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Greenbank’s annual Home Business Expo promotes Island-grown efforts

Sarah Stone of Freeland shows off her new line of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds Saturday at the Home Business Expo. - Jeff VanDerford
Sarah Stone of Freeland shows off her new line of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds Saturday at the Home Business Expo.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

There’s an old adage that states, “From small acorns, mighty oaks grow.”

Applied to small business, it means you have to start somewhere, maybe even in your own home, especially if you believe you can offer a great idea, product or service. After all, Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard began their corporate existence in someone’s garage.

Though qualifying for the Fortune 500 may be a ways into the future, the 18 home-based businesses on display at Greenbank Farm’s Home Business Expo over the weekend recognized the importance of getting their product or service before the public.

Each spent $75 for the two-day event and most felt it was worth every penny.

A sweet start

Sarah Stone, 7, couldn’t wait to show off her candy-coated chocolate sunflower seeds.

“This is our first venture, the first showing on the island,” she explained while offering small samples in tiny white cups.

“We put it all together yesterday. The seeds come from Kansas and I have my employees (mom Elisa and grandmother Beverly Rose) package them.”

Sarah’s Sunny Seeds hasn’t found an outlet on Whidbey yet, which is why the company’s president was manning a booth at the Home Business Expo on Saturday.

Sarah, though, was anxious to get her product in people’s hands.

“I’ve been walking around giving samples to people; they seem excited by them,” she said.

Sarah is charging $3 for a good-sized bag or $5 for a larger cardboard tube of the colorful treats. Her hand-cut business card is included if anyone wishes to buy more.

“Aren’t they good?” Sarah asked. Absolutely.

Girls’ night out

With Tupperware parties being so last century, Sine Hough and Tasha Blasko offer a new slant for a girl’s night out with “The Body Shop.”

Customers choose the theme, supply the guests and refreshments while Hough and Blasko provide the pampering and the fun.

“We come to people’s homes and soak and scrub your feet, then apply one of our special body butters,” Blasko said.

“Generally they, and we, have a really good time,” she added.

Body butters come in olive oil, mango, papaya, coconut and strawberry flavors, among others.

Begun in England 30 years ago by Dame Anita Roddick, The Body Shop is distinguished by its environmentally-advanced product line. The company enforces strict rules against animal testing — makeup brushes are made without animal hair, for example — and buys products based on the free trade principal, ensuring suppliers are paid a fair wage wherever they are. So fishermen hauling in seaweed in Ireland, African women harvesting honey in Zambia or a Namibian village creating exotic oils get a regular, sustained income.

The grant lady

Lynn Sterbenz’ display at the expo was devoid of some of the more eye-catching frills of other exhibitors. Just her resumé and a pamphlet listing her capabilities as a grant writer.

But if you need help researching and writing a proposal to the government — local, state or federal — or a non-profit agency, Sterbenz has the right background.

She began her career as an alcohol and drug treatment specialist in Wenatchee before moving to Anchorage, Alaska in 1995. Over the next 10 years, Sterbenz was involved with the city’s department of health, a program director for a non-profit children’s program and grant coordinator for a children’s advocacy center in Alaska.

“In each position, I was primarily responsible for grant research and writing, statistics and reporting,” Sterbenz said. “I moved to Whidbey Island to be closer to my mother and I really love it here.”

Sterbenz wrote more than 20 successful grants for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the states of Alaska and Washington and three U.S. government departments (Justice, Health and Human Services and Housing) plus a number of private entities.

“Consulting with a highly skilled grant writer is an investment in any organization’s future,” Sterbenz said. “I offer personalized service and take this investment seriously.”

College bound?

One of the hardest things parents must deal with is the bewildering array of choices for college-bound kids. College search consultants Clyde and Marcia Monma want to help.

“We work with high school students on the college planning process,” Clyde Monma said.

By evaluating an institution’s academics, social environment, financial requirements, location and co-curricular activities, the couple tries to make the best match between school and student.

“We’ve visited over 200 schools and both coasts, with another 20 in-between,” Monma said.

“After researching a college, we encourage the student and parents to visit themselves. We help plan the visit, what to do while there and make sure they ask the right questions,” she said. “After they make their pick we go through the application process.”

Of equal importance is ensuring everyone stays on task, from testing to seeking financial aid.

The Monmas are also fans of the Home Business Expo. “Our business is basically driven by word-of-mouth,” Marcia Monma noted. “Meeting people and getting the word out is very important.”

After last year’s expo they had several referrals and two solid customers.

The Monmas stay connected to the community in other ways. They do pro bono work at the Bayview School and are on the board of the South Whidbey Commons.

“We believe strongly in education and get a lot of satisfaction seeing young people succeed,” Monma said.

2006 Home Business Expo exhibitors:

The Body Shop Sine Hough/Tasha Blasko, Clinton

Sunset Beach Chocolates Diana and Alan Smith, Oak Harbor

Creative Memories Connie Punch, Oak Harbor

Nikken Wellness Al and Mary Ellen Jones, Langley

Mobile Menagerie Animal Care Juanita Janick, Clinton

Partylite Gift Tina Merenda, Oak Harbor

Medallion of Whidbey Ryan Douglas, Oak Harbor

Mary Kay Jill Douglas, Oak Harbor

Sarah’s Sunny Seeds Sarah Stone and Beverly Rose, Freeland

College Search Consultants Clyde and Marcia Monma, Clinton

Cookie Lee Jewelry Julie Rosenthal, Coupeville

Sterbenz & Associates Lynn Sterbenz, Clinton

Photomax Taylor Bolton, Freeland

Stampin’ Up Barbara Lawson, Greenbank

Whidbey Island Naturopathic Thom Rogers and Alicia Capsey, Greenbank

Island Girl Tools/Tomboy Tools Linda Broyles, Clinton

Beady Velvet Designs Marilyn Abrahamson, Freeland

Oasis Yvonne Hall, Greenbank

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