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On The Scene: The Portland Bottom Line

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On the Scene
Friday, November 12, 2010
By Emma Hall

Mercy Corps held a book release party at their Global Headquarters Wednesday for the launch of "The Portland Bottom Line: Practices for Your Small Business from America's Hotbed of Sustainability."

The book was the brainchild of Peter Korchnak, whose company Semiosis Communications provides marketing for sustainable businesses. He got the idea to crowd-source the book from experience contributing to other books that similarly began through social media. Korchnak solicited ideas from May to mid-July of this year through various social media outlets-Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.

"This book is really Peter's dream, and as he reminds me often, his baby," said Megan Strand, who co-edited the book.

Contributions poured in from the community and 51 essays from local small business owners with a focus on sustainability ended up making the book.

The contributors chose Mercy Corps out of nine local nonprofits to receive the proceeds from the sales of the $16.95 book because of the organization's work to help people launch small businesses globally.

John Haines of Mercy Corps explained that the organization planned to give a copy of the book to all of their clients, because it offered such practical advice on sustainability and grassroots business.

Haines said that Korchnak moved to Portland from Slovakia six years ago, where there is no word for sustainability, and only a "really hard word for 'environment.'" (It's životné prostredie if you're wondering.)

"I may be from Slovakia, but I'm from Portland now," Korchnak assured the attendees.

As he explains in a post on his blog, Korchnak thinks sustainability thrives in Portland due to reasons ranging from the environment and climate to the politics and people living here.

Over 50 of these members of the sustainably-minded Portland community came to the book launch party to get their copies signed by the contributors, many of whom had never met each other in person before.

"Actually, I had never even met Peter before," said contributor Judith Yamada of Portland Home Cooking. "But I knew him immediately when I saw him after e-mailing him so many times."

Yamada's company provides cooking team-building activities, and gives classes on eating sustainably, locally and in season. Her contribution to "The Portland Bottom Line" was her first time contributing to a book.  She brought snacks for the attendees that included sage brown butter pumpkin bread, Mediterranean spinach nibbles, and Jezebel chevre tartlets.

Other appetizers, along with beer and wine were provided for the attendees by various book contributors and Mercy Corps clients. 

While attendees munched on the local snacks, two contributors gave a short talk about why getting the word out about sustainable business practices was important to them.

Susan Bender Phelps, CEO of Odyssey Mentoring, explained that she and Korchnak had long been in the nonprofit world, and now took those lessons with them into the for-profit realm.

"We're committed to doing well, by doing good," Bender Phelps said.

Brian Setzler, a CPA, wrote his chapter of the book about measuring and maintaining your business impact. He said he was proud to be a part of the book.

"I really hope it reaches out of the Portland community, because all over the world people look to Portland for sustainability," Setzler said.

As Korchnak cut the red ribbon on the book, he told the attendees that he is already thinking about a second book slated to come out a year from now.

"The next book will still focus on sustainable business practices, but we may expand the criteria to companies of other sizes," Korchnak said. "There are a lot of great companies in town doing great things that could be considered medium sized, and we want to include those stories as well."

In keeping with the local framework, Korchnak and Strand are looking for local bookstores to carry the book, but for now it is available at portlandbottomline.com.

Emma Hall is Web Editor for Oregon Business.



Judith Yamada
0 #1 Emma, Great article about "The Portland Bottom Line"Judith Yamada 2010-11-16 15:40:54
Thanks for the comprehensive article about "The Portland Bottom Line" release party. Peter sent links to several articles including yours and mine. Another thank you for mentioning me and my business. I enjoyed meeting you and share your love of kittens ;-).
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