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Tara's working hands

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Steve Strauss
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Last week, when I was in D.C. covering the Small Business Administration's annual Small Business Week for my USA TODAY column, I was fortunate enough to meet Oregon's Small Business Person of the Year - Tara O'Keeffe.

Tara runs, and is the creative power behind, O'Keeffe's Company, a line of fantasic, all-natural skin therapy products invented by Tara herself.

While Tara was recognized in D.C. as one of 50 state winners, it was Thursday night in Portland where she received her local honor when the Oregon SCORE chapter and the Portland SBA honored her at an award gala at the convention center.

The roots of Tara's family business go back more than 25 years to the Klamath Basin. Her father was a rancher and the weather had dried his hands and cracked his feet to the point that he could hardly shake hands and it was painful to even walk. When Tara graduated college with a pharmacy degree she began experimenting with various concoctions so as to help out dear 'ol dad. After some time she created the basic formula for what became their mainstay product, "O'Keeffe's Working Hands."

One lesson to be learned is that it is often the counter-intuitive idea that works in small business. For O'Keeffe's, that mean having no oil in their skin care products. According to Tara, "Oil repels moisture; it simply sits on the skin. Our product attracts moisture, draws it into the skin, and promotes the healing process."

So what else does Oregon's top small business do right?

  • They keep it simple: O'Keeffe's product line is limited (to three, actually)
  • They have core values and live by them
  • They offer an exceptional product

Maybe their website says it best: "O’Keeffe’s is an old-fashioned success story in which science, dogged determination, desire to help others, and the love for a father came together in a product more effective than anything the giant cosmetic companies could conceive of."

Congratulations, Tara!

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