META event will celebrate thriving Treasure Valley startups

zkyle@idahostatesman.comSeptember 6, 2013 

  • META’s banquet

    When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26

    Where: Riverside Hotel, 2900 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City

    Cost: $60 per person or $600 for a business sponsor's table for eight

This one's for the Treasure Valley entrepreneurs who built small businesses from scratch.

The owners of four local companies will be honored at a Sept. 26 banquet by Micro Enterprise Training & Assistance. META, which in 2012 helped launch 68 startups in Idaho and provided $138,000 in loans to 38 business, provided each honoree with either a microloan, business counseling or training.

The organization selected one business for recognition from each of its four departments: Refugee Assistance and Microloan Project; Growing Green Business Initiative; Women's Business Center; and Small Business Administration Prime Project.[0x0b]


Refugee Assistance and Microloan Project

Angelique Uwishema was 16 when soldiers armed with knives and guns beat her father and abducted him from her family's Congolese home.

Such terrors were common in 2007 in her home city of Goma. A civil war erupted after Congo's first multi-party elections in 2006.

Before they hauled her father away, the soldiers told Uwishema and her family to leave the city or be killed.

The family fled to a refugee camp in neighboring Uganda. There, Uwishema looked after about a dozen children whose mothers worked during the day.

Caring for the children provided a welcome escape.

"It made me not think about what had happened," she said.

Now 24, Uwishema moved to Boise in 2012 as a refugee with her mother and one of her brothers. Her other brother disappeared in 2010 and, like her father, was never heard from again.

She opened Angel's Child Care in her Boise home at 392 N. Allumbaugh St. with her mother, Eugenie Nyirabewa. META counselors helped her obtain licenses and other paperwork to get the business off the ground. Slowly, she built up a large enough roster of children to be profitable.

She named her business Angel's with her own name in mind, but also with a nod to the children who gave her peace during more difficult times.

"They are like angels," she said. "They make me feel good."


Growing Green Business Initiative

The cutting edge of environmentally friendly fire abatement and weed management might be an old-time strategy: goats.

Goats will eat just about any kind of weed or brush, including noxious weeds and wildfire fuel near homes and properties. Husband-and-wife team Tim and Lynda Linquist banked on turning their goat herd into a profitable business when they started We Rent Goats in 2009.

"A lot of people said we couldn't do it," Tim Linquist, 36, said. "So we did it."

The Linquists' herd has grown to 520 goats. They take groups of about 200 at a time to areas that customers want rid of brush and fire fuels. Their clients include the city of Boise, Ada County Highway District, the Idaho Department of Transportation and Idaho Power Co.

Goats are great for weed control because, unlike weed eater machines, they ingest and kill 90 percent of the seeds they munch, Linquist said.

We Rent Goats has had as many as four herds spread across the Valley during midsummer.

The beauty of the goat-rental business model is the low overhead. The goats eat for free, either on the job or on public grazing lands, except when the mothers are fed hay in a heated greenhouse during kidding season in the spring. That means low expenses for food and for land: the Linguists don't own a large ranch of their own. Their headquarters - a fifth-wheel trailer - can move with the goats.

META helped the Linquists with all of the non-goat stuff: accounting, taxes, marketing, website development and a $5,000 loan for the greenhouse.

"We have built our business with the help of nobody except our hard work and META," Lynda Linquist, 29, said.


Women's Business Center

Jenny Moorman started Care Advocate Group on a simple premise: Navigating the health care system, financial strains and a disrupted work schedule is tough enough for families who aren't dealing with a cancer diagnosis or a parent needing full-time care.

Those responsibilities grow heavier when coupled with the flood of bills and insurance paperwork that consumes families during a health crisis.

"We subject people to some of the most foreign, complex information they will ever encounter at a time when they are often emotionally and physically compromised," Moorman said. "A lot of this stuff is tough to navigate on a good day. Try figuring it out when you or a loved one has just experienced a life-altering event."

Moorman, 50, had worked as an insurance company owner and an insurance compliance officer in a malpractice defense insurance firm. She'd also seen the ravages of crisis herself during her brother's six-year battle with cancer, which he lost in 1998.

Moorman earned a master's certificate in conflict management at Boise State University and became a professional mediator in 2011. That paved the way for leaving the insurance business and starting Care Advocate Group at 5360 N. Turret Way in Boise, where she helps families work out the logistics that come with a health care crisis. That includes money and paperwork, but also the interpersonal aspects that become strained when family members grapple with hardship.

Her second business, Care Builders, will go live online in January, offering a subscription-based Web service that will provide resources for clients to make plans and find solutions by themselves.


Small Business Administration Prime Project

Horacio Tellez and his wife, Maria Chavez, opened their small Mexican restaurant in 2004 in part because they struggled to find jobs.

The couple poured $23,000 in savings to install a kitchen into their rented space on Kimball Avenue in Caldwell. There, they leaned on Chavez's lifetime of cooking authentic Mexican cuisine, starting back to her days making tortillas and barbacoa on Janitzio Island in Mexico.

"The idea behind starting the business was to stop working for someone else," said Chavez, 47. "I wanted to be my own boss."

With their two daughters as employees, they turned a profit after several years.

They started looking for another building in anticipation of their lease not being renewed. They struck a deal with the owners of the restaurant across the street, Garcia's Tex Mex Grill, as the owners prepared to retire.

Doing so took more financing. With META's help, they were approved for a $113,000 Small Business Administration loan to move the restaurant across the street to the vacated building at 313 S. Kimball.

Tellez, 49, is content for the restaurant to remain a small, family-only operation for now.

"We didn't start the business in hopes of becoming rich," he said. "The business has been good to us in helping our family pay the bills."


Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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