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Tiny Business-coaching Organization Packs Punch

With an annual budget of about $36,000 today and less than one half-time employee for at least the past six years, it would be easy to underestimate the economic impact Wallowa County Business Facilitation has on this county.

And yet the statistics compiled by business facilitators since 2001 are eye-opening. Myron Kirkpatrick, who initially held the business facilitator post, tracked the numbers from 2001 to 2011. Today’s facilitator, Catherine Matthias, continues to keep tabs.

Counting clients as businesses and not people, well beyond 800 clients from Wallowa County have availed themselves of free business counseling from Kirkpatrick and Matthias since 2001. And cumulative results from that total say 114 new businesses were opened and 209 jobs created.

Business assistance is free and confidential.

Funding, in small amounts, comes from federal, state, county, civic, and private sources.

More than once, Matthias has been heard to say possibly the most important component of her job is not creating new jobs, but instead working with people who conclude on their own that their “great” business idea is not feasible.

Aligned with the Sirolli Institute, of Sacramento, Calif., Wallowa County Business Facilitation is designed to promote local entrepreneurship; help start new, local businesses; help businesses grow; help struggling businesses find success; assist persons achieve business dreams; and increase the community’s capacity to experience economic and social growth.

Matthias meets with many clients at her home, the Dobbin House near Eggleson Corner between Joseph and Enterprise, and with many others at their planned or actual place of business.

Following the Sirolli business model, Matthias firmly states her role is neither to initiate nor motivate potential businessmen and businesswomen.

“Everything has to be based on someone’s passion,” she says. “I am a coach and not a motivator. People’s fire for their businesses has to come internally.”

Although one client went ahead and launched a successful business following a 45-minute phone call with Matthias, the standard number of personal visitation sessions ranges between three and seven, with some clients requiring up to a dozen sessions.

“I mostly listen during first sessions which might last 1½ hours,” Matthias says. What input she does offer in those opening sessions typically covers “the trinity of management.”

That trinity includes product, marketing, and financial.

Although the vast majority of clients who approach Wallowa County Business Facilitation, most commonly referred via word-of-mouth, are product-focused, successful business efforts must include strong elements of marketing and financial, she says.

A new component of the 12-year-old organization was launched in June, when a resource development team met for the first time at The Blonde Strawberry, in Wallowa. The purpose of that team, says Matthias, is to assist Business Facilitation’s existing seven-person project management board find answers to common questions such as where to locate a business or whom to contact for Web design.

Matthias can be contacted at 541-398-0636 or


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