanted to go beyond Fair Trade. “

“The journey down the coffee rabbit hole started with Jamii Coffee importing coffee in 2018 and later Maya suggested we start Exilior Coffee to offer roasted coffee. Jamii means “Community”. Exilior means “Banish Perceptions”. Both companies are Impact-Driven. A portion of our proceeds support social causes. We have a Farm to Table model on an international scale. Our goal is to connect farmers and customers, and bridge cultures creating friendships.”

Entrepreneurial Inquiries from MEDP

What benefit(s) did the Launch Mid-Valley Startup Bootcamp have to you and your business? The Bootcamp was the last live event we attended. The event helped us get out of our comfort shell. This helped us create networks that helped us build other networks. It was after the Mid-Valley Bootcamp that we attended the Oregon Angel Food event and we are now in additional cohorts (Built Oregon, Livelihood NW, Xxcelerate), and our networking opportunities keep growing. We still connect and keep in touch with the Bootcamp advisors and mentors.

What has the last year been like for your business and dealing with the Pandemic? Last year was the most challenging year so far and the effects are still being felt this year. Coffee is about tasting the product and being communal. This was something we couldn’t do and still can’t do. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants closed down, which reduced the demand for coffee. This reduced the amount for roasters. This reduced demand for Jamii Coffee and we pivoted by starting Exilior Coffee.

What are you most excited about for your business in the next year? The next 5 years? We are excited about a coffee empowerment project we started in 2019 coming into fruition this year. This partnership project revived coffee farming in a community that had neglected coffee farming and the first harvest will start June 2021. There are at least 200 farmers with 70 of them being women. We can’t wait to bring their coffee into the U.S by February 2022.

Coffee and wine have a lot of similarities. Kenyan coffee is unique as it is the only coffee with wine-like richness and a distinct blackcurrant flavor. Just like wine, coffee is sensitive to ‘terroir’ and Kenya happens to have the perfect conditions for growing coffee. Coffee also goes through a fermentation process just like wine. I want to learn more about wine production to identify ideas we can use to improve coffee processing.

Kenyan coffee farmers grow Macadamia trees as shade trees for the coffee. Due to the high altitude some of the farmers also grow tea and coffee in the same farms. We would like to bring these two products to the market providing year-round incomes for farmers and high-quality products for our customers. 

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs? Networking is key. Meet other entrepreneurs and keep building your network and most above be resilient.

Exilior Coffee can currently be found in McMinnville at Local Goodness inside Mac Mkt or purchased directly through

MEDP connected with a few other experts in the area of entrepreneurship to round out our advice for startups in the area. Here is what they had to say:

Jen Armenta of Sage River Consulting  was a mentor at the LMV Bootcamp and is one of the founding members of the McMinnville Chapter of Coffee Club for Startups.  Make sure that what you are offering is needed/wanted by your customer. Just because you think it is a good idea, does not mean that everyone will. Do your due diligence first, before you launch your business. And market, market, market! You might have the best idea in the world, but if no one knows about it, it will not work. Think of your business as 2/3 of your job. The other 1/3 is all marketing!”

Casey Hostetler with Ignite Marketing and Founder of Alt Co-working, (Opening in McMinnville, soon!) 

"First, find yourself a solid, trusted cohort of people who:

  • You can brainstorm with. You need a variety of perspectives and ideas.
  • Will ask you the hard questions. Maybe there are some things that you didn't want to think about regarding your startup, but the right people (who care about you and the success of your business) may bring up those difficult questions or conversations, and you will be better for it.
  • You can lean on for support when you are stretched thin. Things won't always be sunshine and rainbows, and your community is willing to step in during the storm to help out. (But this requires give and take, so be sure to give back to them as much as you receive!)

Second: get involved in the Chamber, service groups, networking events, and volunteer for things. The people you meet there just may become part of your tribe! Also, it's extremely helpful as an entrepreneur to "know people" who you can reach out to when you launch.

Finally, find a group of people who are doing what you're doing, and learn from them. As an example: I found a facebook group dedicated to people who own coworking spaces around the world, and I listen to a coworking podcast weekly. The resources I've received have been invaluable, and I don't think I'd be where I am without those tools. "

Other Resources for Entrepreneurs:

 Interested in connecting more with our vibrant entrepreneurial community here in McMinnville? Give us a call. 503.474.6814



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MEDP's monthly newsletter, The MEDP Spark, received a Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council in 2017.

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