Although there are plenty of laggards out there, search engine marketing
(SEM) is hardly some obscure industry; in reality, it’s easily the largest segment of online advertising. Google raked in $36.5 billion in advertising revenues last year, a 29 percent growth over the previous year, and SEMpdx is your local industry resource with a mission “to inform and educate area businesses on the benefits of SEM to bottom line revenue.” Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland offers monthly events where professional talent comes together to learn and share ideas. Most monthly events are open to anyone who wants to attend and prices range from $20-55, with discounts for members and registering early, plus SEMpdx’s big search marketing and social media conference, the annual SearchFest now in its sixth year, is coming up on Feb. 24.
Consulting And Knowledge Exchange has a simple goal: “We believe everyone should follow their dreams and if that dream is to own a business, we want to help.” A fresh (now in its sixth week) organization, CAKE helps by organizing “a weekly series of Portland-based, donation-driven, down-and-dirty small business workshops and parties” where guest speakers serve up recipes on brainstorming, branding, market research and more in a casual environment—cake is actually served at every “party.” Feel free to donate to the cause, ask tough questions you want answered, or even workshop your own project while picking up “scrappy business hacks for each topic” on Wednesdays from 6-8:30 p.m.
A collaborative project between PNCA, the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and Etsy and its Portland team, I Heart Art PDX provides “advocacy, education and support for Portland’s vibrant community of makers.” Outreach and education programs hope to stimulate growth through professional development workshops (developing business skills) while encouraging collaboration and community with salon discussions (informative conversations on varied topics) and mixer match speed-networking (“the intersection of speed dating and sales networking” where artists practice pitching while networking). Currently confirming its 2012 lineup of events, I Heart Art PDX will announce a new schedule of events, which are often free or cost as little at $10, later this month.
An organization with a slight political learning, VOIS “envisions a prosperous economy driven by innovation, environmental stewardship and social justice.” Believing “there is no better vehicle for social change than a healthy business,” VOIS is a vocal advocate of local business and sustainability and brings together like minds at monthly happy hour networking events while its calendar (provided by Sustainable Business Oregon) promotes many green gatherings and educational opportunities, often free or with recommended donation, in Portland and the surrounding areas.
Offering a wide swath of classes and events, Mercy Corps teaches everything from standard six-week, business foundation courses to one-to-three hour business seminars and counseling sessions, where experts to teach topics like technology, marketing, finance, law, and business strategy. Six-week courses fill up fast and cost $150, while seminars allow you the flexibility of paying per course ($20) or saving with multi-seminar packages ($60 for four seminars or $100 for an unlimited annual pass).
OEN is the largest entrepreneur assistance organization in the state of Oregon offering “access to valuable information and responsive assistance from experienced mentors.” With a calendar of networking events, seminars and webinars, and workshops, OEN offers opportunities like CEO roundtables or casual PubTalks to a series of startup workshops, online resources, and opportunities to get in front of angel and investment networks. With considerable discounts for members, PubTalks cost $15 and $30 while workshops or seminars are $32 and $70, for members and non-members respectively.
Free Consultation Services and Multi-Week Courses
Portland offers many interesting and affordable education opportunities for small business owners.
Government-run or supported organizations offer plenty of free resources and affordable education opportunities.
Created by Portland voters in 1958, PDC strives to make Portland a livable city, providing small business support in the form online resources, like handbooks and checklists, as well as information on finance, improvement, and development programs. Related to PDC is the Bureau of Development Services Small Business Assistance Team that can help you determine “a property’s legal use and what would be required to use it or remodel it for your business.” And another supportive arm of the city is the Small Business Advisory Council, an advocate for the “formation, growth and prosperity” of small businesses, plus publishes the Small Business Bill of Rights.
The national SBA has a Portland office offering “information on small business loans, grants, bonds and other financial assistance” as well as a calendar of workshops and events and other resources. Some single-day seminars are free while others cost $30-55 depending on duration while three- and four-week course in QuickBooks cost $95 and $120 respectively. Connected to this is the Oregon SBDC, a partnership between the national government and colleges throughout Oregon, that offers free, confidential consulting services, “including analyzing cash flow, marketing, international trade, valuing a business, and intellectual property concerns,” plus low-cost training opportunities (from free, single day events to multi-sessions courses that cost $195 or more) at community colleges in the Portland metro area via webinars. Portland Community College’s CLIMB (Continuous Learning for Individuals, Management and Business) SBDC is part of this network featuring an Entrepreneur Development Series in 10 intensive workshops.
Resource partners with the U.S. SBA, Portland’s SCORE chapter—there’s also a Vancouver, Wash., location—is an independent nonprofit offering free counseling and resources for business professionals, plus a wide variety of half- and full-day workshops for affordable prices, which range from $55-85.