OAME: A New Year, a New Normal


The Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME) has helped its members pivot during the height of the pandemic. Now, as we move into a new normal for a new year, we are preparing to continue our success carrying out our mission.

Since 1988, OAME members and guests have met at least twice a month to focus on our mission of promoting and developing entrepreneurship and economic development for ethnic minorities in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Meetings on the second Friday each month focus on contractors, architects, engineers, professional and technical (CAEPT) businesses. The last Friday of each month we host our Coffee and Issues networking meeting, with guest speakers and topics of interest to all. After each meeting at the OAME Center at 731 N. Hayden Meadows Drive in Portland, members and guests stay to network, discuss and talk about issues, needs, and problems to help find resolutions and overcome any roadblocks.

Once a year, OAME holds its Annual Trade Show Conference at the Oregon Convention Center, where around 900 attendees participate, network, and make new contacts at the Trade Show throughout the day, as well as hear key speakers and panel discussions at the luncheon program.

The results of all these meetings have produced the largest and most diverse organization in the Pacific Northwest. Members have continued to ask over the years for OAME to establish a way for members statewide to participate when they were not in proximity of Portland and the OAME Center.

Then came 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and no more in-person meetings, along with many resources statewide drying up.

Instead of this halting OAME’s mission — focus and attention to minority, women, emerging small businesses and service disabled veteran businesses — OAME found solutions during the pandemic. All of our monthly meetings continued, using ZOOM virtual online meetings. Everyone quickly became familiar with the technology, and we expanded the meetings to include breakout rooms to effectively manage an orderly networking session following each meeting.

Everyone looks forward to meeting in person and being able to touch once again. However, going forward, we are keeping the momentum going using the virtual Zoom meeting so members unable to make meetings in-person can still participate.

The OAME Center and the incubator offices have continued successfully throughout the pandemic, with all of the offices full of small and emerging business tenants, operating under the caution of the state-mandated mitigations such as masking and social distancing practices. Additionally, OAME’s long-time Access to Capital Fund has once again continued throughout, providing micro loans to help businesses. As a result, it is growing substantially.

OAME’s continued growth has been a combined effort and a result of the support of over 38 public and private sector Advisory Board Participants and a fantastic team of staff members who have all helped to hold everyone together. The Board of Directors has continued adding younger members as others retire, and these new board members are smart, talented entrepreneurs who are ready to move OAME to the next level.

Sam Brooks

As I, the founder and chair of the board, prepare to move to the Emeritus Board in 2022, having not missed a Coffee and Issues meeting since they began, I know the next generation is ready to continue the mission and success of OAME.

Finally, beginning in January 2022, OAME intends to reconvene our normal in person meetings while continuing to use the technology it now has to allow those unable to personally attend to do so using Zoom and other technologies. We look forward to having you join us.

Sam Brooks is the founder and chair of the board of Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME). To learn more about the organization, visit its website at www.oame.org .