Articles Tagged with: women in business
Maria Ressa, Journalist and Activist

Journalism wasn’t always a life-threatening field of study. Times have changed, however, and some journalists have become activists who risk life and limb—even their freedom—to publish the truth. According to a New York Times article, 2018 was the most dangerous year on record for journalists; this trend has not shown any sign of waning.

No one knows this better than Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa. She was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, part of this year’s Bloomberg 50 List, former bureau chief of CNN Philippines and Indonesia, and founder of Manila-based news outlet Rappler. In June of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, she was convicted of cyber-libel.

Who is Maria Ressa?

Maria Ressa was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States with her family as a young child. She spent her early years living in New Jersey and studied English and Theater at Princeton University. In the 1980s, after the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos came to an end, Ressa decided to return to the Philippines. Back to her roots, she discovered journalism and spent the next 30 years as a television and broadcast journalist working around Southeast Asia. While working as a journalist, she had her first interview with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who would later become president of the Philippines in 2016.

She is the Chief Executive Officer of Rappler, which she founded in January 2012 along with three other female founders and 12 journalists. With the ultimate goal of building communities while using social media to do good, Rappler has grown into a well-respected independent news outlet known for its investigative journalism.

Before founding Rappler, Maria Ressa spent six years as the news division leader of ABS-CBN, formerly the Philippines’ largest TV network. Earlier this year, ABS-CBN was shut down due to legal issues, although many believe President Duterte had a direct hand in closing the networking giant down. This closure is just another example of the kind of political climate Ressa and other Filipino journalists face.

Covering Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

In 2016, under Ressa’s guidance, Rappler first started to cover President Duterte’s “army of trolls” who were seeding and spreading fake news to millions of his followers online during the Philippine presidential campaign. When he eventually won the election and became President, Rappler began to write stories on the administration’s “War on Drugs,” which killed over 7,000 people between July 2016 and July 2017.

During this dark time, President Duterte ordered the Philippine police to kill anyone they suspected of drug connections. Unsurprisingly, only small-time and usually lower-class drug users and street-side pushers were caught and killed in this brutal war. It left international syndicates and influential drug dealers who control the drug trade unscathed. Reporting on this is what put Rappler and Ressa in the spotlight and right in front of President Duterte’s line of fire. That would be the beginning of Ressa’s legal battles.

Her Legal Battles

Maria Ressa’s current legal battles stem from an 8-year old story that Rappler published alleging a Filipino business person had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. The story was published in 2012, four months after the “cyber-libel law” was passed. In 2014, the story was re-published due to a typo, and the courts declared that it fell under the jurisdiction of the said law.

During the proceedings, the judge stated that Rappler did not offer proof of their allegations and convicted Maria Ressa with cyber-libel. She now faces the possibility of serving six years in jail. According to Ressa and Rappler, the case was politically motivated. Since 2018, there have been 11 cases filed against Rappler, including tax evasion and foreign ownership violations.

As her legal battles grew, so did her profile, both locally and internationally. She has become known worldwide as a symbol of standing up for the truth and battling an authoritarian president and would-be dictator. As Maria Ressa has said in an interview, “In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism.”

An Inspiring Voice

The 2020 documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” produced by fellow Filipino-American Ramona S. Diaz, features Ressa. The film covers Maria Ressa and Rappler as they put up a fight against President Duterte’s attack on them and, inevitably, on freedom of the press. Throughout the film, Maria Ressa is a beacon of hope and strength-showing her humanity by voicing out her fears, yet never giving up on what she believes is right.

She has become an inspiring voice around the world. When Ressa talks about the attacks on freedom of speech, the truth, and facts, she is not just talking about the state of the Philippine press and politics but the state of the world. In this day and age, where people can get the news with a click of the button, they can also get fake news and lies at just the same speed. It has become Maria’s advocacy to stand up for facts and not give in to political pressure.

Currently, Maria Ressa is out on bail and still publishing. Rappler continues to cover the Philippines’ daily news, together with fearless views on the current Philippine administration. Ressa continues to stand for what she believes in and to fight the legal cases piling up against her and Rappler. It is interesting to note that in “A Thousand Cuts,” she asks the lawyer what the worst case can be filed against her. Her lawyer answered that it didn’t matter because the government would find the opportunity to file any claim against her, even child abuse, in their attempt to silence her.

From journalist to activist, Maria Ressa inspires journalists and women around the world with her strength and poise. She is an excellent example of the power of an individual who refuses to give up on facts and continues to fight for the truth.


NAWBO Oregon Past President Chosen for Exclusive Accelerated Growth Training

NAWBO Oregon past president and Sacred Fire Creative founder Malee Ojua joins a select group of 25 women business owners undergoing the NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program, a 10-month business leadership training created by NAWBO and sponsored by Wells-Fargo. 

Portland, OR, March 2021—Sacred Fire Creative (SFC) announced the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) selected SFC CEO Malee Ojua as part of its new learning program. Open to only 25 participants, the NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program helps women business owners scale up their enterprises.

The NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program aims to increase its participants’ market competitiveness.

The NAWBO Accelerated Growth Program is an offering of the organization’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Development. The program, launched in 2021, is a top-tier educational plan designed to help women business owners increase their competitiveness in their respective markets. It’s also meant to set them up for higher levels of growth and expansion. Wells-Fargo sponsors the program.

Participants are to attend eight one-hour online learning sessions for four months. Topics covered in these sessions include developing a leadership mindset, building successful teams, strategic planning, and brand messaging. After completing the program, they will take part in mentorship/mastermind groups for six months. They will also receive other benefits that will help them grow their business.

According to NAWBO, women own 40% of all privately held companies in the country today. Still, the size of their revenues remains significantly below other types of businesses. Educating women business owners enables them to progress to the same or greater levels.

NAWBO is a network of women business owners in the US formed in 1975. Its purpose is to share resources and to provide mutual support among its members. It also lobbies economic and public policies benefiting women entrepreneurs.

Sacred Fire Creative is named one of the top digital marketing agencies in Portland.

SFC is a Portland-based digital marketing agency specializing in helping its clients build a legacy through solid branding. With a unique and robust brand, SFC clients can forge deep connections with its customers, thus creating a loyal community. Among the companies that SFC has worked with are ArisGlobal Software, RiverWest Acupuncture, Johnson & Johnson, and NYU Langone Medical Center. Expertise.com named SFC one of the top digital marketing agencies in the city.

Aside from her role as SFC head, Malee Ojua is also involved with NAWBO’s Oregon chapter. She is the chapter’s current program director and served as its president in 2020. Additionally, she hosts bimonthly virtual forums on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). Ojua participated in the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program in 2019. A former aeronautics engineer, she founded SFC in 2014.


10 Questions with Abby Tarsches

In her own words, Abby Tarsches loves photographing people. A fine art photographer whose work has been published in the likes of Vogue and Bazaar, Abby strives to capture her subjects in their most beautiful and authentic. Every photo is a moment of memory and should, therefore, be timeless and enduring.

With these ten questions, Abby shares her insights on her work and life.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Nothing stays the same. Go with the change.

What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Get educated regarding running the business side of things.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

You cannot control everything. Live and let live.

What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

That my work is glamorous and sexy all the time.

What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

Focusing on shop local. Using all my skills as a photographer to help others keep their memories alive.

What do you love about what you do?

I love how a camera can freeze a moment in time. That people’s portraits and special occasions will have a history that will be remembered. I love that every time I photograph, I learn and see something new. That hopefully, I can make someone’s life better through the art of photography.

What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

People are very friendly here. I like the connections I have made.

What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I love to hike with my dog at Mt Tabor!

Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My two children, Iris and Cara. They have expanded my heart and soul and give me new perspectives on life every day!

Who do you help in your business?

Women with body positivity and empowerment, business owners, families, and individuals.

Sacred Fire Creative features the members of Portland Connect Online in this series. Our goal here is to help womxn realize that they are extraordinary, that they can make a difference in their own lives, as well as in others’.

For Abby Tarsches, making a difference means capturing her subjects’ inner beauty with her photographs and helping them keep cherished memories alive.


10 Questions with Winslett Carr

Winslett Carr is an acupuncturist specializing in treating a range of women’s health issues, including sexual and reproductive health. It gives her great satisfaction in seeing her patients find relief from stress, chronic pain, and other conditions.

Her patients’ experiences mirror her own. In her 20s, Winslett led a stressful lifestyle working as a researcher for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. The day-to-day stress led her to get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It was rather ironic, considering that the non-profit she worked for is in the women’s health niche. Her quest for better health led her to study Chinese medicine and switching careers.

Winslett’s years of experience, both as a patient and as a clinician, have equipped her to help other women find healing. She shares her insights on her work and her life with Sacred Fire Creative by answering these 10 questions:

1. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Enjoy your time growing up: play softball, have fun with your friends, keep enjoying your favorite subjects, but most importantly, be your most authentic self. This will guide you to where you need to be.

2. What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Start now, even if you start small. Find a mentor who can show you the ropes. Connect with colleagues in the field and beyond and stay in touch with your community for support. Send referrals; receive referrals.

3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

If you have no expertise in an area (tax planning), do not hammer yourself about it. Find and pay for excellent professional help and re-focus on what you do best.

4. What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

Acupuncturist is a title, not the act of what I do. Acupuncturists study Chinese medicine and East Asian medicine theory, modalities, herbs, and nutrition. We are not just technicians with needles; we practice the complete art of medicine.

5. What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

Although I spend as much time in the room with a patient as before, I do it wearing scrubs, masks, protective eyewear. I crinkle my eyes more to show people I’m smiling behind the mask. That, and I spend more time allowing Cavicide to dry on every surface between patients and before resetting the treatment room for the next patient. New normal.

6. What do you love about what you do?

I love hearing each person’s unique story. They’re not just sharing a health history but the way they shape their lives and what their dreams and goals are for the future. If I can help them, in some small way, to continue moving towards their dreams and goals, well, there’s nothing better than helping people in that way.

7. What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

Portland is still a wonderfully small city with 7 degrees of separation. There are many entrepreneurs here. Everyone understands that if you are an effective and caring professional, your business will steadily grow.

8. What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I hike to see everything that the area offers. Portland and the entire Pacific Northwest are filled with world-class vistas—Douglas fir-covered capes with trails to secluded beaches, the snow-covered Cascade Range of still active volcanoes, prehistoric forests with cool mountain streams, and even high desert landscapes with wild horses.

9. Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My mother is a force and a force for good for everyone who surrounds her. She returned to graduate school with my then-infant brother in tow. She works smart for sure, but she gets more things done in a day than almost anyone I know. She’s a “Type A” and also very intuitive and caring. I aim high because of her, and I help others where I can because that’s what she always did.

10. Who do you help in your business?

I help women working on goals and really pursuing their dreams of having a family, having health, living authentically and pain-free.

Sacred Fire Creative shines the spotlight on the members of Portland Connect Online in this series. Through this series, we aim to help womxn realize and believe that they can be extraordinary and make a difference in other people’s lives.

For Winslett Carr, making a difference means assisting women in their journey to better health and a family of their own through her acupuncture practice.


10 Questions with Brittani Pomeroy

Brittani Pomeroy is a great believer in autonomy. As an Insurance Advisor with Elliott, Powell, Baden & Baker, she works closely with her customers as their advocate. She believes it’s her job to help her clients feel secure that they have the best options in place in case they meet with unforeseen losses.

Brittani answers ten questions for Sacred Fire Creative. Through these answers, she lets us into her thoughts on the work she does and the life she lives today.

1. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Change is constant; we must learn to look for the positive in every transition.

2. What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Slow down and make sure to build the proper foundation for your business. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

The impact of not having the proper foundation. It makes it harder to maintain the same level of success and service.

4. What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

I am a very direct person. At times I’ll have a coworker tell me that I am not open to their opinion. But that is not correct. Instead, I like to understand their reasonings so I can process and make my own determination.

5. What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

I now have to make time to help my son with his homework. So at times, my work hours are not the typical work hours.

6. What do you love about what you do?

I truly love partnering with my customers to make sure they have the necessary coverages for unforeseen losses.

7. What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

Portland is a city with a small-town feel. The individuals I have worked with seem to like to sell based on relationships.

8. What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I love that I can walk to my grocery store, bakery, ice cream shop, nails. Plus, I have an amazing view of Mt. Hood.

9. Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My grandmother. She always taught me to be true to myself and pay attention to actions over words.

10. Who do you help in your business?

I partner with companies that want to make sure they have the proper insurance for their business today plus future endeavors they have planned.

Sacred Fire Creative showcases the members of Portland Connect Online in this series. Our aim is to let all womxn realize that they are capable of doing extraordinary things. Womxn can make a difference, not just in their own lives but also in others’.

In Brittani Pomeroy’s case, it’s all about helping people put down safeguards that will protect them against uncertainty and unforeseen losses. She encourages her clients to be proactive about their future.


10 Questions with Jennifer Armenta

Jennifer Armenta started many businesses, but it took some trial and error and plenty of effort to succeed and thrive. Like most womxn, she realized the value of enjoying life a little too late. She also learned ideas don’t simply bring success; research and empathy do.

Jennifer is a Highlands Certified Consultant and Certified Career Services Provider. She revels in helping her clients find confidence within themselves to do what they need to do. She believes being true to yourself is great, and having plans for your future is even better.

Here’s an insight into Jennifer’s personal and work thoughts:

1. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

I would tell myself to remember to always have fun. Being an adult is full of responsibilities. It is important to have fun and laugh every day.

2. What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

Make sure that what you are offering is something your customer needs or wants. Just because you think it is a good idea does not mean that everyone will. Do your due diligence before you launch your business.

3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

I have started many businesses in my life. Some have been successful, and some have not. After my last business did not work out, it took me several years to get back up. My current business is thriving, but it is because I learned from the past. I had to look back at what didn’t work and create new strategies that led to success.

4. What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

Thinking that all coaches are the same. I distinguish myself by taking a very intuitive approach to each client. Each person that I work with has different fears, goals, and expectations. So, I develop a unique plan for each client I work with, providing the most value I can with the time we spend together.

5. What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

I have been very lucky that I have not had to make significant changes. Although I genuinely miss in-person meetings, I can provide all of my services virtually.

6. What do you love about what you do?

I love helping someone confidently make a big decision about their future. There is nothing better than seeing someone’s face light up when they finally figured out what their next steps are. It feels good to be there for someone through these milestones.

7. What is the best thing about doing business in McMinnville?

The amazing community. McMinnville is a wonderful place to do business. The Chamber of Commerce, McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, and other local groups truly support local business owners.

8. What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I love spending time with friends and family in downtown McMinnville. There are fantastic restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs that we frequent regularly.

9. Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My parents. They always taught me to be true to myself and follow my intuition. With this solid foundation, I am now able to help my clients do the same.

10. Who do you help in your business?

I help people who are in career transition. I love helping older students clarify their next steps in life. I also work with new and aspiring leaders to identify their strengths and help them confidently develop their leadership style.

We’re trying to let all womxn know that they can make a difference. You don’t need to be special, above average, or anything else but yourself to be significant. Sacred Fire Creative showcases members of Portland Connect Online to show you that ordinary womxn like you and me can do extraordinary things.

In Jennifer Armenta’s case, she encourages people to find themselves and set goals for their future. She enjoys empathetically leading people as well as managing employees and developing organizations. With this, she empowers not only herself but also others.


10 Questions with Lita Batho

Lita Batho believes you should love where you live. Like other womxn entrepreneurs, she strives to make a difference doing a job she believes in. At present, she works at Keller Williams as a real estate agent.

Lita ensures she understands her clients and their vision as she assists them in choosing a house. She knows you’ll live in your home for a long time, so it’s important to her that you love where you live. After all, if you love your residence, you’re more likely to love life and everything within it.

Here’s an insight into Lita’s personality and the things that drive her:

1. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 11-year-old self?

Keep that positive attitude. And yes, you can do anything.

2. What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started your business?

These relationships can last decades: get to know everyone you meet, be kind, and stay in touch.

3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned the hard way (in life or business)?

Listening is more effective than telling.

4. What do people always get wrong about you or what you do?

A big part of what I do as a real estate agent is negotiating and making sure each step of the process moves forward in a timely manner. A lot goes on behind the scenes of looking at homes and making offers, and it takes a lot of attention to detail and thinking through the strategy to make sure my clients have a stress-free process and achieve their goals.

5. What shifts did you make in life or business as a result of the pandemic?

The beginning of the pandemic felt like a nice, quiet lull with no one driving, families outside in the spring weather, and cooking at home.  As the pandemic went on, though, I am so grateful that most of the process of buying or selling a home can be done virtually (contracts, communicating between agents, title, and closing). Of course, I still cherish the time I get to show houses in person and finally hand keys to new buyers.  It helped me appreciate the time I do have in person with any client and the ability to work virtually.

6. What do you love about what you do?

I love getting to know clients and having their trust to facilitate a life change. I also love living in Portland, and by extension, helping others to get to know neighborhoods, the home styles here, and finding solutions for my clients to make their next move.

7. What is the best thing about doing business in Portland?

As a real estate agent, I love the region. It offers year-round gardening, outdoor recreation, and unique neighborhoods; there really is something for everyone.

8. What is one of your favorite things to do where you live?

I love our local restaurant owners and farmers. I like to support them by shopping at the farmers’ markets and eating (or taking out) from independently-owned restaurants. I also love day trips to the gorge or the coast, hiking, and neighborhood walking.

9. Who has been the most important influence in your life and why?

My mom had her own business (retail shops). To me, she was a great example of a small business owner and someone working on building a business.  I remember her advocating for herself with bankers and running the business when I was small, and I grew up in and around her stores.

10. Who do you help in your business?

I help home buyers and sellers transition from one situation to the next. I do this by connecting them with my trusted partners for lending, home inspections and repairs, and other services.

Sacred Fire Creative aims to let everyone know we can all make a difference. You don’t have to be special, above average, or anything else but you to make a difference. Members of Portland Connect Online show you that ordinary womxn can do extraordinary things that make significant differences in people’s lives.

In Lita Batho’s case, she’s ensuring every individual or family appreciates their house. Before practicing real estate, she had been a yoga teacher that helped womxn stay healthy and manage their stresses for over 19 years.


Introspective Dialogue on Racism and Equity-Based Interventions with Nathan Baptiste: A Recap

On January 11, 2021, Sacred Fire Creative hosted a virtual forum entitled “Introspective Dialogue on Racism and Equity-Based Interventions.” The purpose of this forum is to provide a safe space for professionals and business owners to have a relevant discussion on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging, collectively known as DEIB. The forum also recognizes a strong need for employers to create meaningful change in the workplace through DEIA-based interventions.

For this online event, Sacred Fire Creative invited Nathan Baptiste, the founder and principal of EDI Mindfulness Consulting.

Nathan’s story

Through EDI Mindfulness Consulting, Nathan helps various organizations in developing inclusive and equitable work environments. Before he got into consultancy, he served as Oregon Metro’s diversity program manager. His work there included launching an equity, diversity, and inclusion professional development training plan. He also has experience in the academe, leading the diversity programming at the Lewis & Clark College.

Nathan shared a personal encounter with racism during the forum. He grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and attended a mostly white high school in Oregon. As one of the few Black students in the school, he experienced bullying, especially during his sophomore year. His schoolmates made a game of throwing rice at the back of his head to see if the grains would stick to his afro. Some of them even called him the n-word.

To address the issue, Nathan went to see his school’s assistant principal, to whom he suggested including Black history and literature in the curriculum. However, the assistant principal’s response was colorblind—that if the school started offering classes on Black history and literature, it would have to do the same for the Asian and Latino students. This caused Nathan to feel withdrawn. He knew that the bullying he experienced because of his race was wrong. But at the time, he didn’t have the language to process it. So he internalized it instead.

This changed during his junior year. In that year, Nathan’s classes included a political action seminar. One of his projects there was organizing a dialogue on racism and the prison system. It turned out successfully, as did his later projects for the class. He found it encouraging because it sowed open-mindedness about race discussions in a less diverse environment.

The need for explicit dialogue on racism

Nathan raised the following points during the forum:

  • The event is timely, as it came at the heels of the rioting that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6.
  • There’s a need to define what white supremacy is, as well as its effect on individuals.
  • Racism is both internal and interpersonal, and it has become systemic in society. It’s so laced into our institutions and our culture that even people of color have internalized it.
  • Racism is not a competition; instead, it is intersectional, as we don’t live one-cause lives.
  • We need to have explicit conversations about racism. We need to raise awareness of how racism manifests systemically and allow ourselves the space to reflect on it.
  • Any conversation on diversity will fail if racial equity is left out of it.
  • The more diverse a workplace is, the more innovative it becomes and the better it would be for the organization’s bottom line.

Questions to discuss

The forum participants were then divided into breakout groups to discuss the following questions:

  1. How do you define white supremacy?
  2. How may you define anti-racism, and what principles help you to define it?
  3. Going beyond simple statements of condemnation or support, in what ways does white supremacy and anti-racism show up or not as influences in your life?

The participants agreed that this conversation about racism isn’t going away anytime soon and must be continuous. Many suggested gaining others’ perspectives on the issue, calling out racism instances on the spot, and watching who you vote for.

Sacred Fire Creative continues the dialogue with its lineup of DEIB virtual forums. Check the schedule of these events and join the conversation today: http://bit.ly/3bC6fV7


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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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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