Fall 2012 - Local Business Owners Learn to Confidently Take Risks
By Chris Cunningham
At Vanilla Jill's frozen yogurt shop in North Eugene, little ones barely able to reach the counter smile in happy anticipation of crunchy cones filled with vanilla bean or dark chocolate yogurt.
Parents and teenagers smile too, of course, especially those with dietary preferences or allergies.
When they began their business two years ago, owners Megan and Tim Stevens saw the market potential for
a frozen yogurt that would satisfy a range of dietary needs.
Vanilla Jill's offers a decaf espresso and a coconut-lime crème yogurt to satisfy those who are vegan, and seasonal sugar-free flavors for diabetics. Except for stout, all other flavors are gluten-free.
The organic yogurt, which is not self-serve, is handmade from fresh kefir that the local Springfield Creamery produces.
The Stevenses also knew they wanted a tactical business plan for daily operations, a strategy for future growth, and flexible scheduling to fit their commitment to homeschool their three children.
So they enrolled in Lane Community College's Small Business Development Center program.
As a result, Megan says, she and Tim are "really aware of the big picture and the small details."
Now in their second year with the SBDC, Megan says instructor Gary Smith, a businessman himself, has "empathy as well as experience."
The Stevenses carefully weigh their business risks, consulting regularly with Smith in one-on-one consulting sessions. Smith is "always there to give his perspective," Megan says.
For example, after studying their expansion opportunities, Megan and Tim recently opted out of opening a store in favor of a yogurt cart in a South Eugene neighborhood, while starting a production facility with a small retail outlet in the Whiteaker neighborhood.
Megan says, thanks to the SBDC, she and Tim have the confidence to "orchestrate the risks and enjoy the adventure," of being local business owners.