When I read in the news not too long ago that Oregon had lost more than 25,000 jobs in one month, my heart hurt for our state — the place I’ve called home for 24 years.
This is where I grew up and still live and work. I actually attended preschool and university on the same campus, enrolling in preschool at Oregon State’s Bates Hall shortly after immigrating to the United States with my family and, 18 years later, walking across the commencement stage in Reser Stadium as a proud Beaver graduate.
I spent childhood summers in the air-conditioned relief of the Corvallis Public Library with my nose buried in a book. I’ve skied Hoodoo, lounged in coffee shops around Portland, played grand pianos on stages from Newberg to Newport, interned at the school district office, served many a familiar face working at a movie theater and restaurants during college, and even recently became a first-time homeowner in Salem.
To share a piece of my story is to share the love I have for the communities and people in Oregon, as they have given me opportunities, support and resources throughout my life and career.
With the damage this pandemic has wreaked on the lives of Oregon residents and businesses, I felt compelled to do my part to bring jobs back to our economy by making a commitment toward the end of 2020 to only hire locally.
After leaving my corporate job without a backup plan at the end of 2017, I started my business, Ellen Yin Media, and digital media platform, Cubicle to CEO, almost by accident.
What began as freelancing as a social media marketing strategist for local businesses while looking for my next job — my first client was a veteran-owned coffee stand in Albany — quickly scaled into a boutique marketing agency serving multi-million-dollar global brands. Over the last three years, I’ve worked with dozens of clients and mentored more than 7,000 entrepreneurs through my online marketing courses and coaching programs.
In the online business space, the gig economy is huge. Everyone is praising the benefits of outsourcing jobs overseas to virtual assistants who will work for less than the federal minimum wage here in the States, and certainly less than Oregon’s much higher minimum wage.
Boosting the bottom line with cheap labor may be marketed as success, but I think it’s incredibly short-sighted to prioritize profit over people. I’m lucky that many in my close circle of business friends share my sentiment that people — and the relationships you cultivate with them — remain the true assets in business.
It’s not a matter of income or impact. It can and should be both.
Since making the intentional shift to hire only within Oregon for new positions, I’ve been able to transition out-of-state contracted roles into full-time employee positions with benefits, while still creating a remote company culture that allows my team maximum flexibility. As of this writing, we how have three full-time Oregon employees, up from zero this time last year.
As an Asian American female founder who has profitably bootstrapped my business to more than $1 million in revenue, I am especially proud that this business is 100% woman-owned.
I have built a team of strong, brilliant women. Some are working moms, most are lifelong residents of Oregon, and several are first-generation Americans like me.
Even among the contractors on our team, all but one of whom are also women-owned, we have made a concerted effort to work with mostly small Oregon-based businesses.
For example, I opted to work with my friends at Pacific Payroll in Corvallis instead of paying for the services of an automated payroll company like Gusto, even though that would have cost less. That’s because I believe in the power of supporting small business and value personal relationships over relying solely on software.
When you hire locally, you are creating opportunities for more money to be spent locally as well, pouring resources directly into your local schools, businesses, neighborhoods and infrastructure. The more we can keep money exchanging hands within our own community, the more we all help one another. A single dollar can have far-reaching benefits on all the lives it touches as it is being spent, used and shared over and over again.
I never imagined I would lead a business or team of employees at age 26, but it has been the greatest personal development journey and privilege thus far. Seeing firsthand the impact of the meaningful work we do, supporting the growth of other entrepreneurs as well as watching my team members thrive in roles catered to their natural strengths, interests and work/life balance, motivates me to continue working toward creating more jobs for our local economy in the coming years.
I know with the ingenuity and resilience of my fellow Oregon small business owners, we will return those 25,000 lost jobs — and more — to our great state.