Articles Tagged with: Sacred Fire Creative
McMinnville, OR Business Owner Recognized by Prestigious Goldman Sachs 10KSB Program

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McMinnville, OR Business Owner Recognized by Prestigious Goldman Sachs 10KSB Program 

Sacred Fire Creative, a McMinnville-based digital marketing agency founded in 2014 by Malee Ojua, has been named one of the most promising small businesses in the nation by the top investment bank. 

McMinnville, OR (June 20, 2019)—When former aerospace engineer Malee Ojua first studied graphic design, she did it just for fun. She never thought it would lead her to build a successful digital marketing agency or that Goldman Sachs would eventually select her for an exclusive business development program.

“I left my career as an aerospace engineer with Top Secret government security clearance in 1998 to be with my mother after her Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis,” recalled Ojua. “Everything was moment to moment. I decided then that life is too short not to do what you are passionate about and what makes you happy.”

Her passion drove Ojua to pursue a different path from her established engineering career, in which she successfully marketed multi-billion-dollar defense satellite systems to hundreds of military generals at a time. “People have always asked me to design, to make everything look better. It’s what I do without thinking.” With her natural knack for design, Ojua went back to school and earned a degree in web development and design. In 2014, she established Sacred Fire Creative, LLC, a business she started from nothing and on her own.

“I mentioned at a women’s networking event that I was starting a side business in web design. Next thing I know, four business owners came up to me, handed me checks and told me that I needed to register my business right away. That’s how it all started,” Ojua shared.

By 2015, Ojua was working full-time at her company. Corporate accounts started coming in by 2016, first the New York University Langone Medical Center, followed by Johnson & Johnson and ArisGlobal Health. By 2017, Sacred Fire Creative posted six-figure revenues. And, in 2018, the company experienced 117% business growth.

“For me, this is the American Dream—that you can achieve success with persistent hard work and determination no matter what obstacles are in your way,” said Ojua.

“My parents are immigrants who came to the US separately, bringing with them only the clothes on their backs. Together, they built a grocery business and worked hard so that my brother, my sister, and I could live a good life,” Ojua said. “They taught us the value of hard work and the importance of giving back to the country and community that took us in.”

“I have always wanted to contribute to my community, and I do that through my business,” said Ojua. “I started this business from scratch and figured it out through the help of other women business owners and mentors. I want to show that people like me—a woman, a daughter of immigrants, and a member of ethnic minority groups—can build a successful enterprise. I am excited to give back and inspire other women and minorities like me to do the same.”

In 2017, Ojua applied for the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, also known as 10,000 Small Businesses or 10KSB. This education and mentorship program for entrepreneurs was developed by finance industry leader Goldman Sachs in partnership with Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

She was one of under 150 business owners invited to participate in the program from over 800 applicants.

“Being chosen to participate in 10KSB is an amazing opportunity,” said Ojua. “It opened my eyes to new avenues of growth I’d never even considered before.”

Goldman Sachs created 10KSB in 2009 with the belief that giving small business owners access to education, capital, and support is the optimum way to overcome barriers to their growth. The program’s scholars take part in a condensed and intensive MBA-like training lasting 12 weeks. The training includes guidance in building a customized growth plan, one-on-one counseling, membership to a peer support network, and support from leaders in the business world.

“These business owners represent the best of the US economy. This program helps them grow their business, create new jobs, and strengthen our communities. Nearly 70% of participants increase revenues and 50% create new jobs just six months after graduating,” said Babson College’s Richard T. Bliss, the National Academic Director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.

With her 10KSB diploma firmly in hand, Ojua is back in McMinnville, OR and has set her sights on certifications for her business that would allow her to offer graphic design services to government agencies on the federal level.

“I’m applying for federal SBA 8(a) Business Development Program as well as acquiring SBA Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program certifications. Also, I’m renewing our Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity (COBID), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), and Emerging Small Business (ESB) certifications.”

“We’re aiming to get listed on the US General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule for Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions (AIMS). This will allow government buyers to purchase directly from us with pre-established pricing, terms, and conditions.”

According to Ojua, there are no other currently certified graphic design agencies in Oregon on the GSA Schedule. Sacred Fire Creative is additionally qualified for the HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) Program certification, which even fewer agencies hold. Having these certifications, said Ojua, would further separate her company from its competitors.

“As someone with past experience working with government agencies, I truly believe we have the qualities that government buyers on the federal, state, and local level are looking for in their contractors. It’s an opportunity we are excited to explore,” Ojua said.

Sacred Fire Creative is a digital marketing agency that provides a wide range of business development services, including graphic design, web design and development, social media management, and content marketing. For more information about Sacred Fire Creative and Malee Ojua, please visit www.sacredfirecreative.com.

CONTACT:

Malee Ojua

malee@sacredfirecreative.com

503-816-3890

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Examining the 30-Year Legacy of NAWBO and the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the Business Tribune in my capacity as Programs Director and President-Elect of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Oregon Chapter. In that interview, I talked about how the 18-month-old NAWBO Oregon Chapter stands on the 30-year legacy of NAWBO and the groundbreaking 1988 law that made it all possible. I also spoke about the challenges that women business owners still face today.

 

Women’s contribution to business is previously misrepresented

 

Before the 1990s, the business sector’s spotlight is focused entirely on men and their contributions. Women’s contributions to business didn’t matter much. In fact, prior to the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, the US Census Bureau only collected data from women business owners who operate from home. The Bureau largely disregarded data from bigger women-run corporations, known as C-corporations.

 

This level of misrepresentation obviously made it difficult for women back then to start up and grow their own enterprises. Gender stereotyping labeled women as high-risk borrowers, so few banks and lenders were willing to give them the funding they needed. Those that were required women borrowers to have their male relatives sign their loan applications for them. There were even stories of women having their teenaged sons sign these applications for them, if you could believe that.

 

Aside from lack of funding sources, women in business also didn’t have much support in terms of education and resources. Women business owners were pretty much on their own back then, to succeed or fail only by their sheer grit.

 

NAWBO lobbies to change the scene for women in business

 

Fast forward to 1975, when a group of like-minded, Washington DC-based businesswomen got together to share information and solutions to challenges faced by women in business. Led by Susan Hagar, this group of women eventually incorporated themselves as the National Association of Women Business Owners.

 

Initially, NAWBO endeavored to show support for women business owners by publishing a directory of women-run enterprises in the Baltimore area. NAWBO’s growing influence led the group to take part in the White House Conference on Small Businesses. They also participated in task forces and committees to bring to the fore women’s concerns and challenges in the world of business that time.

 

Their efforts paid off in the long run. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 5050, also known as the Women’s Business Ownership Act. NAWBO was recognized as one of the organizations whose support made this historic law possible.

 

H.R. 5050 changed the landscape for women in business. For one, it scraped existing laws requiring women to get male family members to sign for their loans. For another, the Act created women’s business centers throughout the country. From these centers, women can get seed funding, training, resources, and other forms of support to start up and grow their businesses. Lastly, the Act enabled the formation of the National Women’s Business Council. The Council assists in creating policies regarding women in business.

 

Women in business still face challenges today

 

The passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 certainly opened more doors for women in business. More than that, the law revealed the true value that businesswomen bring to the table.

 

Nonetheless, women business owners still face a myriad of challenges today, 30 years after President Reagan signed the Act. These issues lie mostly with finding adequate funding and gender discrimination. Entrepreneur Magazine has a great infographic that illustrates the problems that women in business still face right now.

 

Personally, I find finances to be a major challenge in running Sacred Fire Creative. As I mentioned in the Business Tribune article, I can be obsessive with my personal finances and the money that comes in and out of my company. So, it’s always my advice to other women business owners who are just starting up to keep track of their finances. More importantly, they should seek financing instead of using their credit cards when taking care of their business expenses.

 

With regards NAWBO Oregon, our focus right now is to build a strong support network for our growing membership. Eventually, once we get the numbers, we will shift our attention to advocate state-level legislation that will promote concerns of Oregon’s women business owners.