Building the perfect job

When dream jobs are hard to find, one option is to create your own.

Vicki Bamman worked in nonprofits for more than 20 years, but when she was laid off last September, she seized the opportunity to get her own doggie day care and pet services business off the ground.

She had already begun Miss Molly's Pet Taxi a few months before, then added a pet walking service after losing her job. For help launching the biggest piece of her vision, the doggie day care, she sought out all the local resources she could, including the Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center.

The Oregon Employment Department refers budding entrepreneurs with viable ideas to the counselors at SBDC, where they can qualify for unemployment benefits if they spend 40 hours per week working on their business plan.

Referrals are down this year, but a much higher percentage of those referred are actually starting businesses, said Jack Vitacco, the director of the center, who could provide no reason for the shift.

Sixty clients were referred in 2007, four of whom eventually set up shop, he said. This year, six of the 13 clients opened a business.

"A lot of people who do come to us from that situation, they've been working for somebody, they become unemployed, but they've had something in the back of their minds," he said.

Ideas range from turning a jewelry-making hobby into a full-fledged business, to food production or high tech services.

"The reality is, if they come here, we work with them, and if they really are interested we can only provide the resources," he said. "It's up to them to do the work."

Often, unemployed clients are anxious to meet deadlines, motivated by the 26-week limit on unemployment benefits, he said.

Bamman took advantage of the benefits while she worked on her market survey and business plan, and after six months, she found a building to rent and opened the last piece of Miss Molly's Enterprises.

Ashlander Scott Taylor followed a similar route through the SBDC after he found himself without a job last July.

He was set on staying in the Rogue Valley because of his high school-age son, but after six months of searching, still had no prospects.

"Being a little bit over 50 years old, it was not easy to find work," he said. "The most viable alternative was to buy my own business, which I'm better at anyway."

He had years of restaurant management experience and had owned a few businesses 30 years earlier. After looking in both Ashland and Medford, he purchased Sara's Cottage Kitchen in Medford with plans to rename it The Real Deal Caf&


But having the doors open doesn't necessarily mean a steady income. Both he and Bamman said they felt a little uncertain about finances with a downward trending economy.

"Do I feel financially secure?" Bamman asked. "Oh no, no. I just have a lot of enthusiasm about this service and want to see it happen. And if I have to use my own money to make it happen, that's what I'm doing."

She puts in about 50 hours per week on her business, but is still open to the possibility of taking a full-time job and hiring someone else to baby-sit her furry charges.

"If something came along that had a wonderful whiz-bang salary, I would take it," she said.

Taylor said his extensive background in restaurants and counseling from former restaurateurs helped allay some of the uncertainty.

"I would recommend it to anybody that has a certain amount of financial security," he said. "I wouldn't bet the whole farm on something that I wasn't really sure about."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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